Band T-Shirts – The History and the Experience

0 Comments 07 July 2015


I have three band t-shirts – one for The Ramones, Nirvana and The Beatles. I bought them at the market for $10 each and I was proud of them. I did not only look cool, I felt cool. It was a way I could express my love for these three bands. I got compliments from strangers about my music taste and felt in my element. I’d strut through the street like I was John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (yes I am a sad and confused child). The point (if there is one) from this little anecdotal story is that band T-shirts are a way of expressing ourselves and are here to stay. But when were they first established?

To begin with we shall start with the item of clothing T-shirts. T-shirts weren’t part of casual wear until the 1950s: before then, they were worn underneath other clothes and as military navel apparel. It became popularised by Hollywood stars such as Marlon Brando and James Dean. When people saw Marlon Brando and James Dean wearing white T-shirts as a stand-alone garment they achieved immense popularity and were seen as a fashion statement of rebellion and passionate youth. The T-shirt only grew in popularity.

In the 1960s and 70s T-shirts gained momentum as a way of “self-expression” allowing political messages , advertisements, slogans, protests, souvenirs and bands logos. The 1970s was a time when the main rock bands began selling T-shirts at concerts and merchandising became a big money spinner. It is estimated bands such as The Rolling Stones earned over a $500,000 in merchandise per concert. As these rock bands discovered selling merchandise made money, smaller bands started selling shirts to meet audience demand.

In 1984 BBC radio banned the song “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood for its “explicitly sexual” lines. The record label used this to sell more merchandise, selling T-shirts with “Frankie Says Relax”. This turned millions of fans into billboards for the song and the song doubled in popularity. The view of band T-shirts were less of a fashion statement and more of a personal one. Like the example with “Relax” fans used band t-shirts to stick it to the man and to represent their support for the band. In the 90s band T-shirts became sold everywhere from shopping centres, concerts, festivals, thrift stores and the internet. However recently band t-shirts have decreased in popularity.

Recently band t-shirts have been subjected to criticism by the general public as millennials are seen to reject the meaning of band-ties to have a message, to support their favourite band and to rebel against society’s ideals. With the commonplace selling of band T-shirts like the Rolling Stones in stores like K-Mart and Cotton On, the younger generation wear them without knowing the band.
As we walk in the next chapter of band T-shirts we must ask ourselves is it just a money ruse or is it part of showing ourselves?

But I think we can all agree that at least like the band you are wearing.

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About the Author

This post was written by who has written 9 posts on The Signal Express.

I'm Maria Dunne, a chick who has been referred to saying "coolio" too much compared to the average teenager. I have a enjoy writing about music, film, food, video games and sharing my own point of view. My hobbies include reading, writing, quoting lines from movies, binge watching tv shows, going on Buzzfeed, preforming internal monologues and debating pointless hypothetical scenarios.

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