How to Wash Concert Shirts

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Little is more sacred to the concert goer than the tour or concert T-shirt.

I can attest to this. I have many.

Most are now stored away in a bin but I am known to wear a current one at least once a week. The concert shirt takes on different meanings for different people but I believe a common theme is the wearable collectable or keepsake.

In the “old days” I usually bought a concert shirt at any show attended. It was for me a reminder or bookmark, if you will, that I attended this concert during said year. To attend a show without walking away with a tour shirt almost negated the fact that I was there. In the 90s, concert shirts were a rip off – typically $25. Today, they are highway robbery – now $35 and up. For a T-shirt!

Exhibit A
Exhibit A

Nowadays, I do not buy a shirt at every concert attended. Not just because the shirts are expensive and I’m of the age that

wearing one makes one pause, it’s just that I have so many and well I have other more distinguished shirts to wear. Plus, concert shirts are not exactly made of the finest fade free fabric. Besides, unless I am a really big fan of said band, why wear one?

That’s not to say that every time I attend a concert I don’t look at what’s being sold. I still like the idea of buying some sort of memento and I always glance over at the merchandise booth to see what’s on sale. Sometimes a shirt is simply so cool looking I revert back to my younger self. But then the price and my burgeoning drawers tell me otherwise.

Exhibit B
Exhibit B

When deciding on a concert shirt to buy it’s always best to choose color wisely. Granted, for whatever reason, bands often employ ridiculous and extremely loud graphics that I wouldn’t be caught dead in (another reason why I tempered my shirt purchases). So, if likeable options exist, gray is your best bet. (See exhibit A) This 2002 Gin Blossoms shirt has been washed in warm and even had grease removed using harsh chemicals. It’s just as solid a wear as it was so many years ago.

Avoid the White t-shirt. It looks good for a few washes and then it undoubtedly gets dingy. The cure? Hot wash and in worst case scenario bleach. This is the death nail for the shirt. Any newness of graphics and tour dates are gone and the shirt instantly looks 10 years old.

The most common tour shirts are black and red is gaining in popularity. Handled with kid gloves, color and graphics need not be washed away in the spin cycle. How pray tell is this accomplished?

This brings me to how to wash your concert shirts. Whether or not this is an art form is anyone’s guess however this method

Exhibit C
Exhibit C

described below works and is beneficial to anyone who cherishes their concert shirt and wishes to wear it years after attending the tour promoted on their shirt. (See Exhibit B – a Rush shirt from 2013 washed once compared to Exhibit C – a New Order shirt from 1993 washed numerous times.)

First of all, always wear a regular t-shirt under your concert T. In the winter months this allows you to delay washing by as many as two “wears” and in the warmer months keeps your souvenir from absorbing sweat. This is critical because of how you will wash your tour shirt. The methods outlined below work for all colors:

  • Never wash your shirt in warm or hot water. If your washer, as does mine, offers the “Cold Tap” option – use it! The tap is typically colder than the washer’s temperature-controlled cold setting.
  • Use Woolite! For your darker concert shirts use Woolite Dark.
  • Use a delicate or “medium” wash setting. That high spin will suck the life out of your shirt.
  • Never put your shirt in the dryer. Ever. Always hang dry.
Rush old
Exhibit D


Using these techniques gives years of wearing enjoyment. (See exhibit D for a Rush shirt from 1990 that did not get special treatment.) If followed religiously, that concert shirt from 20 years ago can still get a starting rotation nod. Of course, wearing and washing once a week, like any article of clothing, degrades the fabric and graphics over time rendering it useless.  Space out your wears and when signs of aging appear cut back to special occasions.





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