Owen Leskovar What Your Band Shirt Says About You

Ah the band shirt: fashion's lowest common denominator. Hipsters can wear them to advertise their eclectic music tastes, and teeny boppers can wear them to be more like sheep. But there's an increasing amount of middle ground. By emblazoning a band's name on your chest, you're actually saying a lot about yourself and providing a convenient shortcut for those around you. It's important to avoid sending unintentional messages. So what does your band shirt say about you?

Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls (90s)

Kids these days don’t really care about these bands which means that the only people who give a shit enough to own their clothing are in their early-mid 20s. So you’re in your 20s wearing a shirt from a shitty band you listened to in elementary school. This can go one of two ways.

First, the shirt can be vintage and faded, in which case you’re a total hipster and I applaud you. You’re advertising your past as a naïve child with shitty taste in music, and it can make you more approachable. The faded BSB or Spice Girls shirt says “see? I wasn’t always an indie goddess.” It also means that you’ve kept your slender, youthful figure (or are really short).

If the shirt looks brand new though, you confess that you’ve gone to a recentBSBor Spice Girls show. Many of the things I said above still apply, although they’re slightly mitigated by the possibility that you just legitimately love music of objectionable quality. Still, you also give yourself an awesome leg-up in the hipster world as you can claim that you likeBSBand Spice Girls ‘ironically.’ Nearly every 20-something girl will own a faded shirt from these bands, but by getting a new one you become desirable to the ‘next level’ hipster crowd that has discovered the delight in trashy pop culture rather than pure obscurantism. This is the group of (usually well-educated) hipsters who claim that the degree of pop culture trash one likes (Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives, O-Town) is proportional to how intellectually honest they are.

Of course, all of this pseudo-intellectual bullshit only applies if you’re a woman. A grown man wearing a Spice Girls tee is one of two things: a dirty fucking hippy or a hipster god among men (likely the former).

Thursday, Blood Brothers, Thrice (any emo or screamo band)

Wearing a shirt featuring a screamo band is actually perfectly acceptable. If you’re 15.

See, in highschool cliques are important and it’s often a better idea to distinguish yourself and secure a posse rather than simply wandering around in obscurity. Just think about how lame it would have been if Wu Tang had never hooked up over their common love of hoes and Meth (the drug and the rapper). Additionally, a surprising amount of highschool girls like screamo, as many of the bands play the occasional melodic track about feelings and insecurity. Also, knowing your shit about the screamo genre can sometimes give you enough knowledge to fake it around punk or metal circles.

Throw all of that shit out of the window as soon as you enter college or university. The problem is that although a lot of people flirt with screamo in their youth, the genre is inherently garbage. Sure, screamo bands have more chops than most punk bands and less nerdy or misanthropic vocals than most metal bands, but that doesn’t change the fact that no one wants to hear about how deep the lyrics are in Bloody Wrist of Autumn or how the Car Crash Epiphany album if great if you can ‘get used to the vocals.’

Once you leave highschool, fitting in to some narrow subgroup becomes less important, and this gives real people the ability to start listening to real music. Wearing a screamo shirt amounts to a confession that you’re still an insecure highschooler, desperately craving praise for learning the riff to Sunset Over Suicide.

It’s OK to listen to screamo sometimes, even as an adult (to get hyped up, for a short drive, etc), but for the love of god don’t wear the shirt!


Self explanatory.

Indie Darlings (Girl Talk, Pavement, Sufjan Stevens, etc)

These are groups that are universally loved by people even remotely ‘in the know.’ I remember when Justice’s album came out in 07; if you didn’t love it, you immediately lost all musical credibility.

These bands aren’t obscure to most people, but still interesting enough that most Top-40ers won’t have heard of them. This makes wearing their t-shirt a risky gamble. On one hand, you’re likely being quite agreeable. If someone doesn’t love Sufjan or Girl Talk then they’re an idiot. On the other hand, it’s almost too easy; you aren’t presenting yourself as interesting or unique. “Yes, I like this band too” has never been a particularly engaging sentiment, and that’s really all you’re giving to your potential conversational partners.

If you’re extremely shy, sometimes band shirts like this can be acceptable, but generally they just make you look like a musical neophyte.

Misfits, The Ramones (vintage punk)

There are three types of people who wear vintage punk shirts.

1) Legitimate punks with full liberty spikes, mohawks, tattered jean vests, etc.

2) Former legitimate punks who are now middle-aged and potbellied but still wear all of their oldschool vintage punk shirts.

3) Asshole teenagers who pick up the bitchin` t-shirts from Hot Topic. They are a monstrous amalgamation of punk and emo and will never be able to name 2 albums or 5 songs by the band they’re wearing.

As you can see, none of these groups are desirable. Don’t be a dick; no one listens to this garbage anymore.

Metal, Mathcore, etc (Opeth, Dragonforce, Dillinger, etc)

Forgive my lame parenthetical examples; I don’t really keep up with metal anymore. Substitute whatever obscure metal bands you know.

Take everything I said about screamo and make it a million times worse. Metal kids are inherently less popular in highschool and innately less likeable afterwards. See, screamo kids are naïve; they still like the genre they did when they were young, and they just want to express themselves. They’re like the chipper and annoying little sibling of the social world: “don’t you just love Bloody Sunday Fashion Explosion? They’re totally deep and stuff but you can still dance to them! I think you’d really dig it once you got used to the vocals.”

See? Just misguided sincerity. Metal kids are far more sinister. Because metal often requires intense chops to play, metal kids often acquire a feeling of superiority. This is commonly reinforced in metal lyrics and Ayn Rand literature. Hardcore metal kids are often conditioned to believe that no one ‘understands’ them, and they cultivate this belief by both dressing in incredibly alienating ways and by acting opaque as fuck.

Now, there are some good metal bands out there. But again, don’t wear the shirt. All you’re going to do is make associative connections between yourself and the aforementioned metal kids. The offhand chance that some hot bartender loves Macabre Chronograph or Agalloch simply isn’t worth it.

U2, Oasis, Rolling Stones (shitty <alt> rock)

Wearing these shirts is a tacit admission that you have a completely underdeveloped musical taste. Anyone looking at you will assume that the shirt you’re wearing is indicative of your favourite band and that you think the show you bought it at was “the greatest show ever and oh my god Bono looked at me and I got an amazing camera-phone shot!” Avoid avoid avoid.

Be Cautious With Band Shirts!

For every hottie you'll attract because you happen to like the same stupid band, there's five that you'll repel because they don't share your affinity for Modest Mouse.

If you want to get laid more and judged less, get a better understanding of your band shirt.

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