Ah, the band t-shirt. A music snob’s favourite dinner party debate.
Love them, hate them, wear them, loathe them. If you really want to get some people’s blood pressure rising, wear an iconic band’s t-shirt and shake your head when you face the ultimate reflex defence: “NAME FIVE SONGS!”
When people wear t-shirts with iconic band logos and sleeves on having never having listened to the band; it’s an argument that never grows old and a discussion with no negotiation for an ending. It’s an argument that is getting tired. Or it was, until the Jenner sisters stomped all over it.
Kendall and Kylie Jenner’s recent addition to their clothing line features their faces, all over the band tees. Marketed as “one of a kind, perfectly worn vintage tee shirt”, old merchandise of legendary bands have been revamped; with the sister’s selfies plastered over portraits, Instagram screenshots covering logos and initials splattered across artwork.
In the Rock vs. Rap series you can see the outlines of a Metallica cover just peeping out behind Kylie in a bikini, and perhaps unfortunately or hilariously placed, a Tupac graphic sticking two fingers up to the ‘KK’ print. Biggie, Pink Floyd and The Doors have also been claimed in the game. Buyers have the choice of which image they’d like, but the tee that it’s imposed on to will be picked at random. This clarifies that a consumer is buying into the Kendall and Kylie brand, and not the artist who owned the work previously. The level of superiority that the girls are trying to reign is in a way, laughably respectable, in just how disrespectful it is to the artists who dedicated many years of their life to producing music to now be suggested to be dismissed with a lip filler kiss.
Though I can’t help but feel that this stunt was probably harmless. Kendall and Kylie have had free reign to do as they please pretty much their whole life, and to be fair a lot of the time it has paid off, and all of the time it has worked in their favour. They’re naïve and lavish in that. But there’s also no denying that people are pissed. Where the Jenner sisters don’t exactly have a clean record for plagiarism, just a few weeks ago Kylie was outed for copying designs, is this a stunt of laziness to stir the pot and allow drama to lead to sales? At $125 dollars a pop, I don’t think so. However, it probably is the perfect example of their ignorance to just rip off what they like.
Most of the designs are already sold out or running low in stock online, and several seem to have disappeared. Perhaps the Jenner lawyers have Googled a little something called copyright, or publishers have searched Twitter, faced the wrath of the backlash, and pulled the deal. This is the latest PR drama since that Pepsi advert.
Now it isn’t the fact that they have released band t-shirts, and it isn’t the fact that they often wear them, it’s the fact that Kendall and Kylie have emblazoned their own vanity on top of an artist’s legacy. The core of the argument for anybody who casts side eye at a Ramones top and instantly assesses whether the wearer is worthy of ‘fan material’ is the respect and love for the artist. This in a strange and bitter way, is sometimes sweet and just a strange, territorial fan activity. It can be justified and dismissed. But the K+K treatment is a statement of ego, and was a tone-deaf move.
Words by Tanyel Gumushan