Band Tees: only for fans, or general fashion statement?


What must the original metal heads, the ones who were actually alive in the 80’s, think of this new phenomenon which has had its grip on youth fashion culture for the last two years? Everyone from Kanye to Kylie Jenner to Justin Bieber has been spotted in vintage band tees, the genre of metal being an especially popular choice.

I’ve never known metal to be the most accessible genre. However, the memorabilia from famed artists such as Slayer, Metallica and Iron Maiden have infiltrated the fashion world with resounding success.

One man can be attributed as having started the entire craze in late 2014. Jerry Lorenzo, the genius behind acclaimed high streetwear brand Fear of God was seen on social media rocking vintage band tees from his own personal collection, which has since grown to over 400. The internet subsequently lost it over this look, which was so unassumingly cool. No better way to make a statement than with a pair of ripped jeans and a perfectly aged band tee.

Lorenzo was interviewed by GQ in 2015 about his extensive collection.When asked if one has to be a fan of the artists they’re rocking, responded, “No, no. Having played a small role in Kanye’s Yeezus tour merch, I’m just excited to see people wear it. I don’t care if you’ve heard the album or not… I like some of the tees just for the artwork because I think the quality of the merchandise matched the quality of the music.”

Are band tees off limits unless you’re a fan?

Evidently, Lorenzo is preaching from the point of view of fashion. Which makes perfect sense. This is what sets him as well as many others who are going for this rocker look apart from the die-hard fans. Their appreciation is stronger for the artwork and the image than the actual content. To put things into perspective, Lorenzo has paid over $400 for a Slayer tee. The piece was of course quite rare, but a true music fan of Slayer would have most likely gone for a rare copy of their favorite album if given the choice.

That being said, at the end of the day, Lorenzo is still a genuine music fan. He is not a poser. He explains that he grew up listening to these bands whose merchandise he now collects. “I also grew up with bands like Metallica, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana. My high school basketball team was predominantly white, and those were the bands we would rock to before games,” he has been recorded as saying in the same GQ article.

The main critique which can generally be associated to making this fashion statement is being unaware of the music which you are ultimately supporting. Not putting in the effort to learn the album of the artwork you’re rocking and subsequently coming up empty-handed when asked to name a single song you may consider your favorite can be incredibly embarrassing–and it should be.

Tyler, The Creator, a powerhouse in both the fashion and music industry has received recognition from high places on both accounts and underlines this issue. In an interview he did with GQ he explained that this style is confusing and tacky. “Everyone is wearing dumb tour tees right now. That shit is weird. You don’t even like that band. Why are you wearing that?” he said.

That’s really where the issue lies; what are you attempting to communicate by wearing these tees? I’ll tell you: you’re edgy, you’re not like the general public. You don’t avidly await the next bland pop single like everyone else. You’re part of a subculture, one that appreciates something different, something artistic.

Except chances are you don’t. My tip is never to trust a guy wearing a cheesy Metallica tee from some terrible album matched with joggers and “ultraboosts.” That guy probably only listens to trap. At least create an outfit which matches the aesthetic of the source material.

My collection is rather extensive and I can be spotted wearing a band tee at least twice a week. I keep things simple: a tucked in band tee, some dark, worn in denim, some Chelsea’s and a genuine leather/denim jacket thrown on top.

Finally, I encourage this look only if you’re willing to educate yourself on the music and are willing to develop a genuine appreciation for it. I personally only started wearing these shirts a while back because I felt it was a great way to express myself, to show people my love for hard rock and metal. At the end of the day, I tend to agree with Tyler: being a poser is never in style.

Here are some great albums by these bands that warrant a listen before you don their gear:

Iron Maiden: Number of the Beast (1982)

Metallica: Ride the Lightning (1984)

Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV (1971)

Slayer: Reign in Blood (1986)

GNR: Appetite for Destruction (1987)

Photo of Jerry Lorenzo showing off his Slayer tee is attributed to GQ Magazine.

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