Please Explain to Me ... Concert T-Shirts

So I'm with birthday boy Klimek outside the Coldplay show last night, and we see a guy at Chipotle wearing a Viva La Vida T-shirt, presumably purchased (for $35) at an earlier stop on the tour.

Fancy that.

I've never been a concert-tee guy myself, having purchased exactly one in my life: A bootleg Tom Petty shirt after a SoCal show on the Full Moon Fever tour. I think it cost me $5 or $10, which was $5 or $10 too much, given that the silk screen broke up in the wash. I never actually wore the thing.

Now, I don't begrudge anybody who flies the flag for their favorite bands. I just don't get it - particularly when the flag is being flown among friendlies, as with wearing a Coldplay shirt at a Coldplay concert.

Yes, it's a brand and an identifier. But it's not like wearing a San Francisco Giants jersey to Dodger Stadium, where there are two distinct sides and an obvious need to state your allegiance.

At a concert, you're surrounded by your own tribe. I mean, nobody figures you for a Coldplay-hating Boredoms fan if you're in or around the building. So what's the point?

Please explain.

By J. Freedom du Lac |  August 4, 2008; 10:55 AM ET Please Explain
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To show you've seen the band mostly. Granted, I usually don't wear a shirt from the band I'm seeing to the show. I try to find the shirt that woul look the oddest in the crowd, like the Metallica shirt I plan to wear to Neil Diamond tomorrow. Logn story.

Posted by: EricS | August 4, 2008 11:26 AM

likewise, i usually don't wear them to the actual concerts of the band in question, only in other settings where i wish to identify my "tribe." it's also just a nice memento if it is a decent design. i wear t-shirts whenever i am not working. i like having a few non-plain ones. also, buying t-shirts is an easy way to support the band for which you already bought the albums you want.

(one exception: i routinely wear my fan-made "unified scene" tee to Hold Steady concerts, but that's more about identifying specific people.)

Posted by: Hoodrat | August 4, 2008 11:37 AM

With acts that have been around a long time, it can be a contest to see who has the oldest tour shirt (for the wearer) or who can spot the oldest tour shirt (for the other spectators)...

Posted by: Jay-El | August 4, 2008 11:48 AM

Irony is good. Once saw the frontman of a hardcore band performing in an old Pablo Cruise tee.
Have a Porcupine Tree shirt I wear w/ my goth/metal/punk band sometimes just because its black & the graphic is cool.

Posted by: paulF | August 4, 2008 11:49 AM

In college it was a status thing. Now I just get a t-shirt if it looks cool. It's also a good way to support smaller bands. I saw a band called Vigiliantes of Love at IOTA many years ago; they were selling their t-shirts after the gig and seemed genuinely happy that I was buying a shirt. I still war it proudly.

Posted by: sjs | August 4, 2008 11:56 AM

Wearing the band's shirt to their own show, unless the shirt is at least a few tours back, is generally a faux paux. Personally, I try to go for the most inappropriate shirt that I can, like the Metallica shirt I plan to wear to Neil Diamond tomorrow.

Show days aside, to show that you support the band to the point of seeing them live.

Posted by: EricS | August 4, 2008 12:31 PM

Crud, sorry about the extra post. Stupid blog software.

Posted by: EricS | August 4, 2008 12:31 PM

You buy the shirt so you can wear it the next to high school, and your friends can ask, "How was the concert?" and you can say, "It was AWESOME."

Unless you're talking to the one guy who calls you a geek for wearing a concert shirt to school the morning after the concert. He's got a point, but why does he have to be such a wet blanket? After all, I just saw Stryper, dude, so stay out of my space!

Posted by: Christian | August 4, 2008 1:24 PM

I don't get it either. My girlfriend goes to a billion concerts and routinely gets a t-shirt for every band. They are forcing a renovation on our closet.

Posted by: I don't get it either | August 4, 2008 3:12 PM

I used to buy a t-shirt for every concert in High School, now that I'm in the working world, the t-shirts I've bought or gotten for free in college will last me through weekends for many years to come.

I guess when I was younger it was an attempt to show I was cool. Which was rather naive, now I only ocasionally buy very nice looking ones.

Posted by: MN | August 4, 2008 3:30 PM

Concert t-shirts are SO COOL when you're a teenager. They can still be cool in your 20s, but you can't wear them every day, and you're much more selective about which shirts you'll wear. Once you hit 30, they're not needed anymore. Except for the shirt with a giant picture of Lou Reed on the front - a freaky reminder of days gone by.

This is my story, and maybe others can relate to it.

Posted by: SSMD | August 4, 2008 4:21 PM

Depends on what shirts you are buying. For a lot of less well-known bands, that's a large source of revenue. So if I liked the show, I'll buy a shirt. That money goes into their pockets. But a coldplay tshirt? Yeah, no idea.

Posted by: Baltimore, MD | August 4, 2008 4:57 PM

I don't know anyone who wears the shirt of the band they're seeing. I mean, I see them...at shows. But I do not know them.

That said, I do own a lot of band tees. A lot. It started in college when you would get them for free at the Program Director.

I have a friend, a very dear friend, that when we were working together in 1996, shyly approached me and said "um...is that an Archers of Loaf shirt?" and I was delighted since it was indeed and all it said was "go loaf" sported by a handdrawn blimp.
Our bff-ness forever cemented right there on the spot.
Really, shirts are a pretty good barometer of the people you meet. It's just like anything I guess.

Posted by: beth b. | August 4, 2008 4:57 PM

Tour T-shirts (as opposed to mere band-T Shirts) can, over time, establish your old-school bona fides and are generally nice keepsakes.

Who wouldn't feel cool sporting a ragged and worn "Rust Never Sleeps" or "Born to Run" tour shirt and be able to say they bought the shirt at the show? Much cooler than those insufferable Rolling Stones 1972 Tour repress shirts the kids buy at Urban Outfitters.

Posted by: Levon | August 4, 2008 5:21 PM

Okay, so you don't know why people wear concert tees? Maybe they have a strong passion for music and wearing the bands shirts reminds them of the concert they went to....I agree not cool wearing them to the actual concert, but who cares if they wear them around? No different than wearing a sports teams tee....I would much rather wear a Coldplay t-shirt, than say, a Chicago Bears shirt. To each his own. Everyone has a passion, and if it's music and bands, I say who cares if they wear 'em.

Posted by: zoeydog17 | August 4, 2008 5:30 PM

wearing a concert t shirt (not to a concert) is really just a badge to say I saw this show or i like this band. there is no real problem with that. some bands have really cool designs also. bardo pond has some cool t shirts.
what i don't get is people who wear tour t shirts that are replicas of tour t shirts that existed obviously before people were born, or album covers. i got this pink pink floyd t shirt at a walmart once. it was just wrong but i had to buy it because of the time i was in a walmart and suddenly realized they were playing Comfortably Numb over the radio. It was very eery and I felt that somehow it was brainwashing me.

Posted by: rhonda | August 4, 2008 7:29 PM

J, people who are comfortable with their own skin rarely wear shirts to impress other people, they wear them because that's how they feel inside. Why do you feel like wearing a shirt is to impress someone else? Have you thought, maybe, that you are overly concerned with how people view you and view what kind of music you like as somehow... being music that they don't expect you to like in a way that makes you... f*ck it, I'm going to come out and ask, do you get racist crap thrown at you about music? Most of us don't and so we aren't concerned what anyone else thinks of when they look at us. Sorry dude, that sucks that you do, but you've got an open wound that you need to address.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 4, 2008 9:53 PM

I don't get why someone is worried about not getting what someone else is wearing.

Posted by: OldPhil | August 5, 2008 10:11 AM

I often buy them but then never wear them. (I'm getting better at stopping myself from buying.) Most turn out to be poorly made -- and I'm not talking about the cheap, unlicensed knockoffs. I suppose that next time I go to the Virgin Mobile Festival (not this year), I might wear the shirt from the first one -- except that it's black, and since they've pushed VFest from its original late September into the hottest part of August, it will never again be possible to wear black.

If I had ever gone to something like a Led Zeppelin concert, I'd probably wear the shirt to pieces. Sadly, my shirt from Robert Plant's Manic Nirvana tour just doesn't have the same cache.

Posted by: jane | August 5, 2008 10:13 AM

Wearing a Coldplay t-shirt at last Sunday's concert, got me front row seats courtesy of the band. ENOUGH SAID!!!!

Posted by: John | August 5, 2008 10:30 AM

For me it's a way to remember the shows I've seen. I'm an old timer who's been going to concerts since the early seventies and without the shirt, well man, I'm usually too messed up to remember where I've been.

Posted by: Dan | August 7, 2008 3:29 PM

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