An examination of the band’s T-shirt etiquette: It’s…complicated.

[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]

Trouble started as soon as Roz showed up for a round of drinks before a New Order gig. She appeared at the table wearing a vintage “New Order Substance 1987” t-shirt. Julia was the first to jump.

“Not cool!” she exclaimed, appalled. “Shirt-to-show faux pas! You’re not supposed to wear a band’s t-shirt to a concert featuring that band! That’s terrible form. Looks like you’re trying too hard. Beginner! You have to go home and change.

Roz was puzzled. “What? I can’t show my years of support and love for the band? I’ve kept this 30 year old T-shirt in mint condition especially for nights like this!

They both looked at me. Where am I in the shirt-to-show debate? I stammered something non-committal but was saved by the people at the next table who had opinions to voice the question – and on both sides. Then the waitress got involved. An hour later, nothing was resolved but at least no tables were knocked over.

It turns out there are a series of (mostly) unwritten rules about when to wear band t-shirts, who can wear them, and why. Proper etiquette has never been standardized, which means it’s easy to go against someone’s interpretation of these rules.

First, some facts about these shirts.

Keep reading.

Elizabeth J. Harless