Tuesday, July 18, 2017

You Can't Take Our Shirts!

There was a great article recently on Loudwire about how metal has become a “fashion statement”  http://loudwire.com/opinion-stop-making-metal-a-fashion-statement/

It was basically everything I wanted to say when I started writing a similar piece a few months ago.  I'm still waiting for the “K” family to disappear like too many of their kind in the past (anyone remember Paris Hilton – no – the skank not that hotel...??) . 

Back in my day band t-shirts, motorcycle jackets, long hair on guys, black hi-top Chuck Taylor's or that one style of mid-top Reebok's – denim vests and jackets with patches, band logos drawn on everything from backpacks to sneakers – was a way of fellow metal fans to identify each other.  You could go into any social situation not knowing a soul, but if you saw someone you recognized as being a fellow listener to the same type of music there was an instant connection.  One of my favorite memories when I was a teenager hanging out with my dad in the city (what those of us in the outer boroughs call Manhattan) is my dad and I were walking through subway cars while going over the Manhattan bridge , and passing through one car all of sudden these guys were like “MAIDEN! MAIDEN RULES!! MAIDEN!!!” And they started trying to sing in Dickinson's falsetto. My dad was confused, but I was wearing (and I don't know how I remember this) the Iron Maiden “Decennium” shirt from the box set.  The bros and I flashed the horns at each other, and when we got to the next train car I explained to my dad what had just happened. 

The first band shirt I ever bought was the Ozzy Osbourne/ Randy Rhoads “tribute” t shirt – I think I paid $5 at a going out of business sale at the Plum Tree in Kings Plaza.  I remember wearing that shirt to see my grandmother and she said “Who is that on your shirt? Is that your boyfriend?” and I said “Oh grandma -that's a famous English Musician....” you could say she planted a seed in my then 15 year old brain.  When I was older and started dating musicians she would always disparage me saying “Who are you going with? Is it the guy in the group ? They smoke the dope? You want to be with the dope in the group?” So the running gag with my then boyfriend was he was the dope in the group.  I loved my grandmother.

A friend of mine told me a great story about when he lived in low-income housing in the Lower East Side, and saw a Puerto Rican kid wearing of all things a Marillion t-shirt.  Delighted to find a fellow fan of such an obscure band – and in the “hood” of all places, my friend started gushing about how much he loved Marillion, asked what this kids favorite songs were.  The kid stared at him blankly and it took him a few seconds to realize he was talking about the shirt. And he was like “oh, I found this somewhere and thought the picture was cool”.  If that kid ended up interested enough to at least buy one album then my friends efforts were not in vain. 

Another friend told me a few years ago when she was wearing a Maryland Death fest t-shirt I bought back for her, she was waiting for a bus and someone got in her face ranting about how she was going to hell unless she repented for her sins.  Her response was classic metal-head, “I may be going to hell but we have the best music”.

There are uplifting stories though. A few weeks ago a friend was wearing her Metallica Tank she had just bought at their recent concert, and a stranger approached her and started talking about the recent tour, and they ended up exchanging contact info and he sent her pro-quality video he shot in New Jersey!

About 10 years ago I had a great job doing data entry in a liberal arts college in Western Massachusetts.  The two things that made the job great were we were allowed to listen to music with headphones all day and there was no dress code except “don't wear anything you would wear on the beach”.  At the time I was living with someone who's band played a lot of the bigger European metal festivals, and I would proudly wear the festival shirts he brought home.  One of my fashion forward co-workers had asked me if I ever heard of Ed Hardy's line of clothing – that if I liked shirts with skulls and guitars I would like Ed Hardy's shirts.  I had to explain to him the difference.

A few months ago I wore my Saxon “crusader” shirt when I went out to see my friends band.  A few people complimented me on it and it started conversations about what was the best Saxon album (Denim and Leather fyi).  One slightly drunk friend came up to me and said “Oh I love your shirt, it's got a horse, do you like horses?”

Sure a lot of band logos have become “corporate” - you can't walk into a Wal-Mart or Target without seeing AC/DC, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix  and even sometimes Black Sabbath shirts.  But that doesn't bother me because I have half a dozen AC/DC shirts and they were very easy to find (the girly fit ones too – not the boxy men shirts).  It does rile me up when I see kids wearing Ramones shirts without a clue.  I remember loaning my brother a Maiden shirt years ago and our friends ripped him a new one because he couldn't name one song.  That's how brutal it used to be.  Now I've seen old Russian grandmas wearing Sid Vicious shirts they bought in Value Depot (I'm not kidding and I wish I had taken a picture).

I think the rock music listening populace should take it upon ourselves to approach anyone who has co-opted our logos and actually grill them.  OK you're wearing a Clash shirt? Name one song that wasn't on Combat Rock? What do you mean what's “Combat Rock?? Give me that shirt!”


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