Why do people wear printed t-shirts? To show that they belong to a certain group, to educate or just to shock. Why do people wear printed t-shirts to concerts? Mostly to demonstrate loyalty to the band they are about to see. I’ve always found that a bit silly. After all, if you are going to a band’s gig, shouldn’t it be obvious that you actually enjoy listening to their music, and shouldn’t it be obvious that you are a…uhm…fan?

Of course, if people wear t-shirts from different eras, covering different albums and different tours it can still look magical, and sometimes I get the impression it’s not even about the t-shirt itself but to show that you, rare and exclusive breed of fan, were actually at a particular concert before the band in question got really famous (lets say Led zeppelin circa 1968 or U2 just before they released ‘War’ in 1983). In that category: a friend of mine got offered 400 Dutch guilders for an old, ragged, grey Sonic Youth t-shirt he was wearing at a Sonic Youth concert. Don’t remember if he actually sold it.


Still, I think it’s nicer and more educational (and sometimes downright humourous) to wear a t-shirt of a different band, from the same genre, or from a completely different genre, a fashionable choice, or an insanely unfashionable one. One would get the point of wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt to a Deafheaven concert (hint: both masters of metal), but to understand why one would wear a Patti Smith t-shirt to a Bruce Springsteen concert already requires more background knowledge. To solve that one you need to know that Bruce Springsteen wrote ‘Because the Night’ for Patti Smith, and that they were lovers once. Citing influences is of course also possible. You can legitimately go to a Radiohead concert wearing a t-shirt of Can, Faust or another Krautrock band. And, if you really feel adventurous try wearing an Abba or a Justin Bieber t-shirt to any concert. The options are endless. Just…don’t overdo it and end up in a fight. Some fans are very sensitive when it comes to their idols.