Surfboards & Confederate Flags—A Guide To The Best Band Merch

By Ayla Shiblaq

Where is the first pitstop at a concert? For some, it’s the bar, but for others, it’s definitely the merch table — it’s a beacon of hope for those who not only want to tell their friends they love an artist, but have physical proof. And, let’s be honest, love is subjective — you could love Japandroids one day and hate them the next, but your t-shirt is 5ever. Every music listener wants that objective object that proves you once loved that artist. C’mon, you paid to showcase your love for this artist! Everyone enjoys showing people they have great taste in music, and having others ask about it.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that this representation of your love is merely clothing, so it should be at least a little bit aesthetically pleasing. So, this list isn’t comprised on where the best place to get a Joy Division shirt in Toronto is (FYI, it’s Black Market), but a list on which artists got their merchandise right.

Look, we get it: some artists don’t have the resources to make beautiful-looking merchandise, and as much as I acknowledge and still love and adore these artists for what they do, we’re being shallow here — my torso don’t want none unless it’s pretty, hun.


Kanye West fooled his fans into buying shirts with the Confederate flag, a symbol that completely contradicts the message he sends in his music and you know, is kind of racist. Need I say more?

Beyoncé’s famous new lyrics,surfboard,” and “I woke up like this” will and forever be just as quotable as Mean Girls. Her music is classic, and her merch is a #flawless execution of that. You go, Bey, YOU GO.

I respect any artist that has people making light-up pacifiers for them and has beautiful shirts. 10/10 would be a little monster for one night to wear a Lady Gaga shirt.

Sustainable cotton, a beautiful gradient, and minimalistic wording make the Beach House pullover one of the softest and warmest sweaters I own. I also get to sport support for one of the greatest live bands out there. Score.

Deafheaven’s 2013 album Sunbather includes one of the most aesthetically-pleasing covers of the year, which also makes the best t-shirt. Further, the band has many other beautiful t-shirts.

Arcade Fire was always great with concepts. Their merchandise is no exception. They also had dicks on their album cover, so that’s interesting and risqué.

The Darcys have perfectly minimalistic style in their merch. Even if you don’t listen to them (but you totally should), you’ll want to buy their merch. It’s that incredible.

Death Grips, YOU BROKE MY HEART AND TORE IT INTO SMITHEREENS. You can say most of the fan base has been pretty miserable, and as much as I can’t forgive the group for the emotional turmoil their break-up has caused, I still really want a “have a sad cum bb” t-shirt. The font is ugly, and I still want it. THAT is power.

If you’re ever feeling sorry for yourself, Pity Sex will always be there to console you with some flowers and intimacy on their beautiful portrait-style band shirt.


Very Honourable Mentions

You may have cried to Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There the minute it came out, but let’s be real: most listeners blasted it and went through at least one tissue box. So what happens if you go to see Van Etten live and forget your tissues? Look no further, because Sharon’s got your back. For the low price of three dollars, you can have Sharon Van Etten tissues. That’s not just clever business, but also a friendly favour.

“Excuse me.. Are those Pissed Jeans that you’re wearing?” is a shirt that seized a hilarious opportunity.

Perfect Pussy was selling a floppy disk single for 60 bucks and I actually considered buying it. Also, I totally would want a shirt that says “Perfect Pussy” on it. I also like the band, so that helps.

The band Parquet Courts has a shirt that says “Parkay Quarts” which is beautiful and it’s a comic strip and it’s beautiful BUT IT’S SOLD OUT UGH.

Yung Lean. Unknown Death Shirt = A++. Everything else = Not worthy of comparison.

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