Band shirts benefit everyone. The way the music business is set up these days, the cash from the merchandise is the lifeblood of a touring band and a shirt with their name emblazoned across it is pretty effective advertising.
You get a new wardrobe item that tells everyone you meet that you have excellent taste in music and they get the opportunity to maybe discover a new band.
And take care of the shirt and you’ve then got a rare piece of memorabilia to pass on to the next generation of music fans. Win win win win.
15 Best Rock and Roll T-Shirts of All Time
We’ve spent days trawling the merch desks and online stores of great bands in order to find a shortlist of some of the most stylish tees. Now, all you have to do is go listen to the music and pick your size.
Garth’s famous ‘Aer Force One’ shirt from Wayne’s World is sadly unavailable these days, but Aerosmith’s Draw the Line baseball tee* is a more than acceptable alternative. The cartoon of the band members is from the cover of their 1977 record, one of their creative high points, and every wardrobe should have a black and white baseball tee, so this kills two birds.
The band Wilco is akin to The National in that they’ve managed to become hugely popular without losing any credibility. Their store is full of great t-shirt designs but this rooster option stands out as the colors and design will only look better as the shirt ages.
If you’re a Stones fan, it’s always best to avoid the lips logo and go for something a little more vintage and original. This red illustration of Mick Jagger against an off-white shirt has both qualities in spades.
Why wouldn’t you want to wear a shirt with a picture of the coolest woman in rock on it? This vintage Blondie rock t-shirt* shows the rock goddess in all her 1970s glory and is a simple color scheme that will go with casual jeans or look fashion-forward under a blazer.
Country tees are the new rock tees and they don’t come any cooler or more country than ol’ Waylon. This shirt looks like it could be the label on a bottle of whiskey and that’s pretty damn appropriate.
If you want to be a little different and not wear a Velvet Underground t-shirt* with a banana on it, this is an incredibly stylish alternative. Yes, those are Nico’s lips drinking a coke, designed to imitate Andy Warhol’s artwork.
You probably have a lot of questions about this t-shirt*. I can’t really answer any of them, but it’s undeniably great and there’s more where that came from. If you haven’t heard of the Aussie psych oddballs King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, they release about three records a year, so you have a lot of catching up to do.
I don’t know about you but I’m still not over the shock of Tom Petty’s death. I’d seen him only a few months before he died in London and he rocked the place. This Tom Petty t-shirt *was released for the new reissue of Tom Petty’s benchmark 1994 solo album Wildflowers and is a well-designed tribute to the legendary rocker.
Louisville outfit My Morning Jacket toe the line between classic rock, psychedelic jams, and country twang, and all of that feels perfectly summed up in this shirt. This is one of my favorites from my own personal collection. It fits a little small and snuggly so definitely go a size larger.
This last one is as much a plug for the band as the shirt. If you’re someone who likes noisy indie and you haven’t heard of The Wrens, you can thank me later. Their 2003 record (they’ve claimed to be working on the follow-up ever since) The Meadowlands is possibly the greatest indie rock album of all time. This pale-yellow shirt with a Tron-inspired font isn’t too bad either.
Favorites of Antoni Porowski, these Brooklyn-by-way-of-Cinncinnati indie heroes have achieved the delicate balance of being credible and cool while also selling a ton of records. You’d probably never catch dapper frontman Matt Berninger in a band tee, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wear one.
One listen to the latest album from North Carolina’s Superchunk is all it takes to realize that What A Time To Be Alive was not meant to be taken positively. Bandmates Mac McCaughan and Laura Balance founded the seminal indie label Merge. Warning, visiting their website is a good way to spend a LOT of money.
Sometimes simplicity is perfection and this shirt from dream-pop duo Beach House is just that. Wear this star-kissed tee while listening to their impossibly beautiful single ‘Zebra’ and experience pure bliss.
Young, irreverent, gritty and hilariously candid London punks Shame are the buzz band of the moment and this tee kind of sums them up perfectly. I’ve no idea why Macaulay Culkin’s head is on Kim Jong Un’s body or why he’s holding an EU flag, but that’s not really the point.
Yellow Bird Project is a wonderful initiative through which bands design tees and the proceeds go to a charity of their choosing.
There are some really great tees and excellent causes to choose from, but this enigmatic grey and red design from Wisconsin’s Bon Iver is definitely our favourite.
How to Wear Rock Tees
Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski demonstrated how a well-designed, on-trend band tee can be an effective shorthand for your individual personality and style, interchanging shirts from his favourite bands The National, The Strokes and Arcade Fire over the course of the show’s first two seasons.
The trick with band tees is finding the ideal middle ground, the point where the shirt looks good, you know and like the band and it’s not an omnipresent design (think The Ramones’ crest, The Stones’ lips or the Nirvana smiley face).
For the most part, it’s best to stick to white or black tees as they go best with blue or black jeans, though there are always exceptions to the rule.
How to Give Your New Shirt a Vintage Feel
Personally, I’m a fan of buying a size larger than I need and washing the shirt three to five times on a really hot wash, stretching it back out after each wash, and then drying it in the sun or for half an hour in a drier on the highest setting.
It’ll shrink a bit, but it gives it a really nice worn, vintage feel.