By: Michael Castano
Photos by: Amy Huang
Incomplete snapchat videos accompanied by off-key voices singing along, low-light, out-of-focus photos, and torn-up ticket stubs – people try to commemorate the fun they had at events, particularly concerts, in a variety of ways, but often struggle to do so with good quality. One solution to this problem is merchandise. Concert merchandise, and music-related apparel in general, has always been a staple of fashion.
Apparel bought at concerts serves as a tangible way for people to have the nights they spent at shows memorialized, and to share that experience with others by, in a way, wearing those nights. Seeing the name, tour details, or artwork of a musician on someone gives others an immediate impression of the person they see wearing the apparel. That impression is tacitly understood by the person in the musician’s merchandise. It’s a decision, conscious or not, by that person to use clothing and music together as a means of self-expression. People wear a Chance 3 hat or Drake Summer Sixteen hoodie because they want people to know that they went to that concert or that they love that artist. For better or for worse, it’s an easy way for someone to flex what they’ve seen or what they’re interested in.
One interesting phenomenon in fashion that has recently gained popularity is the rise of throwback designs on shirts, typically involving busy or kitschy designs of rock and hip-hop musicians from the ‘80s and ‘90s. First, it was the rise of tattered looking rock shirts, representing everything from hair-metal artists like Guns & Roses, to metal artists such as Slayer, to the grunge of Nirvana. It is an interesting fashion trend for sure, but one that makes sense. First, what better to wear with a distressed-themed outfit than an old-looking, both in quality and in design, t-shirt that almost literally screams that the wearer listens to Guns & Roses. Second, people love to be ironic and reclaim things that people have cast off as too mainstream or basic. These shirts with rock bands on them are definitely nostalgic and loud, but that’s what that music is and represents to a lot of people. There’s no shame in that.
This initial interest in these rock-and-roll shirts paved the way for throwback hip-hop designs to enter the t-shirt scene, most notably represented by the graphic t-shirt section of Urban Outfitters. Perhaps the most prevalent example of this is the 2Pac All Eyez on Me shirt. Hip-hop designs similar to the aforementioned 2Pac one can definitely be classified as kitschy, but the unapologetic wearing of these shirts is a statement, by those who wear them at least, about hip-hop. It’s one of accepting and embracing the genre in all its forms. The hip-hop designs on these shirts – ranging from lavish, to polarizing, to downright brutal – can be jarring, but isn’t that what hip-hop is about? Honesty and luxury, the two staple topics in hip-hop, are well represented by these designs. Not to mention, these shirts are simply, for lack of a better term, fly.
Concert apparel, especially from hip-hop concerts, has quickly become a must-have for anyone who owns streetwear. Much of the apparel that is sold at hip-hop concerts also reflects current streetwear trends. For example, minimalism, ‘90s nostalgia, and floral prints have all been embraced in the merchandise sold by artists such as Metro Boomin’, Lil’ Yachty, and Travis Scott. Apparel sold at hip-hop concerts can act as a sort of gateway for people who want to participate in what the Migos refer to as “the culture.” Streetwear and hip-hop have become inextricably linked. However, exclusivity is a problem, perpetuated by resellers and what many refer to as “hypebeasts,” that has arisen due to the many highly-sought streetwear releases being produced in very small doses, leading to long lines around the block and online web server crashes. Concert merchandise, through its reflection of current streetwear trends and association with the artists who also help bring about the current streetwear trends, allows people to access this specific niche of fashion, often at a lower price than the more exclusive streetwear releases.
The trend of wearing musically-related apparel is one that has been around for decades, but appears more mainstream by the day. However, it doesn’t seem like this is just a passing fad. People want to show off who they love to listen to and the concert’s that they’ve seen. The music never stops.