A rockin’ dilemma: who gets to wear band tees?

There is a band shirt etiquette and a lot of people don’t follow it.

Band shirt etiquette mostly applies to shirts from bands that are in the genres of rock, metal and similar genres. Band t-shirts are a way to express your music taste through your own style but for many years, people have worn any band they want. 

If someone is going to wear or buy a band tee, one thing they should think about is the band shirt etiquette. Some videos have been going around TikTok where a person goes up to someone who is wearing a band shirt and asks them if they know three songs by that band they’re wearing; this has to do with band shirt etiquette. This etiquette has specific rules and a huge one that a lot of people agree with is that you should at least be able to name a couple of songs from an album. 

I understand that in some ways it’s not a big deal to wear band tees and people should be able to wear whatever they want. But when someone who listens to pop music wears an Iron Maiden t-shirt, it doesn’t quite make sense. Why wear a shirt of a band you don’t like or aren’t interested in supporting other than for fashion?

If I were to wear a Beyoncé shirt, the people around me would expect me to be a fan and would most likely be a little disappointed when I say I don’t know any of her songs. That example is the same way a lot of rock fans feel when posers wear shirts of bands that they don’t know anything about. The way I look at it, if someone wears a band tee, they should at least know who the band is and be familiar with a couple of their songs. Even if someone can only name songs from that band that are overplayed or popular, at least that person is aware of the band and isn’t just wearing the shirt for fashion.

Freedom of expression is real and I believe in that. But, when someone doesn’t understand or appreciate the passion some people, including myself, feel towards rock and metal, it feels as if that person is intruding on something that allows me to express myself.

I have had experiences in which I am wearing a Metallica shirt or a Slipknot shirt and a teacher asks me whether or not I actually listen to the bands on my shirt. When I answer with yes, they are genuinely surprised. One teacher who asked me that question even said something to the effect of, “Finally someone that actually listens to the band on their shirt.” It doesn’t make sense to me that people are surprised when someone knows the band on their shirt. The reaction shouldn’t be that they’re surprised I listen to the band on my shirt and I’m not just wearing it for fashion. Their reaction should be that they’re happy someone else is into the same bands.

I am in no way trying to gatekeep any bands. However,  if you want to wear a band tee, try to have a little knowledge about who the band or singer is and who you’ll be supporting once wearing it. Don’t wear the shirt just for fashion.