Whether an old vintage ACDC t-shirt or a Justin Bieber Purpose Tour long-sleeve, tour merchandise has made its comeback. Thanks to reality stars, young musicians, and their fans the march is being worn, and not only to concerts.
The theories responsible for this trend are the “fashion cycle” and the “trickle-up theory.”
Fashion Cycle: Trends are rarely new, and this cycle proposes that fashion ideas return periodically to popularity, after a period of absence.
Music is a good example of how trends rotate, which means that tour merchandise was bound to keep circulating in fashion throughout the years. In the 70s, ACDC (the only “rock and roll” band I’ve seen live) was prominent, so it came to no surprise as ACDC shirts trickled from the theaters to the streets and stayed. In the 80s, Metallica dominated the heavy metal genre and concert shirts were back in rotation. Then in the 90s, Nirvana made the cynical smiley faces pop-up everywhere. Now, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Kanye West, and anyone who went on tour during the summer of 2016 has merchandise that can be seen in clubs and on the streets. It’s a nod to the more rebellious days of music and teen angst.
Trickle-Up Theory: Proposed by George Field, the status float phenomenon (trickle-up theory) states that the high imitates the low.
In this case, the rebellious-music-loving youth of today supported artists like Kanye West and Justin Bieber, which wildly helped the artists’ popularity. The mainstream adopted the artists and made it culturally acceptable to admire them, and wear their merchandise. Now, we see “Bieber”sweaters on street style blogs during fashion month.
While artists like Drake and Kanye West have stuck to pop-up shops and concert venues for purchasing the trendy merch. Bieber has actually done a lot of collaborations to get his merchandise out to different class levels. He has versions of his clothes at Urban Outfitters, Barneys, Forever 21, and PacSun.
In the case of older rock band merch, the same theory still applies. This was the music that parents didn’t like their children listening to, because they didn’t understand. It was, again, rebellious and for the youth. But then the bands got popular and accepted into its own cultural realm, which mixed into higher culture. Now celebrities wear vintage Ts to enhance their edginess.
I was in junior high, when I bought a Nirvana T and wore it to school. Then I was asked by a boy, who clearly listened to the band, if I knew any song by Nirvana…my answer was “no,” and I never wore that shirt again. (I do know at least one Nirvana song by now, thank you.) For me, it wasn’t about the music; it was about the hype of the artist and the recognition that comes with promoting a name that you may, or may not actually like. You’re appealing to the masses. I felt cool. It’s the same now. I have a long-sleeve XL shirt from Drake’s Summer Sixteen Tour that I wore as a dress with over-the-knee boots à la Kourtney Kardashian. I feel rebellious and mysterious, like I know a secret…even though it’s probably the most basic outfit out there. But that’s why so many people have adopted it, it makes them feel something.
Featured Image: The New York Times