Top 11 Rock N Roll Shirts

Top 11 Rock N Roll Shirts

By Bruce Harris

(originally published 11/14/2014)

FirstAndMonday has  tasked me with writing a music related article.  My editors left me cryptic and scant prompts as to what this article should be about. The only clues on the case were “…like rock music clothes or something”, “do what you did with that last metal article…” and of course “make sure the list goes to 11”.

So, how about a Top 11 List of Rock N Roll T-Shirts? Sounds legit…here goes…

#11 Avenged Sevenfold’s Death Bat Logo
This is the newest band on our list. And by new, I mean they have like 6 albums out already, but they are probably what your kids are listening to. The band borrows greatly from many of the stalwarts that will populate the rest of this list. And that’s not a bad thing. When you grow up listening to Iron Maiden, Metallica and Guns N Roses you then have a chance of producing some pretty rocking material, as long as you don’t suck. And these guys definitely do not suck.

T Shirt wise, this shirt is simple, elegant and Rock N Roll sheik. Featuring their now almost famous “Death Bat” icon (I have seen several Death Bat bumper stickers on cars around town, and even one dude driving a Honda Element with a license plate that simply read 7FOLD) on a standard issue black tee with the band’s name circling it, this design is as basic and powerful as this sentence is long.

#10 Ratt’s ¾ Sleeve
Oh, hair bands, how we miss thee. And of all the hair bands that ever existed, Ratt was one of them. Warren DeMartini deserves to be worshiped with the upper echelon of guitar wizards, while his running mate, Robbin Crosby, unfortunately caught the HIV from Chris Holmes of WASP, allegedly, (yes, you heard it here first) and died before the band could rekindle their success thru a second career of playing Rock N Roll Cruise Ships, Rock N Roll Fantasy Camps and Rocklahoma. However, as long as THAT last sentence was, the sleeves on this relic of 80’s Arena Rock are even longer.

This shirt is a Metal take on a ¾ sleeve baseball under shirt. Whether you are rounding third base with your girlfriend or sliding into home plate for your baseball team, this shirt is stylish and multi-functional. Yes, you can chose to wear it down below your elbows or your can pull it up higher to feature your guns. Welcome to the Gungle…

#9 Guns N Roses Appetite For Destruction
Ok, so what can be said about GNR that hasn’t already been said? Well, Izzy is underrated. Duff is a bass boss. Axl is Axl and Slash was almost in Poison instead of GNR. In which case Tracii Guns would probably be a lot more rich and playing in Vegas a lot less than he is today. Oh, and the original drummer likes drugs. Drugs are bad, mkay?

Ok, well most of that has been said before, but what you may not know is that the album cover to Appetite For Destruction originally featured an illustration of a rape scene. Apparently a robot raped a woman on the sidewalk of a 1950’s suburban neighborhood and GNR chose that image for their album cover. Well, it didnt take long for The Suits to yank that off the shelves. That cover was soon replaced with the now iconic (that word will appear several more times in this piece…drink whenever you see it) Cross and Skulls logo, featuring a skeleton skull caricature of 4 of the 5 band members. Original drummer Steven Adler’s image is actually a portrait.

Is this T Shirt featuring nothing more or less than the Cross and Skulls logo worthy of our Top 11 list. Definitely! Should it be higher? Well there’s tough competition ahead. If you don’t agree with my rankings you are invited to email me at for meaningful discourse. Punk.

#8 Slayer’s Pentagram of Swords
Pentagram of Swords was an adult title I once viewed on PornSloth dot com “purely by accident”. Listening to Slayer’s South of Heaven album was another hapless mistake. If you like music, steer clear of this lot. But if you like bad ass T Shirts, then come on in, Son!

FAM Trivia Question: What percentage of Slayer T Shirt owners actually own and/or like any Slayer music?

The answer is 6.66%. I know, weird but true. Math is amazing. What’s also amazing is the popularity of Slayer’s T Shirts. If you want to parade around town looking like the next Jeffrey Dahmer, then this is the shirt for you. Featuring five swords forming a pentagram, this iconic (drink!) metal shirt is the first slide in the Powerpoint presentation for my upcoming seminar “Bruce Harris Teaches You Marketing Over Musicianship”.

#7 Metallica’s Ride The Lightning
metallica ride the lightning
Metallica’s logo? Majestic. Masterful. Monolithic. Incendiary. Incredible. Iconic (drink!). But much like their catalogue of tunes, their shirts have gone down hill in relative proportion to their music. See above for my email address if you want to E Fight about it.

Kill Em All, Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets is where the mighty Metallica made their hay. Coincidentally, founding member Cliff Burton then soon had a tour bus dropped on him, crushing his spine and the band’s creative spirit. However, the T Shirt featuring the cover art for Ride The Lightning is, simply put, a killer Rock N Roll T Shirt.

#6 AC/DC’s Red Logo
The Thunder From Down Under. I have no idea what this band has been doing for the past twenty years, other than continuing to pack stadiums and headline festivals the world round. What I do know, though, is that from their first album with Bon Scott all they way thru their third album with Brian Johnson, this band defines Hard Rock. They have done more with less than any band in rock history.

Similarly, their logo defines the term “rock icon” (drink!). So forget all their concert T’s, of which there are many, and head straight for the black shirt/red logo combo. For those about to rock, we salute you.

#5 Iron Maiden’s The Trooper

the trooper
Up The Iron’s! I think that means “raise a pint and salute this band” in British. But, dont quote me on that, I dont speak British. What you can quote me on is: “Maiden has the best band logo of all time…OF ALL TIME!”

Long before Al Gore ever dreamed of creating the internet and the plethora of fonts that would populate its countless number of tubes, one time Maiden graphic design artist Derek Riggs not only created an iconic (drink…) mascot in Eddie The Head, but he also created the Maiden Font. Now standard on all Apple OS and coming soon to Windows 2018 the Maiden Font is metal to its core.

Its hard to fuck up a shirt when you have Eddie The Head and the Maiden Font to work with. And nary an Iron Maiden shirt has been fucked up. So the result is a bevy of iconic (drenk) metal shirts, nearly all of them killer. But the killerest of them all has to be The Trooper.

Some bands create a shirt for an entire tour, some for an entire album. But a shirt just for one song? Yeah, Up The Iron’s! This shirt features Eddie The Head in Red Coat hoisting a tattered Union Jack as he takes a hill right after and also right before he gores a Russian soldier.

Did Britain and Russia have a war back in the sword days? I dont know. But this shirt is awesome!

#4 Motorhead
This band defies logic, defies genres and defies fashion. And as the fates would have it, sometimes when you lift a big middle finger to the universe, the universe salutes you with a million tiny middle fingers. So as Lemmy was doing and playing whatever the fuck he felt like doing and playing, fans took notice. This man was a true rebel in an industry filled with wanna be outlaws.

This shirt stands the test of time for all those who are rebels at heart, as well as the other line of those who just want to look the part. Black? Check. Metal logo, complete with umlauts? Check. Horned demon beast wearing a helmet? Check. Iconic fucking shirt? Drink.

#3 Misfits
This band was and still is a huge influence on the underground music scene, wherever that may lie. The pioneers of Horror Punk stumbled upon a formula that worked perfectly to create an end product that far surpassed the sum of their parts. Songs that were two minutes of blitzkrieg underneath Danzig’s snarling vocals and his graphic, instantly memorable lyrics still rock as hard today as they ever did.

They deserve all the success that eventually came their way, even if the lion’s share of the profits have been from T shirts that were sold to people who couldn’t name a single one of their songs. In fact, some of the kids parading around in Misfits shirts today actually think it is the company name of a fashion line and not an actual band. Perhaps they are right.

This shirt takes all the angst, darkness and gothic imagery of outlying teenage suburbia and encapsulates it into a small, medium or large package. The fact that the shirt itself has reached so many more people than their music ever did and the fact the shirt can be still be considered a fashion choice after all these years, even with so many changes to hip couture, is why it is deserving of being in the Top 3 on our list.

Truly an icon (though I forgot about you? Nah, now drink!)

#2 Ramones
The Ramones are punk rock royalty. Their fans are still a legion, even now. Proving that making powerful music is more about attitude and passion than aptitude and practicing your instrument, the Ramones were a sonic force to be reckoned with. As Hart Baur of the band Skum once told me, at some point rock n roll was hijacked by musicians. Well the Ramones, never let musicianship get in the way of their message. And that message was its okay to be different, its okay to feel out of place, gangly, ghastly and unable to function “in the real world”. There are others just like you, that feel the same way and they are waiting for you right now to sing along with them in full throat. The lyrics are easy to remember, in fact you are invited to chant them, if you like…GABBA GABBA HEY!

Gabba Gabba Hey, in deed.

And so it was that this shirt became a rudimentary tenet of rock n roll fashion. When combined with a dirty pair of Chuck Taylors, some ripped black jeans and some cheap sunglasses, this T Shirt transforms the ensemble into a classic look that will remain relevant in pop culture for decades to come.

Time to start sobering up, you still have to drive home. But yes, this T shirt is EYE CON ICK.

#1 Rolling Stones
rolling stones
The Goddamn Rolling Stones.

The band eternal.

You can have your Paul’s and John’s, I’ll ride into battle with these guys. Its only rock n roll, but you gotta love it.

They really need no introduction so its straight to the shirt, then. And straight to number one on my list is where it belongs. The lips and tongue logo, created by John Pasche in nineteen hundred and seventy one (A.D.), is instantly recognizable and synonymous with the band. Highly acclaimed cultural anthropologist and professor Cody Lundin showed this shirt to a group of natives he discovered living deep in the Amazon jungle. This tribe, called the Yomomanappys, had been completely isolated from the rest of the world and still functioned at a stone age level of technology. They had never even seen another nearby tribe, much less someone from the modern world. However, as soon as Professor Lundin showed them this shirt, they instantly knew what it was…lips and a tongue. He then played for them Jumping Jack Flash on an acoustic guitar, after which they ate him.

But this T shirt continues to eat into our hearts and imaginations. Don this garment and you tell the world “lets party!”. And after all, isnt that what rock n roll is all about? At the end of the day you can forget your Death Bats, and Pentagram of Meat Swords and Cross and Skulls and rest your head for the night with one reassuring thought. There were always be rock n roll, and it will always be a party.