As Uniqlo's UT project launches its new 'Music Icons' range of t-shirts, it once again brings up the question Urban Outfitters, ASOS and countless others have provoked in recent years: should fashion retailers sell band t-shirts?
The Uniqlo collection covers legendary rock acts Nirvana, The Clash and Kiss. The marketing info describes the Music Icons range as featuring 'the logos, portraits, and album covers that symbolise them'. And goes on to say 'Everyone will love these pop-style designs, not just music fans'. This is the bit that sits uncomfortably with me.
Anyone who had listened to any of these acts would be hard pushed to describe any of these indie/grunge, punk, and hard rock bordering on heavy metal bands as 'pop' and there is nothing 'pop style' about the t-shirts either. But this is more than a case of poor copywriting.
Given the significance of the band t-shirt to many fans' identities - a symbol of their allegiance and understanding, a statement of their personal taste - should people who are not fans of these acts be able to, potentially unwittingly, pick up a band t-shirt whilst stocking up on socks? I don't like the fact that many retailers - definitely not just Uniqlo whose UT range is fantastic - sell band t-shirts as fashion items but I don't have a definitive answer to the question.
All I can offer is that, as a music fan, band t-shirts bought at gigs mean more to me than something I pick up in a fashion store. Each one of my prized collection of Britpop tees tells a story and is incredibly personal to me. Would I mind if a retailer started reproducing one of them and selling it to the masses who may not even be aware of the artists whose name their top promotes? Yes. I think I probably would have a problem with that. It makes such a personal item into an incredibly impersonal, disposable thing. On the other hand, it could lead younger shoppers to investigate bands they'd never heard of before, and that can only be a good thing.
Like I said, I'm uncomfortable with it but I don't have an answer. What bands choose to do with their licensing rights in order to broaden their appeal and generate more income is their business and I am most definitely not into either music or fashion elitism. I find this a really interesting area of debate and would love to hear what you guys think.
Would you ever buy a band t-shirt from a fashion retailer? Let me know in the comments below.