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Not heard Nirvana? Nevermind … How fashion co-opted the band T-shirt

It used to be that if you liked the music, you got the T-shirt. Now, the band T-shirt is a fashion trend all on its own – whether you like what it stands for or not

A tour around the high street this summer would uncover a few standout trends. Pretty off-the-shoulder tops. Basket bags. Bleached denim. Even some pool-ready inflatables. And at stores including Topshop, H&M, Primark and Forever 21, T-shirts for bands including AC/DC, Metallica, the Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi. The kind of purchase once seen on merchandise stalls at gigs and market stalls in Camden Lock has gone mass.

What does it mean when something so aligned with an alternative point of view – one that prioritises your love of your favourite band as primary statement to the world – is co-opted by fashion? This year the humble band T-shirt has become something of a battleground between generations, where ideas of authenticity, image and symbolism are at loggerheads. This was writ large earlier this month when Kendall and Kylie Jenner released a series of T-shirts on their Kendall + Kylie website. On the front were designs that resembled T-shirts for Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls and Ozzy Osbourne, with selfies of the sisters superimposed on top. Voletta Wallace, Biggie’s mother, was quick to denounce it on Instagram, posting an image of the T-shirt with a cross through it.

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