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The band (shirt) plays on: How vintage concert swag still lives on

The band (shirt) plays on

Witty slogans, wacky graphics, vintage collectables – Odessa Paloma Parker charts the ways more traditional music paraphernalia still hits the right notes


Launched in 2005, Los Angeles-based brand Worn Free has built a business making fully licensed reproductions of iconic garb worn by the likes of Kurt Cobain, Debbie Harry and John Lennon. Made with soft, washed cotton (so as to replicate the feel of a beloved band shirt that's lingered in your closet for years), these shirts have been snapped up by stars such as Paul Rudd, Ed Sheeran and Rufus Wainwright. To up the memorabilia status, the styles arrive with a commemorative hangtag resembling a backstage pass and featuring a photo of the shirt's original wearer and the date. Only $60 to look like Sting circa 1981? Quite a deal.

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"We get customers who were at the concerts decades ago and want to revisit the feeling that the band gave them at the time," says Mama Loves You co-owner Mahro Anfield. Her Toronto vintage shop, which opened in 2012, sells all manner of retro garb, but its stock of concert shirts are hot tickets. "The most expensive shirt we have sold to date is very rare 1984 Iron Maiden 'Aces High' [shirt] that we sold online to someone in Finland. We got $600." Anfield meticulously researches the Tees for copyright and tour dates as well as condition, noting that their stock is unpredictable despite the occasional customer request. "We get what we get and we are lucky to find what we find." For more information, visit


Nate Duval, an illustrator and typographic designer based in Massachusetts, has designed merchandise from posters to tote bags for acts like Dave Matthews Band, Broken Social Scene, Phish and Tame Impala. His psychedelic styling is reminiscent of the concert imagery drawn up by artists Bonnie MacLean and Bob Massey, which are considered treasured pop culture artifacts. MacLean's work, for example, hangs in the Museum of Modern Art. This timeless appeal is perhaps why Duval's work has caught the eye of clients outside the music world, including Chipotle and Disney.

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