Trendy band shirts and their overlooked histories

Nirvana crewneck sweatshirt - Courtesy of

Nirvana crewneck sweatshirt – Courtesy of

Migle Acas, Staff Reporter

Nirvana, Rolling Stones, AC-DC… Do you even listen to these bands? Name three songs – I bet you can’t!

Hopefully, you are not caught in the crossfire when your teacher starts questioning your fandom based on your “aesthetic” Nirvana crew-neck.

The current teen generation’s band shirt mania has made some question whether these bands are becoming popular with the younger generation, or if it is simply that the retro style of these band shirts is becoming mainstream. 

At Sandburg, there is a current trend in which teens wear 80s and 90s band merch without the slightest clue of the music or bands that are features on the shirts they thrifted last weekend. To the teenagers, the band and the nostalgia it carries doesn’t always factor into their choice of attire, while some staff and other adults are left wondering why students wear a Rolling Stones shirt without being able to even name the lead singer.

Here are the voices of a few students who wear trending band shirts who can clarify the reason behind this youth subculture.

When asked to name at least two songs by “Nirvana” based on the shirt she was wearing that featured the name of the group, Sandburg freshman Leena Ahmad said, “I can only name one, which is ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’”

Following the same question, Sandburg Senior, Naya Padayao replied, “Oh, definitely not. No.” 

For most, these shirts have become a fashion trend and go beyond an indication of an individual’s music preferences. It is apparent in the Sandburg community that band shirts have become an obvious go-to clothing item, but why do teens buy them in the first place? Should band shirts be limited to fans only?

When asked why they bought a Nirvana Crewneck, Naya Padayao said, “Yeah, I’m gonna be honest, it’s only because there’s a trend. My favorite color is pink. And I think it’s super cute. But I cannot tell you anything about Nirvana”. 

Sandburg junior Hanna Tutor, wearing a “Sublime” band shirt, said, “I thought the style is kind of oversized, and that was cute. Just a style. I thought it was cool.” 

Do famous retro band shirts create that unique, edgy look some people try to achieve? Is a new generation of self-proclaimed “subculture” enthusiasts forcing the whole ‘look’ of an offbeat, one-of-a-kind taste in music –ironically– into the mainstream?

Another Sandburg Junior, Jana Nakhleh, commented “Yeah, I think it’s just for style. I think it’s just ‘they look nice so people wear them.’ It’s the aesthetic.” 

The culture of band shirts seems to have morphed into a “vintage” aesthetic rather than an indication of one’s love for a band. 

The question remains: should these band shirts be worn purely for the “aesthetic” fashion trends or only by die-hard fans?