Band T-shirt makes a mockery of everything said band stands for

Allan Lamb

As I was walking to the newsroom yesterday from Franklin Square Deli after enjoying a $2 6-inch sub, I noticed a person wearing a Minor Threat T-shirt.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the band Minor Threat, I’ll give you the short of it. They were the band who coined the term “straight-edge” with their 1981 single “Straight Edge,” which although was just the singer’s expression of his personal choice to refrain from alcohol, drugs and promiscuous sex, lead to the rise of an exclusive scene of straight-laced punks.

One might ask, “What’s wrong with wearing a T-shirt of a band you like?” Generally, nothing, but Ian MacKaye, frontman of Minor Threat and later Fugazi, is against selling merchandise with his bands’ images because that would require more money to be put toward printing and selling of the merchandise, requiring more money to be spent in promotions. Spending more money would defeat MacKaye and Dischord Records’ minimalist approach to music and would ultimately be a ploy to squeeze more money out of their fanbase. A ticket to any show that MacKaye’s bands — Minor Threat, Embrace and Fugazi — played would never cost more than $10.

While there are several Web sites that sell Minor Threat patches, pins and T-shirts, and there was a smart-ass T-shirt in the ’90s that read “This is not a Fugazi shirt,” none of these were ever endorsed by Ian MacKaye, his bandmates, or Dischord. So what does it mean when people wear Minor Threat or Fugazi T-shirts? It means that they have no idea of who those bands were.

When people wear T-shirts with the logo or image of a band they like they are saying that said band’s music is in some way a reflection of their own personality, or they just love the band so much they wish to express their support by giving them whatever money they will receive from the sale of the shirt, and by wearing the shirt become a walking advertisement for the band.

However, this is only half of what is implied when someone sports a band T-shirt. Not only does wearing a shirt mean that the music somehow represents the wearer but also that the wearer somehow represents the music.

Herein lies the wrong in wearing a Minor Threat T-shirt (or one of Fugazi or other bands of their ilk). The wearing of such a T-shirt is itself a misrepresentation of the band and its ideals.

Whoever you are, Minor Threat shirt-sporter, not only do you have no idea what you are misrepresenting, or have any idea that you are misrepresenting it, but you also have been had by the corporate punks at Hot Topic or whatever online chop-shop that sold it to you. Ian MacKaye or Jeff Nelson will not see a penny of the money you spent for that shirt, nor would they want to. Nor would they want to see you wearing it. Did you even know who Ian MacKay or Jeff Nelson are before reading this?

Contact all editor Allan Lamb at [email protected].