This Friday, 23rd November marks the eleventh annual, “‘Wear Your Old Band T Shirt To Work Day.” Initiated by BBC Radio 6 in 2008, it is an annual opportunity to demonstrate one’s street credentials (or, more likely, one’s striving for credibility in some former time).
Steve Lamacq, who started the annual festival of aged cotton, was fifty-four last month (he shares my birthday, but is four years younger, so it is not hard to know his exact age), so will have four decades of memories of the good, the bad and the plain ghastly when it comes to T shirts sold by bands among the merchandise at concerts, online, and in record shops (opportunities to sell through the latter now much diminished by the market for music becoming digital). Undoubtedly, there were some excellent T shirts; veteran fans of some artists will wear souvenirs from concerts decades ago. Perhaps the best bands had the best T shirts.
Only once did I buy a T shirt, and it wasn’t even by a band I had seen, or whose records I had bought. The T shirt for the band The Teardrop Explodes was something I bought entirely because I liked the artwork. It was the spring of 1981 and I was a student in London with a London grant (how many people remember student grants?) and I enjoyed the luxury of living with an uncle and aunt for £20 a week, leaving plenty for casual purchases. I remember buying the T shirt in a shop in Oxford Street, perhaps it was Virgin, for £3.50, which is probably equivalent to paying about £35 for a T shirt now. Sadly, the T shirt didn’t survive more than two or three washes; undoubtedly, I had washed it at the wrong temperature. The artwork I had much admired lost its colour, and the shirt lost its shape, and it was discarded. (A search this evening for a similar T shirt revealed one at hundreds of pounds!)
Dress code at the school where I work would bar me from wearing an old band T shirt to school. Even if a T shirt were permissible wear, not having my old T shirt means I cannot request that Steve Lamacq play “Treason” by Teardrop Explodes, for the entire day is songs requested by those who can send in pictures of themselves in their old band T shirts. In a sulk, I shall listen to BBC Radio 2 on Friday, Steve Wright doesn’t care what you wear.