When I was a kid in the 80’s and 90’s the back page of guitar magazines and rock ‘n’ roll magazines, like “Circus”, usually had a full page advertisement of the best rock band T shirts.
This was pre-Internet so if you wanted to buy something you’d have to mail in a cheque.
But I never did buy a shirt that way.
*I guess my mom didn’t quite understand my desire to have a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt at 11 years old. *
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I realize this is a little outside my usual content, but I spend most of my days researching and writing about pharmacy stuff or computer programming…so I thought I’d have a “fun day” for a change. A Throwback Thursday.
Table of Contents
- 0.1 If you need to find a gift for a friend that loves classic rock…
- 1 Check out this list below of rock band T shirts.
- 2 70’s and Early 80’s Classic Rock Band T Shirts
- 3 Led Zeppelin T Shirts
- 4 KISS
- 5 Boston T Shirts
- 6 80’s Hair Bands
- 7 Other 1980’s Rock Band T-shirts
- 8 Heavy Metal Band T-shirts
- 9 Metallica
- 10 Iron Maiden
- 11 Enter the Grunge Movement
- 12 Jimi Hendrix
I love rock band T-shirts.
In a sense, when you wear a band T shirt you are making a statement about yourself.
Bands are brands, and they represent different things.
Wearing a band t-shirt is like a not-so-secret handshake among other fans of the band.
Plus, the artwork and typography is usually awesome.
But enough of this philosophical crap.
If you need to find a gift for a friend that loves classic rock…
Check out this list below of rock band T shirts.
70’s and Early 80’s Classic Rock Band T Shirts
There are lots of shirts from the 70’s and early 80’s Classic Rock bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Journey, Styx, KISS, Foreigner, ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin and more.
It would be pretty sweet having an authentic concert tour shirt from this era.
A friend of mine went to a KISS concert in the 70’s and he said the pyrotechnics were amazing: he said he could feel the heat from the fire bombs from hundreds of feet away!
Led Zeppelin T Shirts
This shirt’s imagery reminds me Lord of the Rings, and you can hear this influence in the lyrics of “Battle of Evermore”.
It is tough picking just one good KISS shirt.
These guys are the kings of merchandising….jeez they even partnered with Scooby Doo… there are lots of options out there!
Their die-hard fan base is called the KISS Army. If you want to purchase KISS merch directly from the Official KISS website, click here.
Boston T Shirts
Boston’s self-titled debut album was released before I was even born, and I didn’t know much of their music until I was a teenager, but I can’t deny how cool the album artwork is.
It was the best-selling debut album of all time… at the time it was released.
80’s Hair Bands
Then the 80’s brought us classic hair band artists such as Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Poison, Motley Crue, Warrant, and Skid Row.
(But don’t group Sebastian Bach of Skid Row in with Poison…he hates that).
Its hard now to really get a sense of how massively popular Bon Jovi was in the 1980’s.
They’ve managed to stay popular and change over time, but back in the 80’s they were huge!
MTV had their videos on steady rotation.
My older sisters had Bon Jovi posters (mostly just Jon) plastered all over their walls.
I still remember a tiny Bon Jovi button they had attached to their lamp shade.
Bon Jovi’s “Slippery when Wet” album was so popular I remember singing “Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame” on the school bus when I was in Grade 1.
(Our bus driver Rose was nice enough that she let us play it over the bus’ speakers. She was the best.)
I do have an original concert t-shirt from their “Keep the Faith” album tour in the early 90’s. I didn’t go to it, I was too young, but my sisters went. (I wonder if they know I still have their shirt?)
“New Jersey” and “Keep the Faith” were good albums, but “Slippery when Wet” is still my favorite.
Guns N Roses
I was still in elementary school when “Appetite for Destruction” was released in 1987, but I had it on cassette.
(I don’t remember where I got it from but that was the great thing about walk-mans…your parents didn’t know what you were listening to. 🙂
That album is awesome and has 3 classic rock radio staples: “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Paradise City” and of course “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”
But my favorite song is probably “Nightrain.”
I think their music holds up just as well as the day it released.
I love the distressed look on the GNR logo above, but the skulls shirt below is sweet too.
I remember feeling like such a badass singing “Wild Side”.
I was about 7 at the time, and I still love that tune. (I just yelled at my Google Home Mini to play it.)
I think the musical achievements of Motley Crue were overshadowed by some of the personal issues and relationships the band members had, but they had a lot of good songs.
“Shout at the Devil”, “Kickstart my Heart” and “Dr. Feelgood” are classics, and “Home Sweet Home” is one of my favorite rock ballads.
(Gawd I love that scene in “Hot Tub Time Machine” where Lou is in his garage belting this out…classic air drumming scene!)
BTW, that isn’t me in the picture above…that is a model off the Amazon listing…just in case you were wondering.
Other 1980’s Rock Band T-shirts
Def Leppard was the first concert that I went to.
It was 1999: well past their glory days of the 1980’s but they were still awesome. Very solid concert.
I think a lot of people forget how good these guys are… their music is so catchy.
And I don’t just mean “Pour some sugar on me.”
Heavy Metal Band T-shirts
Heavy metal fans are said to be the most dedicated fans in the world.
Classic heavy metal band T-shirts include anything by Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and more.
I don’t know if there is an official tally somewhere but I bet that Metallica has sold the most band t-shirts.
They were such a huge band, and the artwork and imagery of their albums translated so well into t-shirts.
I see a lot of the “Ride the Lightning” t-shirts out there.
I actually haven’t listened to that album very much.
I wore out my cassette of “Kill ’em All” and listened to plenty of “And Justice for All”, but not Ride.
I’ll have to give it another listen.
On this list so far are all bands that I’ve listened to a quite a bit.
But I can’t say the same about Iron Maiden.
But they definitely need to be included on a list of rock band t-shirts because of their album artwork and their “mascot” Eddie.
If you want to view some of these shirt on Amazon you can click here.
I remember being a kid looking through cassette displays and seeing Iron Maiden albums. Eddie looked scary as hell.
Megadeth is another heavy metal band with a dedicated legion of fans.
Dave Mustaine – their singer and lead guitarist – is a very talented guy.
Their lyrics were about more than just hedonistic pleasures too… quite the contrast to the party-heavy hair bands.
If you think the above Megadeth t-shirts would be a good gift for your friend, you can click here to view on Amazon.
I bought the “Countdown to Extinction” album when it came out, and “Symphony of Destruction” made them a household name (well in my house anyway).
And my kids can’t stand going down the cereal aisle with me because every time we see “Life” cereal, I sing, “Life! What do you mean life!” from the song “Captive Honour.”
We all have our quirks.
Enter the Grunge Movement
In the early 90’s the grunge movement burst out of Seattle and took over the nation.
Bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains booted the hair bands from rock supremacy.
This new music was so different from the existing, mainstream rock that it spawned a new genre termed “alternative rock.”
The hair bands of the 80’s looked so primped and dolled up they could have passed as women.
Whereas the grunge musicians of the early 90’s were polar opposite to this: they wore ripped jeans and a slouchy sweater.
I still remember the first time I heard “Smells like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.
I was in grade 6 riding the school bus and a high school kid got the driver to put it on.
It was one of those songs where you know right away ‘this is different‘.
I didn’t know that it would help create a whole new genre of rock…But I knew it was different.
I think every one of my friends owned Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album and Pearl Jam‘s first album called “Ten.”
Even the artwork of Nirvana’s shirts are minimalist.
I know we often think of Grunge music as being fairly stripped down rock music without many indulgent guitar solos, but Pearl Jam’s song “Alive” is one of my favorites.
And it has amazing guitar in it.
Not self-indulgent wailing, but emotional…if you know what I mean.
If you don’t, then below is a reminder.
If you want to hear the guitar part I love its around 3:35.
I’ve saved Jimi until last.
Jimi was my favorite growing up.
The first time I heard him was the “Foxy Lady” scene in Wayne’s World.
I laughed my ass off at that scene.
And check out Garth’s Motley Crue shirt!
Shortly thereafter I found my sister’s cassette of Jimi’s called “Smash Hits.”
It was an incredible tape and great intro to his music.
My favorite song of his is his cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”
It is in my top 3 for sure.
There is an incredible sense of depth and scope to the song.
I’ve embedded a link below so you can listen on Youtube.
But I guess I should stay focused…this is about rock band t shirts!
So below are some of my favorite Jimi Hendrix shirts. You’ll notice the shirts start getting more colorful!
The classic 60’s tie dye look. Such a cool shirt.
The next three below are from the “Authentic Hendrix” collection on Amazon.
Voodoo Child (Slight Return) has one of, if not the best introductions to a rock song. The wah-wah guitar is legendary!
This classic rock and rock band t shirts gift guide is by no means inclusive (I should add Aerosmith too, but maybe next time).
But I hope it has spawned some ideas on what you can buy the rock lover in your life!
Thanks for joining me on my fun, Throwback Thursday.