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G’day misfits!

We've heaps of vintage band tees hitting the store today. So, to acompain the tee drop we've a new Icons series snippet. And now for the first time ever we asked somebody else to write it for us. That somebody is our German mate Theo. He’s a fucken rad dude who we’ve gotten a chance to befriend during our short time here in Helsinki. Theo isn’t your average conservative German dude. He’s a straight-edge vegan hardcore music aficionado, and we mean Hardcore with a capital H. We’ve had a lot of lengthy discussions about everything from vintage, music all the way up to ingredients of a great sandwich.

Theo doesn’t only enjoy listen good music he also plays drums in this up and coming post-punk band called Hites, or how somebody in TikTok to call them: ’Kahen markan IDLES’. Go check them out and see them live if you got the chance they’re fucking great.

But, yeah that’s Theo. We wanna assure you that this man is more than qualified in this articles subject matter. So, here you go let Theo shed some light to the matter at hand; band tees.

“Name three of their songs!” This phrase, now synonymous with an agitated man scolding  an unsuspecting teenager, was the first thing that came to mind when I thought about band tees. Sadly it’s exactly these guys claiming to care so much about their favourite bands who might give classic band tees a bad rep. In reality the iconic graphics of a Metallica shirt or the once bold, now faded red of a Rolling Stones tongue logo are staples in a lot of wardrobes for a reason. The well-known prints give any outfit a touch of grunge or add texture to an otherwise plain look.

Even though band tees have seen an undeniable rise in popularity over the past decade they’re anything but a new phenomenon. Speculated to have originated from musicians’ fan clubs printing designs dedicated to their idol of choice on basic t-shirts, the staple merchandise product started to gain traction throughout the 50s and 60s. Later bands like AC/DC and Kiss brought it to a bigger audience, selling thousands on sold out stadium tours.

While rock and metal hit peak popularity back then band tees have always been a way to signal your participation in various subcultures. As an immediate way to show your support for whatever band or musician you chose, other like-minded fans could recognise you as part of the same community. Especially when that artist had a more recognisable design for their merch. One of the most striking examples have to be the Grateful Dead’s colourful tie-dye shirts, paired with loud graphics and their signature skull.

As time goes on people come up with more and more products to produce as merchandise. You can buy everything from jackets and bucket hats to lighters and pool floats. But at the end of the day you will always be able to buy a t-shirt at the next show you go to, no matter if it’s in a small underground club or a massive stadium.

Depending on the size and popularity of the artist there are of course differences in how the merchandise is made. Paired with the developments in general clothing production over the past decades this leaves us with noticeable changes in the quality of prints and the garment itself. While you can still find shirts from the 80s and 90s with only a few small holes and a faded print a lot of more recently made merch will leave you with graphics basically falling off a shrunken accidental crop top after a few washes.

That is not to say that every band tee produced in the last ten years is a glorified cleaning rag. The reality is that artists would prefer to always make high quality merchandise but especially for lesser known musicians it’s often a choice of making at least a small profit or investing hundreds of Euro hoping to somehow sell enough t-shirts just to cover the production costs. And even if a band makes the jump and is able to play to a larger crowd different problems arise. In recent years more mid-size and bigger venues have started to force artists to let them sell merch through their employees, taking a cut of up to 60% of the profit along the way.

At the same time people are now able to buy shirts with designs of some of the biggest artists in every big clothing shop. Sometimes available for under 10 Euro those shirts are only licensed products but they nonetheless influence the perception of consumers and what they’re references are regarding the price of a band tee.

As previously mentioned the underlying problem is the fact that t-shirt and general clothing quality has declined drastically since big rock bands dominated the charts. One of the most prominent examples is Fruit of the Loom. If you have ever seen a commemorative shirt for a school reunion or you got a souvenir t-shirt from your last family vacation, chances are it was Fruit of the Loom. So it’s no surprise that a good amount of band tees, both old and new, are printed on their blanks as well. Originally based in the US they have since joined most companies in relocating their production to Asia. Unfortunately this entails a noticeable difference even when comparing shirts made by the same band at different points in their career. Sadly it can be a matter of them being less than 10 years apart and it might go from a wardrobe favourite to a case for the donation bin.

Coincidentally those donation bins, charity shops and flea markets are the best place to hunt for one of the good quality originals. With the market being flooded by cheap reprints and bootlegs, it is getting harder to find and identify the sought-after pieces that still hold up after decades of wear.

The other option of course is to go to your trusted vintage dealer and choose from a carefully curated selection to secure that band tee you’ve been looking for this whole time.


I’m Theo, drummer, sneaker head and fashion fan living in Helsinki. Over the past years I’ve had to learn that I just can’t seem to keep all my interests to myself. So instead of only annoying my friends and the people around me I decided to make my thoughts and ramblings public for everyone to enjoy.





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