I love a lot of things in life. I could probably be considered an obsessive person, which of course translates into record collections and stacks of old books to use for collaging and hundreds of photos of city lights, among other things that indicate what I’m fond of. I love writing and taking time to myself to finish a page in my visual journal every night. I love jackets and pinning buttons on them. I love finding new artists and listening to their music on repeat for a thousand years (Ahem, Modern Space and Raury,) and I love waiting for festival lineups to be announced. I love coffee and essential oils and Chelsea boots and Converse. The list goes on.
One of my biggest loves is band merch. The first memorabilia I remember having is a tank top from a Shania Twain concert, which also happened to be my first gig. After that it just became one of my favourite things to pick up a shirt or a photo book from a concert. I still have a Jonas Brothers t-shirt from 2008, and a Justin Bieber one and a One Direction one from later on in life. In the past few years, when I started listening to rock and alternative and all sorts of other stuff, my collection has grown significantly. I own at least six different pieces of The Vaccines merchandise, and two Julian Casablancas + the Voidz shirts and three Alvvays tees, as well as a whole lot more. It’s getting excessive, but it’s also not likely to stop. Since I love all my band merch with my whole heart, I thought I’d share the love and talk about some of my favourite pieces.
Given that The Vaccines are my favourite band; it makes sense that I would own a ridiculous amount of their merch. The shirt I bought when I saw them open for Mumford & Sons in 2013 has been worn thin and there are holes around the collar and the hem. My burgundy beanie with their logo stretching across the forehead was subject to hours of wear, even in the middle of the summer – for real. My most recent pieces, including a jersey that states “The Vaccines make me feel good” and a satin jacket with a patch of a questionable animal on the back, have both been worn countless times. I feel comfortable and good and confident wearing them all. I feel like myself, and I like declaring my favourite bands to the world.
Over the past year or so, I have slowly created a small collection of Alvvays shirts. My very first one came in a bundle when I ordered their album, and when I saw them open for Fucked Up at the Horseshoe Tavern later that summer, Molly and Kerri both lit up as soon as they saw that I was wearing their merch. I bought another shirt that day, and another one in December of last year at The Opera House. The latter is turquoise and is adorned with an illustration of a planet, and it matches a poster that I bought the same night that now resides on my dorm room wall. It’s pretty likely that I’ll get another one next month when I see them play again, and I’m getting quite excited to see what I can add to the collection.
One of my most cherished concert t-shirts is one I bought on August 2nd 2012, the night I saw Florence + the Machine live for the very first time. It’s soft and wonderful and embossed in gold, and it fits like a glove. That night is incredibly special to me, and keeping the shirt feels like keeping a part of the few hours I spent in the presence of the band. Florence Welch is otherworldly and magical, and she captivated me from the get-go. Her songs strike an intense chord, and that night intensified everything. It made me realize just how important live music is and really made me wish I could just constantly live inside a concert. I bought another shirt the second time I saw her, and all the same feelings are still there: the love and admiration I have for such an incredible woman, and how grateful I am that she helped turn me into a live music lover.
I own two band crewnecks, and my most favourite one is black and says “Darcys” in all-caps across the chest. You can’t get much more forward than that. I bought it from them in May of 2014 after my dad drove us all the way to Hamilton to see them play. The gig was intense and incredibly fulfilling, and I’ll never forget how captivated I was for the entire thing. At the end of it, the whole band raced to the back to sell shirts and records, and I bolted straight there to get my hands on whatever I could. I felt like I hit the jackpot that night, wearing the sweatshirt on the ride home and feeling nothing but contentment after the show I had just seen. I still count it as one of my favourite concerts, and I still feel excited just putting on the crewneck. I swear that band merch has magical properties.
Some of my favourite band shirts and buttons are thanks to Julian Cadablancas + the Voidz. They are yet another band that inspires me greatly. Julian is one of my biggest role models because of his need to create and to constantly make art, his unapologetic world views, and so many other things. Naturally, wearing shirts with his face or his band logo on them make me feel even more connected to him than I already do. My favourite one features a photo of him standing in front of a brick wall with careful editing that gives the illusion that he’s ripping his own face out of the picture. The design is impeccable and I wanted it from the day it was released. Out of sheer luck, my tour date was the first date that they were available and I snatched one up immediately after the show. I love it just as much now as I did almost a year ago.
My collection of band paraphernalia continues with a couple Arctic Monkeys shirts from their show at the Molson Amphitheatre last year, an Albert Hammond Jr. baseball tee from when he opened for Jake Bugg and put on a killer set despite having laryngitis, and a lot more. I also have a drawer with a huge stack of other band tees including The Clash, Richard Hell + The Voidoids, and The Ramones. Those are bands that I can only dream of seeing live, but I still like wearing their stuff. Even if I don’t know what their live shows sound like, their recorded music is incredible. It once again feeds back into the idea of displaying the things that you love in any way that you can.
Concert shirts and crewnecks and beanies and whatever else you can slap a logo on, they all carry memories with them. That’s why you can still find boy band merch in the back of my closet and the bracelet from this year’s Taylor Swift concert on my bedside table. It’s why I wear my very first The Vaccines shirt when I feel like crap, and why I buy a new tee whenever I can. I never want to get rid of any of it and I always want to add to the collection because it all reminds me of moments when I felt in my element, or bands that make me feel like myself, or nights spent with my favourite people. It all has sentimental value and it brings back a flood of my most cherished memories and makes me feel nostalgic or connected to something bigger than I can explain, and I like that feeling a lot. I love having a physical representation of a gig I went to or a band that I can’t live without. The list of reasons why I love band merch is incredibly long, but I collect it because it makes me happy, and there’s nothing that could be more important than that.
Huge thanks to Katelyn for taking and editing all these photos! Check out her Instagram for more cool stuff.