I'm always amused when I hear people talking about where they bought a new item of clothing; it's usually from high street chains such as Topshop, River Island, H&M or Superdry. Why do I find this funny? Because I buy the majority of my clothes from tables at the back of pubs and clubs. Of course what I am talking about is band merchandise such as t-shirts or hoodies. I, like many, many other fans of punk rock, will almost always be sporting some form of band merch every day. I think the only time I'm not wearing something punk related is either when I'm at work, when I've got one of my beloved Crystal Palace shirts on or when I'm playing five-a-side with the mighty Braziliant FC on a Sunday night.
Growing up I've never been interested in being a fashionable male or really looking smart. Clean will do! You would think as I got older (I'm 30 now) that I might grow out of this laziness but I never did. You will always find me wearing the same thing I've been wearing since I was 18 years old - a band t-shirt and a hoody. The first time I ever went to a gig I bought myself a t-shirt as it felt like it would be a good souvenir of the night (and it was). Since then my collection has grown and grown and now I would guess I have over 50 band tees. That's a lot of t-shirts, most of them I haven't worn in a long, long time but I can never bring myself to throw them away. They all hold special memories of gigs that I have loved. In 2014 The Menzingers, The Smith Street band and The Holy Mess played at The Electric Ballroom in Camden, that was the best gig of the entire year and I ended up buying tees from all three bands.
To me, wearing a piece of merchandise from your favourite band is like wearing your favourite sports teams strip - it's a way of showing your colours and showing support to your favourite bands. It also pretty much guarantees that when I'm out with my friends that I won't be involved in that awkward social scenario of wearing the same thing as somebody else in the group, that's never cool. A lot of time when I'm wearing some band merchandise I hope that somebody will ask me about the band and hopefully they will check them out. That's another great thing about band tees; they serve as excellent advertisements for bands. In this day and age where there are so many bands around any chance to make people aware of your band is taken and getting fans to wear a cool shirt with your bands name on is a big boost. It is also a big help to bands if they manage to sell a lot of merchandise at gigs or online. Being in a band is by no means cheap, often driving for miles to play shows where they won't make any money. Selling some t-shirts could mean the difference between a band eating or not eating the next day so all sales are always very helpful.
I do have some rules regarding band merch. First of which is never wear the t-shirt of the band you’re seeing to the gig. I always think it comes across as super fanboy-ish, who wants to be that guy? Another rule is only wear the t-shirt of a band that you've seen live, I always find it a bit odd when speaking to someone about the band they're representing on their clothes and when I ask where they saw them they respond "I haven't". I find it especially strange if said person is wearing s tee with tour dates on. I don't like tees with bad language or offensive imagery on them. It seems really unnecessary to me. I'm not somebody who is easily offended by anything, I grew up around swearing (Mumma C swears like a sailor) and I turned out okay (aside from often looking homeless) but I feel uncomfortable wearing something that might offend or upset somebody else. My nephew Charlie is currently learning to read and I don't really wanting him to read a t-shirt I'm wearing and pick up any bad habits from me, that would be bad uncle-ing. Lastly, I mostly buy and wear tees from small UK bands rather than the big American touring bands, mostly because I figure they need the money more.
To end - here are some pictures of some of my favourite piece of merchandise.