Imagine this: You’re sitting in class and the student next to you is wearing a Beatles T-shirt and, to make polite conversation, the professor asks the student who her favorite Beatle is. The student then proceeds to say — and this is where those of you with weak stomachs should turn away — that she is so unfamiliar with their work that she couldn’t name a single member of the band that is widely regarded as the greatest collection of humans ever to pick up instruments.
This incident is part of a much larger issue we face in 2019, and it is time for a call to action: If you don’t know the band, don’t wear their T-shirt. When you don’t abide by this, you embarrass not only yourselves, but also the band’s true fans.
We’ve all seen students wearing beanies and ripped black jeans that think wearing a black Nirvana or Ramones shirt will round out the outfit perfectly, even though they can’t name a single album by either band. Or maybe you think back to middle school when the punk rock boy with the bowl cut wore a Led Zeppelin Tour of America 1977 shirt or, if they are so daring, a Sex Pistols one to prove he’s cooler than you. There is no act more insulting to a true music fan than pretending to like an band because it seems “cool.”
For those of you who still wear these shirts without realizing what you are doing: just stop. Your fashion should be something that resembles you, your real self. It is supposed to be an expression of who you really are, and when someone wears a Guns N’ Roses T-shirt but doesn’t understand a November Rain joke, she’d be better off taking the red and black lumberjack flannel off from around her waist and covering her shirt in shame.
This new fad of wearing a band T-shirt — especially fake vintage band T-shirts —without any regard for its music has ruined the connection between fans of niche music. Most music geeks appreciate how it can bring people of all ages, sexes and races together. When you see someone representing a lesser-known band that you love, it would be an instant talking point. For example, seeing someone in a Joy Division shirt on campus, some 4,700 miles away from the band’s home city of Manchester and four decades after their peak, that should be an instant connection. The band’s “Unknown Pleasures” T-shirt with its iconic radio wave design, however, has become extremely popular even among people who couldn’t name a single one of their songs.
If you are actually a fan of niche music, the T-shirt is also a perfect way to connect to the band itself. For small, independent musicians and bands, there is so little profit to be made without consistent radio air time or stadium tours. Therefore, indie bands make most of their money when they’re small time off merch sales. So, if you really are trying to support your favorite independent band, buying an AC/DC or a Black Sabbath shirt from Amazon or Hot Topic isn’t going to do them any good.
So, the next time you think it will be “cool” to wear that T-shirt of a band you know nothing about, show a little restraint. To the students who can’t name a member of the Beatles and all those of you in the same conundrum: maybe living is easy with your eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see, but it certainly is not cool.