My Favorite Concert Shirts and the Ones That Got Away

My first concert t-shirt was Duran Duran, at the San Diego Sports Arena July 1987. I had to have a shirt. I couldn’t get the main shirt, I bought that one for my date, for $25. I got the $15 bargain shirt. My first concert t-shirt. Set the bar for years to come. I went to a show, I had to have the shirt.

Over the years I amassed quite a collection of concert shirts, at quite an expense. I then gave then away in one fell swoop to a pair of identical twin teens who probably hadn’t heard of half the bands. I was wearing concert t-shirts before they were even born!

For years my uniform was jeans or Doc Marten shoes, and a carefully selected concert t-shirt appropriate to the audience of the day. There were many times when I was the guy at the show in the band of the night’s shirt, which many consider a concert faux pas.

I actually only had two Duran Duran shirts. I’ve seen them five times altogether. These shirts were like badges of courage. They were my favorite band, and to be honest, not too many guys are huge Duran Duran fans. I got a lot of grief for wearing those shirts. The best was a very colorful one, with the band name on the front, words “Abstract, Idealist, Romantic” on the back.

I probably had the most Depeche Mode shirts. I’ve seen them ten times. I believe one of my Depeche Mode t-shirts has the distinction of being my most worn t-shirt. It was from their “101” Pasadena Rose Bowl show, June 18th, 1988 — my 18th birthday. By the time I got rid of it, it had been worn down to a sheer nearly see through level. The graphics on the shirt practically faded I wore that shirt so much.

As the 80s moved into the 90s, my tastes changed a bit. I became quite a fan of the Southern California punk band Social Distortion. I’ve seen them live at least 25 times, and at one time had several shirts, and even a hat. My very favorite Social D shirt was form their “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” tour. I eventually upgraded to a Social Distortion Dickie’s jacket, which I still have and wear to this day.

In the mid 90s I got quite involved with the San Diego music scene which Spin magazine touted as the “next Seattle” after Seattle had supposedly given the word grunge with bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. I supported my favorite San Diego bands like Rocket From the Crypt and Lucy’s Fur Coat with shirts as well. Both shirts were pretty simple with the band’s logo. For some odd reason one day I decided to paint wearing my Rocket From the Crypt shirt.

Among my collection were some controversial shirts as well. These pieces took some extra careful consideration to wear, as they would often elicit comments, questions, and glares. My Dead Kennedys t-shirt used to turn a lot of heads. It simply featured the large “DK” logo on the front. My Public Image Limited shirt got many looks, but mostly because it was fluorescent orange and green. My Bad Religion shirt with the x-ed out cross on the front made many uncomfortable. I had a Social Distortion shirt featuring a burlesque dancer, a drug user and a cross burning that elicited at work complaints. Interestingly enough, a Rock the Vote “Censorship is Unamerican” shirt elicited regular questions as it depicted a black man with a white hand over his mouth.

There were shirts I wanted but never did get. I saw the Ramones twice, but failed to get a shirt with their epic logo emblazoned on the front. I saw AC/DC one time, but didn’t get a shirt. I’ve seen Iron Maiden twice, and didn’t get a shirt. I’ve also always wanted a Clash shirt, and a Judas Priest shirt, even though I haven’t seen either band live.

There are, of course, the shirts that got away and still haunt me. I’ve always wanted a shirt from Duran Duran’s 1984 tour. I saw U2 twice on the “Zoo TV” tour, and LOVED the main Zoo TV shirt, but didn’t get it. On the “Music for the Masses” tour, Depeche Mode had an amazing shirt with a huge orange megaphone that I failed to acquire. Lucy’s Fur Coat sold a shirt with Lucille Ball in a fur coat on the front, that got pulled after a cease and desist letter from Desilu. I never got one, but really wanted one. I’ve always wanted a shirt from The Cult’s “Electric” tour.

I know some of my old shirts are still out there. Hopefully they’ve found good homes. Probably in the closets of some nostalgic 40 something year old men like me. I can only home that at least one of my shirts was the “one that got away” for some music fan out there somewhere.

What are some of your favorite concert shirts, and what are some of the ones that got away?

Originally published at on April 13, 2016.

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