style by Mags Ocampo

Make the Gig Shirt Great Again

A handful of local retail brands just might have found the key to stopping the cultural appropriation of band tees.

Over the last decade, there has been an alarming increase in the number of cultural appropriation cases linked to band tees. Thanks to the proliferation of fast fashion chains with a penchant for ripping off designs that aren’t theirs, a wave of teenagers and young adults have gained access to classic rock t-shirts without so much as hearing any of the featured bands’ songs. What was once only available through actual concerts and tours is now available at every local mall. While I call it “appropriation,” some people would call it being “pretentious.” Others still would call it “being a poser.” Harsh.gig shirt 1-2But in all seriousness, what good is a band tee with no sentimental value? While most of us might never be able to watch the iconic bands whose shirts we want to buy, local t-shirt brand Tomorrow is making it possible to keep that rocker chick (or dude) aesthetic while remaining authentic. With every collection launch of theirs comes a gig and a gig shirt. “We wanted to attach experiences to the clothes,” explains co-founder Andrew Panopio. His partner, Tim Lopez, nods in agreement.And that they do. Featuring an interesting mix of local bands, DJs, and performers, their shirts are guaranteed to give you some indie music scene street cred — the gigs themselves are great, too, of course. From joshing during bluesy rock band Imelda’s set, to singing along to the anthemic songs of Cheats, to playing percussion with the Hernandez brothers, there’s always something for everyone at Tomorrow Night gigs.gig shirts 2

The boys explain the old-school look and feel of the shirts as inspired by thrifted tees. “There’s an aesthetic people are definitely finding when they pick shirts like a Team-Building ‘98 shirt, or a Michigan University Marathon Volunteer shirt. Maybe it’s the feeling that the shirt’s been through so much, people wanna claim it. [We make gig shirts] in hopes of getting close to that feeling,” they share.gig shirt 3Tomorrow isn’t the only brand that has been helping the local music scene flourish through fashion. Nobody Clothing has worked in collaboration with Shadow Moses for their EP tees. Meanwhile, Bastard has teamed up with Eyedress to model one of their releases, Similarobjects for their own shirt design, as well as collaborated with other local artists such as Wilderness and The Zombettes. Record label Babe Slayer even has its own clothing line attached to it.

While the existence of such brands doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of mass-marketed band tees that have no real meaning, it hits two birds with one stone: these shirts provide one more way to support local music and one more way to wear your heart on your sleeve (err, back). And hey, if you ask me, that’s pretty great.

Mags Ocampo
Mags Ocampo is a twenty-two-year-old writer, graphic designer, and life guru (or so her friends claim). She currently works as Rogue Media Inc.'s Digital Art Director and takes freelance jobs on the side. She likes diving into whitecaps, reading sad books, and trying to tear down the patriarchy during her spare time. She's taken on adulthood by changing her screen names to her actual name, and thus, can be found as @magsocampo on Twitter and Instagram.
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