Before social media, band shirts used to be a way to easily identify other members of your tribe. People wore their love on their sleeves, quite literally. There were T-shirt ordering magazines (remember Rockabilia?), but for the most part you had to go to the show’s merch table. A shirt didn’t just mean that you liked the band, it meant that you showed up for the band. Band T-shirts have gotten so much more interesting in recent years and there have been trends I can totally get behind.
I’m a big fan of the Black Flag logo. Probably a bigger fan of the logo than the band, even. It’s so great. It’s simple and unmistakable and representative and everything that a good logo should be and, man, there are a lot of Black Flag parody T-shirts and other items out there for sale:
Another of the all-time great band logos came to us from the Ramones. Designed by graphic artist Arturo Vega (long time art director for the Ramones), it is a rip of the U.S. Presidential seal and it has since been aped, itself, in various hilarious fashions.
My favorite trend in music merchandise is this one particular style where a shirt appears to be advertising one entertainer, but is actually showing another. My winner in this category is the Nirvana / Rihanna shirt. Even setting aside my special interest in both Nirvana’s music and Rihanna’s life, this one still gets me. It’s that subtle little detail in the mark below the eye. Well done.
Other stand-outs in this category include these purposefully (and hilariously) mislabeled shirts featuring Lou Reed / Iggy Pop, Bob Marley / Jimi Hendrix, RuPaul / Beyonce and Blur / Oasis. So cheeky. So trying-to-make-me-buy-them.
Tons of band logos have also been mocked by genius specialty company Monsters of Grok. Here, you can find the names of all of your favorite scientists and philosophers presented on shirts in familiar logo form. Show off your smarts, rocker.
The final greatest newer trend in band shirts is minimalist-designed apparel. It’s a popular trend applied in many formats, but can be especially appreciated by music-minded architecture snobs and font fetishists. These stylized screens are usually engineered to distill a band down to its essential core: its members. I’ve seen this style in person many times and just a few weeks ago a roadie for Veruca Salt smiled and pressed this guitar pick into my palm as thanks for supplying his singer with some ibuprofen.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 13, 2014