Punk and New Wave Fashions: Punk T Shirts And their Enduring Worldwide Popularity.
Above Photo: Gossip Girl’s Bad Girl and Real Life Rocker, Taylor Momsen in a Ramones T-Shirt.
I was thinking about Punk and New Wave bands and their continuing popularity on T-shirts recently when I was driving in Bangkok and a young Thai woman crossed the road in front of me wearing a T-shirt which said: “Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire”, and which looked as though it was designed from a previous Punk/New Wave gig flier.
Weirdly enough, back in Liverpool in 1979, I had actually gone to a Joy Division gig, where Cabaret Voltaire had supported them (see above flier), so this was a nice blast from the past, but it also got me thinking about Punk bands and T-shirts in general.
The girl wearing the Joy Division/Cabaret Voltaire T-shirt was only in her early twenties and may not even have known what was written in English on it, but it struck me that everywhere I go, everywhere in the world, I see Punk and New Wave bands on peoples’ T-shirts.
Celebrities, especially, seem to like wearing Punk T-shirts, and I have focused on just two popular ones to illustrate this article: Joy Division and the Ramones. Obviously, especially for younger celebrities (especially in Boy Bands), being seen wearing a “cool” punk band T-shirt may help change public perceptions of them; that perhaps they’re not the total wankers people think they are from their PR-concocted image.
While thinking about this, I also came across an interesting article in the UK’s Independent newspaper by Rhodri Marsden talking about the same thing.
He said about Ramones T-shirt wearers in the UK:
You see them everywhere these days, on public transport, down the pub, in the local park and at Glastonbury, on the backs of everyone from Jonathan Ross to a 10-year-old girl. The Ramones T-shirt has become a ubiquitous garment, a globally recognised design that retains only a flimsy link to the music made by America’s quintessential punk band.
Many couldn’t name you a Ramones song – although some might hazard a guess at “Hey Ho Let’s Go”, the opening lyric of their 1976 debut single “Blitzkrieg Bop” (currently being used in a TV advert for an online electrical appliance retailer).
People of a certain age might see this as a despicable betrayal of the Ramones’ memory, but does it matter? After all, to accuse a 10-year-old child of lacking punk authenticity would seem unfair. Having become a regular fixture in high-street clothing stores, maybe the Ramones T-shirt has merely taken on a strange new life of its own.
Dee and Tommy; all now dead, but somehow living on, emblazoned on the chests of people who don’t necessarily know who they were.
Joy Division is another band that has endured incredibly well as worldwide T-shirt icons. I doubt they see profits from the mass rip-off of their Unknown Pleasures cover art, but, like Ramones’ T-shirts, you see them everywhere nowadays.
My favourite version of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures T-shirt was one I saw a guy wearing that said: ‘If you don’t know what it is, don’t wear the fucking T-shirt”.
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