|Illustration by Stephanie Smelyansky. Image of a Rolling Stones tee.|
I wore my Phoenix “Bankrupt!” album t-shirt on the second day of junior year after getting to touch Thomas Mars’ butt during his stage dive at Lollapalooza. I thought I radiated cool, I was the girl that had lost her moshpit virginity. That came crashing down when one of my friend’s innocently complimented me, saying, “I like the Georgia peaches on your shirt!” Clearly, she was a part of the alt-rock plebeians.
I love band tees. I buy one whenever I go to a particularly striking concert. I relish the ratty Rolling Stones tees at the bottom of a bin at Goodwill, or the Beatles tee my uncle gifted me. I love band tees because they are an expression of my artistic and musical tastes (and proof of my more active social life outside of school). It’s my proclamation to the world that this is what I think is cool, and I’m effing awesome.
Virtually all teens listen to music. Between Spotify, Youtube, Soundcloud, and Pandora, streaming music is cheap, if not free, and simple. Even the punks are in tune with Taylor Swift and the classical music buffs jam to Queen B. Both the stoner and the type A can enjoy the same music festival, but what’s even cooler is that they can enjoy it together. Music plays on a commonality between all kids and is an instant connector between us all, no matter how different we may be.
The band tee embodies the connection music gives all kids because it’s an emblem of your past experiences, your tastes, your street cred. I wore my Foster the People t-shirt to school after seeing them live and as I walked through the halls, people I vaguely knew would stop me and ask me about the concert, or they would ask me if I was in the front row (sadly I wasn’t). Other people gave me silent nods of approval as I passed by. Wearing the Foster tee let me into an extensive, secret club that included kids from all walks of life. I felt like part of the cool kids club.
|From the upper right hand corner going clockwise: Phoenix tee, Lykke Li tee, Beatles tee, Vampire Weekend tee, Foster the People tee|
My favorite band tees are the inconspicuous, insiders only tee, like the Georgia peaches/Phoenix tee. They lack a band name or photo of the band, instead referencing album artwork or a song lyric, like the Lykke Li one. While these tees make certain music more exclusive, they feel even more sentimental and special. Running into a random person who gets the reference on the shirt is incredibly exciting because that person can’t be a poser, so you basically found someone who’s just as passionate about that artist as you are. It’s a way to make friends or instantaneous relationships.
A band tee is an emblem of solidarity. It’s a fist pump to music culture audible to the entire teen community. We trudge on every day; the school, work, sleep cycle plays on repeat. It’s easy to forget our individuality and simultaneous commonality during that cycle.The band tee is a subtle rebellion against an incredibly dull and dreary existence that we fall into. It’s a rebellion that all teens are a part of, a symbol of our resistance.