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 of my concert shirts now reside 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 for 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, the finest fade free fabric doesn’t generally construct most concert shirts. 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 the band offers. 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, I revert to my younger self when I see a tour shirt simply too cool to pass up. But then the price and my burgeoning drawers tell me otherwise.

Exhibit B
Exhibit B

When deciding on a concert shirt to buy choose the 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), therefore, if likeable options exist, gray is your best bet. (See exhibit A) This 2002 Gin Blossoms shirt has been washed in warm and even weathered harsh chemicals to remove a grease stain. 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 results in the death nail for the shirt. Any newness of graphics and tour dates fade away and the shirt instantly looks 10 years old.

Black represents the most common color for tour shirts with red 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 makes up an art form is anyone’s guess, however, the method

Exhibit C
Exhibit C

described below works and offers a beneficial way to anyone who cherishes their concert shirt and wishes to wear it years after attending the tour promoted on the 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 – a critical component 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 typically provides colder water 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 and don’t use traditional hangers. Lay them flat or use a drying rack. Hangers tend to stretch the collar out.
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 renders it useless.  Space out your wears and when signs of aging appear cut back to special occasions.

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