No tour is complete without its merch tables, stocked up high with shirts, discs and limited edition knick-knacks – a stable way of earning an extra few quid and helping fans to feel part of the project by buying in. It’s a good idea, and I love seeing small bands selling quality music-related treasures as […]

No tour is complete without its merch tables, stocked up high with shirts, discs and limited edition knick-knacks – a stable way of earning an extra few quid and helping fans to feel part of the project by buying in. It’s a good idea, and I love seeing small bands selling quality music-related treasures as their unique and non-mainstream sound deserves to be spread and talked about by their admirers. It gives the audience something more than a memory and a hangover – a trinket to make sure they remember and hopefully come back next time.

Then, there comes a point. Just like with those people we see sporting matching Adidas sportswear, the band brand enters the world. Head to toe, the image of music can be seen, not only in style but in band names, album titles and logos. Like the racing car driver of the music world, some of us sign up to become a walking billboard. Adorning ourselves in something we’re proud of, to share and wear, we sometimes willingly serve as advertising, and we pay for the privilege.

It was not so long ago that I was in a love affair with Iron Maiden. It wasn’t the guys in the band I loved so much, although I had them on clear pedestals. It was the feeling it gave me to think about the image. Their genius, I think most Maiden fans will agree, wasn’t just with the music itself, but with the imagery and the marketing of it. Eddie the ‘Ed, the gruesome art, the occultist direction, the links to historical and classic fiction, the iconic logo – it all served as the one package. For about ten years of my life, in some way or another, I became that walking advert. I was proud of it.

For some impressionable young people, unsure of their personal identity, this type of sensation is exactly what they are looking for. The music seems to fit them. Their mood is represented somehow by the atmosphere they feel within the songs, art and so on. And so, without further ado, finding this music to serve as a voice for them, they saturate their world with it. It feels great to connect when everything seems so disconnected. Because we may not necessarily understand that we are projecting our own experiences into the music and connecting in our own unique way, it’s possible to develop a bond with the music, deeper than a mere appreciation of the sound. I don’t think this is uncommon.

I wore my band t-shirts to let the world know that I was the type of person who likes this music. As ridiculous as that feels to me now – as if there is a ‘type of person’ at all – at the time, it was very important for me to give the world something to identify me with. As if I was not okay just as myself, the labels on the band t-shirts, the horror art and the fact no-one else wore the one I had empowered me. I was able to borrow their pride, and all it cost was the price of a t-shirt. Of course, clothes must be washed, so it wasn’t long before my collection grew. One for each day was the norm, but not only that. I had the coat, the badge and the bandana. I would listen to their music at any available moment, talk about them and befriend anyone who knew a lyric.

Needless to say, I grew out of this childish behaviour, but I do still have moments. I still own band t-shirts and wear them. I post music to Facebook in the full knowledge that they will probably be ignored, but it shows people what I like. It doesn’t define me, but it assists people with an idea of what I might like.

When in moderation, showing off who we are and what we like can be a good thing, a physical ice breaker. I know you’re cool because of your t-shirt, so I will have a chat with you. But if we camouflage our personal depth with a head-to-toe garnishing of labelling and someone else’s style, it can define us a little too much. We know all we need to know about that guy. He’s a metal-head, so let’s just talk about metal and remain trapped in the genre together.

Rowan Blair Colver