As a music obsessive who’s also a lover of fashion, I love wearing band t-shirts. Whether I’ve bought them from shops, actual gigs, or festivals, I think there’s no better way to express something about you or create a specific look than to chuck one of them on. Yet so many women I know hate wearing them in public. “I love mine, but I just wear them as nightshirts” “What on earth would I pair it with?” “They’re so unflattering!” Sound familiar?
Wearing anything with a bands logo on it always seems to be linked to some kind of childlike fashion and is certainly a bold statement. So is it possible to style them in a feminine, confident way and still look great? I’ve enlisted some of the most fashion forward and confident music enthusiast ladies I know to figure out how to get away with it.
Jessie Bartholomew is a recent English Literature Graduate from the University of Lincoln and has an eclectic taste in music (I get excited for car journeys with her so I can have a cheeky nose through her playlist). She describes her body as pear shaped and is a feisty looking blonde with a serious obsession with lipstick.
Chloe Cattell is 18 and recently engaged (congrats Chloe and Craig!) and is seriously clued up on varying types of music (she puts me to shame). She’s slightly more petite, and has what seems like the worlds coolest 60’s wardrobe. Call her for a crazy night out with the best northern soul background music (my kind of girl).
Here’s what the girls were each wearing when I interviewed them-Chloe’s band shirt is a madness top she won in a bet (!) and Jessie’s is a quote from the fabulous Joan Jett, “I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation” (cue Shrek flashbacks).
Chloe wears: Madness top (won in a bet), cigarette pants, topshop, white trainers, topshop, blue stud earrings, DKNY watch, The Gallerys wristband, vintage promise ring, engagement ring, hairbands
Jessie wears: Black sunglasses (free from a club-why do my friends get all their clothes in cool ways?) Slogan tee, H&M white shorts, new look, pumps, primark, watch, fossil, bracelet, thomas sabo, friendship bracelet, hairbands, floral ring, Dorothy Perkins
Thanks for meeting me girls! How many band shirts do you own?
Jessie: I’ve got 3 band shirts, 2 festival shirts, and 2 tops with music quotes on them.
Chloe: I’ve got 7.
What’s your favourite band shirt that you own?
C: Definitely Joy Division!
J: My Joan Jett quote shirt.
How often do you wear a band shirt out? Would you stick to wearing them in bed or do you wear them day to day?
J: I buy band shirts at every gig I go to, so some are quite old and I wear those as nightshirts. I wouldn’t think twice about wearing a band shirt out and about as long as it was an informal thing-but I also sometimes wear them on a night out with skinny jeans and heels.
C: My band shirts get worn out after not too long, so I’ll wear those in bed or just around the house. Because of what I do I can’t really wear them to work, but I also wouldn’t think twice about wearing them otherwise. It’s easy when you know how.
How do you style your band shirts?
J: I find band shirts really plain, unisex and shapeless, so I’ll wear stuff like cardigans and skinny jeans with them in the winter that have more shape, to cancel out the fact there’s no shape in the shirt. In the summer I wear them with as little as possible! Maybe just some jewellery or a skirt to add some shape and femininity.
C: I think they’re quite versatile pieces, but I also like to keep whatever I’m wearing in tone with what the band are about. So today I’m wearing a madness top, who are a ska band, which is progressive from the mod era that I’m into. So on a day like today* I’ll pair it with cigarette trousers or maybe an A-line skirt. Band shirts are so versatile, chances are they’ll match with whatever you wear whether you dress them up or down.
What kind of accessories do you like wearing with your band shirts?
J: I never usually wear accessories, I just wear the same sort of things everyday like my watch and bracelets, but today I’ve added a floral ring and some silver earrings to make it a bit more feminine. My top is quite grungy so I didn’t feel like I needed to wear too many feminine accessories. With tops with gig dates on the back I’d wear a chunky necklace or something.
C: I’m not an accessories kind of person either, I wear the same accessories day to day which are more about who I am as a person. But I have to think about whether things go with the whole look. If I was wearing a plain top like my AM top, I’d feel like I could wear more jewellery.
Are band shirts just a grungy look or can you change them about?
J: Ultimately I don’t have a bad reputation like my top would suggest, but if i wore a stretcher and a nose piercing people might easily think that I did, so it’s easy to play around with a grungy look in this shirt. I think it depends. I wouldn’t exactly wear it to a job interview or meet someone’s parents.
You guys are slightly different ages, do you worry about looking adult when you wear a band shirt?
C: When you wear a band t shirt you’re establishing who you are to the rest of the world, so I don’t worry about it too much. This is me, this is what I listen to. Some people might chuck it on with black jeans and be bish bash bosh out the door, and some people would dress them up, but as long as you’re smart about it you can premeditate how people will react.
J: I listen to the despicable me soundtrack on my iPod but I’d never wear that as a t-shirt! You can pick how you want to wear it. I don’t think it makes you seem younger because under 18s don’t necessarily get the same things out of gigs that others do, and with the joan jett shirt i’m wearing now, they might not know who she is. Obviously if I wore a busted top I would look younger, but I don’t think band shirts are a childish thing. You shouldn’t wear a band shirt unless you know 5 songs of the artist on the top! That’s annoying to me because it kills conversation if it’s just to create a look.
For women who worry about how boxy shirts can be-do you think it’s easy to make them feminine?
J: I’m proud of my body shape and boxy tops don’t let me show off my figure, so I get it. A boxy top is not the dream. It’s all about pairing them with stuff that accentuates your good bits-high waisted bottoms with a belt to accentuate your waist, maybe a cardi-or in the summer you can tie them up. It’s quite important, but if i’m just hanging out i’m happy to wear it just chilled-which is when it’s cool that they’re boxy!
C: Yeah like, the sort of artists I listen to aren’t really grunge, they’re more retro, a bit older. They’re more of a declaration of self expression than a look to me but it is easy to make them look feminine when you know how. When you see a band t-shirt, you wouldn’t necessarily immediately go “I could put a belt with that or tie it in” but it’s easy once you know how. I personally love making them look feminine, and they’re such a key wardrobe piece because there’s so much you can do with it. It’s sort of like a blank canvas.
J: I think you buy a band shirt for the band, not the top, and then you have to work with what you’ve got. You do have to work harder with band tops than any other top you might buy but I don’t think they’re harder to wear overall-don’t be put off because they’re boxy!
Some of my readers have said it takes a lot of confidence to wear a band shirt-would you agree?
C: It takes a lot of confidence to wear band shirts anyway, because you’re sort of putting yourself out there and people make a judgement on you because of wearing-but people are going to do that anyway! They really do. There’s no reason girls should shy away from boxy shirts because other people shouldn’t care if they can’t see or you don’t have a waist but if you’re feeling like you’re worried, there’s so many ways around it. There are so many ways to customise and personalise things, you just need a bit of confidence.
J: I’m a really confident person, so I could argue my taste in bands, but I’m not confident in my body. So when band shirts show my bum or tummy or arms, my problem areas-problem areas, such a stupid phrase!- I would then customise them. I’d tuck it up to make it look cropped, so it’s purposeful or tuck it in so it’s not a problem anymore. Just because something is unflattering on its own doesn’t mean you can’t make it flatter you! I can completely see where that has come from.
C: There’s always illusions- a boxy shirt could make it look like you’re just hiding a waist! I’ve definitely been there though.
So in conclusion, looks like a little tweak and a spoonful of confidence is all you need to wear a band shirt! Get those babies out of your pajama drawer and on your back where they should be…
Thanks to Chloe and Jessie for their input!
How do you feel about wearing band shirts out? Tag me in your pics!
Instagram/ / /@LizzieArkellMusic
Twitter/ / /@LizzieArkell
Facebook/ / /Lizzie Arkell Music