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The Band T-Shirt Zine

December 3, 2011

I have been meaning to write a teenage memoir about my band shirts for some time, and by some time I mean at least five years. It would often be on my to do lists, along with the many other projects that I will not have lifetime enough to complete.

Once I started to write about a few of the shirts, I found it was quite fun. I started off with the Cure shirt I had at age 12, the first band shirt I owned. After the age of 17 I began to document my life in my zines, but details of the period up until that point were noted in a succession of diaries which were usually destroyed before they were filled up. Like many, I had a difficult time as a teenager, and the one thing that saved me from complete misery was music. I listened and obsessed, and even now can recall in detail trivia about the kinds of  90s alternative bands that are busy playing reunion shows. I usually don’t attend – I prefer not to indulge in shared nostalgia. At the time I mostly listened to such bands alone, and stepped out wearing my band t-shirts as a secret code to the few others who might understand.

So I have finally put together my band t-shirt memoir. It spans from the early 90s to early 2000s. Fourteen shirts, and plenty of awkward moments, such as those in the Mudhoney story, which I offer for you below, along with my reconstruction of the image on the shirt. I am not confident of my drawing ability, but it was important for me to draw each of the shirt designs, and have them shaky and in some cases incomplete. I wasn’t particularly interested in writing as a teenager, but I did spend a lot of time listening to the radio and drawing, so drawing each shirt was a way to return to that past self.

Of course it all looks better in the zine and not this awkwardly scanned digital ghost. The actual zine looks like this:

Here a copy rests upon my favourite goth shirt, my Alien Sex Fiend shirt, which was recently discovered in a suitcase of mouldy, tiny, black clothes, in storage. You can read its story, as well as the story of the Bauhaus shirt, the Ratcat shirt, the Ned’s Atomic Dustbin shirt and so on, in the zine. It’s 56 pages long, with illustrations of all shirts, lovingly put together although not gocco-ed or screenprinted or individually signed by my rabbit or whatever zinemakers have to do these days to satisfy preconceptions of what makes a zine handmade enough. I will post details of where to get a copy soon, for now there is Etsy and you can always write to me – there are plenty in a box just beside me here. Now I am off to listen to goth records. Farewell for now.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2011 2:11 pm

    Hi Vanessa, I am totally there with you with the awkward teenaged years clothed in band t-shirts! This brings back a lot of memories. I had about 8 Cure t-shirts, a very prized Lush t-shirt, an ‘It’s a Shame About Ray’ Lemonheads shirt, Primal Scream, Cocteau Twins, a Smiths t-shirt and I forget the rest. I have destroyed a lot of the photographic evidence of that time so I’ve only got vague memories to go by. Also went through a phase in uni of making my own band t-shirts on bonds shirts: Stereolab featuring heavily there. What did you used to wear your band t-shirts with? I wore them with white culottes and a black and white checked flip skirt a-la Linda Day teamed with layered multicoloured laddered stockings. Awkward times. But also kind of delicious on reflection, I’m torn. I will write to you and order a zine. How much are they? Beth

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      December 4, 2011 7:18 pm

      Hi Beth! You could do a zine just on Cure shirts! I always wore the shirts with some kind of skirt, in the early years it was inevitably a tied dyed slip, then I became more goth – short velvet skirts were popular after I got over my long skirt phase… and I’d wear layered multicoloured stockings too! I remember the day I went through all my stockings and threw out all the ones with ladders – it was a moment of transformation. When I wrote the zine I looked through all my old photos, which was in itself an adventure. I didn’t have many photos of the difficult early teenage years, but it was fun trying to reconstruct what the shirt designs looked like when I didn’t have any evidence.
      If you send me $5 I will send you the zine. See you in the post!

  2. Dale Slamma permalink
    December 14, 2011 10:46 am

    I saw Mudhoney play last week, Spencer’s band supported them. I kept thinking about your zine and how I wished I owned a Mudhoney shirt, back then, when I would have worn it all the time.

    These days I only have one or two band shirts, one of them is The Holy Soul. People think I am creepy when they see me sitting in a cafe with Spencer wearing his band’s shirt. Oh dear, I just remembered the day I was chasing Spencer down the street, to get his attention because I just got off a bus and saw him, I was yelling his name and wearing his band’s shirt. That day I definitely looked creepy.

    • Vanessa Berry permalink*
      December 14, 2011 10:55 pm

      I wore that Mudhoney shirt a lot, but a comprehensive search of my photos failed to find any evidence of it at all. And in the search through every photo I have, I had to relive my entire life.
      That Mudhoney show would have been good. I did think about going but it would have done my head in a bit I think.
      The solution to the creepy problem: Spencer needs a Dale Slamma t-shirt.


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