Blue Jeans and T-shirts: A lasting trend which has come to symbolize casual fashion for more than just one generation. Before its iconic rise to fame, jeans started out as work clothes for miners and farmers during the dust bowl, while t-shirts have their roots as standard issue clothing for the US navy. The pairing of the two became a staple in fashion starting in the 1950's when a young Marlon Brando and a rebellious James Dean were identified with them in movies. The rock 'n' roll generation picked up on this and never let go!
From Elvis to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones to The Ramones, Bob Marley, U2, Public Enemy, Radiohead, Arcade Fire and beyond, rock t-shirts have always been a public display of a generation's philosophical expression. Although the rise in popularity of blue jeans and t-shirts during the 1950-60's coincided with the emergence of Madison Avenue mega bands, it was not until the counterculture generation of the late 60's and 70's made it their own with the introduction of iron-on shirts and concert merchandise, which forever changed rock t-shirts from just being something to wear to something which expressed the ideology of the individual wearing it.
By the time heavy metal had firmly established itself in the 1970's, the next generation of teens and young adults - who as baby boomers represented a large segment of the population - were now in place to ensure that the band t-shirt made its entrance into rock history. Metal t-shirts featuring bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple were staples in the often limited wardrobes of young adults wishing to express their anti-authoritarian views. This new phenomenon needed more than a voice represented by it's music legends, but an image representing their cause, and the rock t-shirt emerged as their flag. In every high school across America, and schools throughout the globe, teens were wearing band shirts with pride and letting the world know that this new generation of rockers was by no means a fading trend.
The counterculture movement grew into the heavy metal movement, which made way for the progressive rock movement, culminating in walls being knocked down throughout the world with the arrival of Punk Rock and The Sex Pistols. Torn punk rock t-shirts were now not only considered as the new sub-culture, but 'underground'. No self respecting punk band would be without their own torn and battered band t-shirt when performing on stage.
The punk revolution transformed into the mass consumerism and commercialization of the 80's. A new generation of music was reaching the mainstream in ways never seen before. The original rock and heavy metal pioneers with their loyal fan-base were fading from the Billboard charts and quickly being replaced by new age, glam-rock and hardcore metal bands such as Iron Maiden, Metallica, Motley Crue and Poison and by wildly commercial bands such as Bon Jovi and U2. During this era of music history, the band t-shirt did not remain exclusively within the domain of rock, but had now evolved to include all forms of musical styles including hip hop and rap. Who can forget the classic RUN DMC t-shirt from this era? Outside every concert venue were legions of t-shirt vendors selling their wares to a fan base buying it up as if it were their fervent duty to promote their favourite bands, or shall we say brands.
The mass commercialism and techno-pop of the 80's gave way to the grunge and back-to-basics sound of the early 90's. Once again, jeans and rock t-shirts were back in. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden expressed the new 'grunge' sound of this generation. The grunge counterculture, as with all the generations before them, became a beacon for the new dress code: jeans, a rock t-shirt and the obligatory plaid shirt on top.
Even though many of today's music fans were not around to have experienced the evolution of rock, they can now pay homage to the 'classic' rock legends that started it all by listening to their music and carrying on their legacy by matching up a pair of blue jeans with a vintage rock t-shirt emblematic of the era. It is now quite common to see both teens and adults wearing t-shirts by AC/DC, The Clash, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, David Bowie and many other rockers from the 70's and 80's. Teens have come to know and appreciate the artists who laid the groundwork for the plethora of music genres available today. Whether it be psychedelic rock, hard rock, punk rock, art rock, speed metal, death metal, grunge, indie rock or hip hop, along with many, many more, there is always a new generation discovering the past as well as exploring and defining upcoming fads in both music and fashion.
Just as celebrities in the past helped propel the band t-shirt into the lime light, for better or worse, today's stars ensure we carry on that tradition.
With celebrities like Lindsay Lohan being spotted around town wearing Def Leppard, Motley Crue and New York Dolls t-shirts, Kristen Stewart posing for a magazine cover with a t-shirt from The Clash or Miley Cyrus draped in Iron Maiden and Megan Fox rocking around town in her AC/DC and Megadeth band shirts: the past five decades have proven one thing, in the immortal words of The Who - Long live rock!