Once band tees only filled the closets of hard-core rock fans and indie chicks, but today they’re a staple for every fashion girl.
The simple t-shirt first became a wardrobe basic in the 1950s but it was in 1939 when graphic tees first started creeping into the public sphere. The Wizard of Oz brought graphic shirts to the forefront, when workers had ‘Oz’ printed on theirs in the film. World War Two veterans would wear their Army-issued t-shirts on a regular basis, but it was really when Marlon Brando rocked a tight white style in 1951 that the trend took off. That same year teenagers transformed the industry into a $180 million dollar business, with Walt Disney capitalising on the phenomenon by printing Mickey Mouse pieces.
But it was the 60s that saw the birth of the band tee. This period of revolution, fashion and otherwise, tore up the rule book and made way for a new form of self-expression. T-shirts were emblazoned with protest calls, funny slogans and before long, band logos. By the 80s bands began selling tees as merch on tour, with their loyal fans stocking up. Soon enough the band tee was synonymous with the punk and rock scene. Just as t-shirts had once been a uniform for veterans, it was now the uniform of alternative kids.
The most iconic band tee of the 70s has got to be ‘FRANKIE SAYS RELAX’. Now a common turn of phrase, it came to existence through some very clever marketing. After the song “relax” was banned from radio for being too explicit, the record label owner (Paul Morley) decided to sell the slogan tee. Millions of t-shirts were sold and it became a vintage-classic. Other vintage classics included the Rolling Stone’s lip logo, Led Zeppelin’s blimp, Pink Floyd’s prism and anything that featured The Beatles.
Band tees were reimagined in the 90s, when they became a must-have trend in the mainstream arena. Then, due to the cyclic nature of fashion, the 90s came back in a big way in recent years- and the band tee along with it.
Many argue that the authenticity of band tee’s has been lost, with ‘it’ girls like Kendall and Gigi wearing them. Some punk and rock enthusiasts believe that if you wear a shirt with the ACDC or Nirvana logo on it then you should be a fan of their music. They see it as a statement of rebellion and an embodiment of the glass-ceiling-shattering music that was produced in that era, not something to be incorporated as a trend.
But, this music-snobbery can be limiting- how do we know that Kendall doesn’t listen to Pink Floyd? And why does it matter if the artists featured on band tee’s today are, more frequently, 90s rap legends? Tupac may be vastly different from The Beatles, but they were both influential and all fans deserve to celebrate their favourite musician through fashion. Or vice versa, our fave fashion brands deserve to express themselves through whichever trend or medium they chose. Basically, if you love it- wear it. If you’re a fan of the band on the tee too then it’s a win win!
For SS17 style the band tee in a multitude of ways, whether you pair it with distressed denim to go full on indie-chic, or opt for a tough-femme vibe by tucking it into a pleated skirt. There’s nothing quite as versatile.
Old or new, one fact remains, the band tee is a linchpin of any modern woman’s wardrobe.
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