Sunday 28 August 2011

The first T-shirt you ever wore...?

I don’t know about you but I find I just can’t wear band-name T-shirts any more.  I can wear other logos, art and random images across my chest when I’m in the right mood, but band names - no.   The funny thing is that I don’t wear them now for exactly the same reason that I did wear them once: because the name you’re displaying immediately puts you into a very specific box.

The first T-shirt of that ilk that I ever had was one I loved wearing ‘til it was almost threadbare.  I even remember getting it - I had just turned 15 and I’d gone to London on the train (with my mum!) with the sole purpose of coming home with something special for my birthday.  The Clash T-shirt that I found in a little shop in Carnaby Street fitted the bill - as well as me - perfectly. It was special – and, yes, it put me into a very specific box. 

It was a tone-reduced black and white photo of the band standing in a street looking seriously cool, all zippy jackets and skinny trousers, with The Clash above (same typeface as on the first album) in a screen printed rainbow of neon colours.  I can remember looking through the rack, and even though there were several of the same main design, the colours were all very slightly different, so I could pick my favourite.  I wore that T-shirt frequently (if only I could have worn it to school…)  and thought it went very well with both leopard-print and paint-splattered trousers or those early straight-legged jeans which I wore over black monkey boots.

So that was my first…. I wish I had a photo with me in (or out of) it, and maybe someone else does somewhere, but sadly I don’t.   No doubt if I had kept it I could sell it on ebay now as a vintage item for an extortionate sum, but instead it went the way of all my subsequent band-name T-shirts, i.e. to one of three places – the charity shop, the rubbish bin, or the cupboard under the sink to fulfil a new role as a cleaning rag…

I have hardly any decent photographic records of other T-shirts either but there have certainly been a few since that one bought in 1978.   Here we have the rather mixed bunch of Crass, Bauhaus and the Dread Broadcasting Corporation (so not strictly a band  but it shouted to the world that you liked a bit of dub…)

Later I sometimes designed my own one-offs too, using Dylon and a fine paintbrush, or the basic screen-printing kit bought from a craft shop.   But whether bought or studiously painted, they all meant something important for a while.  They told the world who you were into - really into.  I mean, back then, wearing a Ramones T-shirt meant you were into the Ramones. You know what I’m saying…


  1. My first t-shirt was a Batman logo one, i got it around the age of 10 or 11 during the Batman tv craze in the 60's. It's the only t-shirt i ever wore (i have a strange phobia of pulling t-shirts over my head, yeah i know i'm weird.) I loved that t-shirt, felt like Batman when i wore it. :)

  2. Haha great idea for a post! Dunno if I can recall my first ever tee, but I do remember an early special one. You have to remember that there really was v. little merchandising in the U.K. in those days (hard to believe now isn't it?) and beyond standard images of Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe there really wasn't much available. I was lucky enough to get to the U.S. in the 70's and one of the things I brought back was a proper American quality tee-shirt with an image of James Dean on it! Completely unavailable here then and it was my prized shirt for many years...

  3. PS. Know what you mean about band logos. Once or twice I've toyed with the idea of getting one of those old 'DEVO' shirts. But then whenever I'm at the supermarket and see other middle-aged men proudly sporting the logos and slogans of some distant 'rebellious' past I think "nah, maybe not"...

  4. Great comments - many thanks! I loved your tale of the wasps, Yve. As for the way things have changed - absolutely. I was astounded to see Mr Beckham wearing a Crass T once. It could hardly have been more 'inappropriate' for want of a better word! Recently saw a small child, all of about 5 years old in a Doors one. Now I know some kids are precocious but I seriously don't think he can have been a fan of Jim Morrison...
    A - yes I forgot that kind of merchandising is relatively recent here. And I know what you mean about sporting the logo of one's 'rebellious' past in middle age... There's a part of me that says "why not?" but also a part of me that says, "why?"!
    I reckon the best thing would be to stick to wearing a Batman T-shirt, just like the one you once had, Drake... ;-)

  5. A wonderful post (as always)it brings back fond memories of my first "cool" rock n' roll shirt: a black Clash t-shirt with a grainy white print of the band and the red logo from their debut LP that I wore in early 1980. Of course I'm not counting the few iron on transfer Beatle t-shirts I had in the 70's that lasted through less than half a dozen washings....

  6. Thank you, Wilthomer! Ah, nice to know your first was a Clash one too...

  7. Hmm, according to my pictures when I was a kid, I always wore a superman or a batman shirt; and I don't know why! I mean, comparing to my son, he loves sporty shirts like LeBron's. Well anyway, he's the future of basketball... here in our town. LOL!

  8. Do you subscribe to any other websites about this? I'm struggling to find other reputable sources like yourself

    screen printed tshirts


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