"RAP IS THE NEW ROCK & ROLL. WE THE NEW ROCK STARS." – KANYE WEST
As divisive as Kanye is, he makes a good point. In the past few years, there is no doubt that hip-hop, and the culture that surrounds it, has infiltrated the mainstream. When we think of our current fashion icons, the trailblazers who push the sartorial envelope, a majority of them are rap stars – or are at the very least inspired by rap and streetwear culture. Like members of rock bands once did, rappers now set the trends and define the “cool” aesthetic of our era. Music has always had a symbiotic relationship with fashion, with artists both acting as muses and inspirations for budding designers. The pioneering spirit of youth counterculture -- strong social and political stances, etc -- has also been passed down from rock to stars to rap artists, helping shape millennial society.
Though the baton has arguably been passed to rappers, the legacy of rock lives on. One of its major contributions to today’s hip-hop heavy fashion is the trend of band tees. During the 1960s, printed t-shirts began to emerge as the go-to method for people to affirm their allegiance with various counter-culture movements. With bold, bright graphics, these shirts were printed with protest slogans, advertisements, corporate logos, and band emblems. These band tees soon became a big source of revenue for musicians, and the trend of producing concert merch during touring season has endured the test of time.
Although the poser-y craze of people with no knowledge of punk rock or heavy metal repping names like “Metallica” has arguably been played out (we’re looking at you, Kylie Jenner), many of today’s touring stars have taken it upon themselves to make their own coveted concert merch inspired by yesterday’s giants.
This new movement has brought back the intended purpose of concert tees: serve as souvenirs to mark a memorable moment, brand yourself, or pay respects to the artists you actually enjoy. There’s something sacred about waiting in line at a crowded show, praying the merch stand still has your shirt size and then rocking out to an artist you love.
Published by Paolo Vera, contributor writer of Stanford's PULSE Magazine