I was thinking today about some of the bands I have seen throughout the years and I was trying to decide what united us, the '80s hairband-er (I may have just created a new word. At least in my mind). As I bantered about the potential link, I thought perhaps its the music, perhaps but what was the one tie we had and unless you were at a specific concert you had no clue what that freaky long hair with his impossibly thin goatee (it was growing in thicker every day) and the large chested, Aqua Net soaked bottle blonde had in common? Then it hit me, we all had a Badge of Honor.
I suppose there were as many differences in each of us as there were as few similarities between us all, but I think I may be onto the "Badge of Honor". Reflecting back I am drawn to jean jackets, but I think this may not be the real "Badge of Honor". Sure they had one commonality, they were made of denim (duh), but the manufacturers differed, and some had pins on the jacket reflecting their views, loves and dislikes, while others had patches, and some, those rebellious little bastards, had BOTH. Then I realized I was forgetting some of those jackets had a huge back patch, some had airbrushed studliness on the back, while some of the jackets were dark blue, some acid washed, some faded, some bleached, some blue, some black... (yeah, yeah, yeah I know it wasn't the jacket).
"Could it be the hair?" I thought out loud, scaring my dog actually, but there is no way I am getting into that whole realm of hairstyles, or lack of for that matter so I know it wasn't that either. As I stared at the dog as he laid back into his slumber, I finally figured it out, it was the concert t-shirt (I did so out loud, thus the dog was bothered so he went into the other room).
The concert tee. It makes sense, and think about all of the people you knew, or know now for that matter, that wore those shirts and why did they do it, its pretty simple, they looked cool. They did, and I can prove it. It seemed that every time a concert had passed through, the new spate of concert shirts arrived, in all of their blackened glory. Be honest, you didn't just wear them because you liked one of their songs, you wore them because the shirt looked cool, thus you felt cool. There's the proof.
It didn't matter what those t-shirts said on them, you knew everyone of those people that was wearing that shirt was like you, regardless of the patches on their coat or the amount of the ozone layer they wiped out, you had a bond. It was always interesting going to a concert and seeing all of the different shirts being worn before the show started. I remember t-shirts with the paint so worn off of them that you swore that they hadn't taken that shirt off for any reason, including bathing, more MONTHS just so it could get that patina. I still can see the artwork in what is left of my brain of Exodus, Testament, Stryper, KISS, Motley Crue and so many others but I know that usually before the show was over those shirts were covered by the shirt of whatever band they were seeing that night.
I proudly remember wearing my Motley Crue 3/4 length red sleeved tee with the pentagram on back and thinking despite the 3/4 completed pentagram that the QC pothead had missed, it was still cool. The pièce de résistance of any concert shirt was in those that had really cool artwork, that artwork that wasn't on an album cover (unless it was drawn by Boris Vallejo). Those images of skulls with snakes and really scary looking writing with the band name emblazoned upon it were those shirts that were noticed (its a good possibility that is what we told ourselves so get over it).
Yet for all of the fanfare we heard screaming from the adoration spewed forth at our mega-tees, I think the two coolest shirts I ever owned were a Descendents tee and a Ramones tee. They were plain, they had little artwork on them but they were cool! The Descendents tee had a simple drawing of Milo on a gray tee and the block letters below said "Milo Goes to College", and the Ramones tee, simple black and white, with the name Ramones and the Ramones seal on it. Simple. Classic. Cool.
Sure we all had them, and some of us still buy them (I know I still do), but they are the one uniting form that we all wore. They were truly our "Badge of Honor".