Haircuts, Haute Couture and Heavy Metal

Kill em all t-shirt

I admit it: I was thumbing through a copy of GQ while waiting to get a haircut. I am not a regular reader – GQ is definitely not metal – but the only other options were two issues of Star magazine. One of them featured a photo gallery of female celebrities without makeup. I don’t care about how celebrities look without makeup, aside from being disgusted that the publishers decided that it’s newsworthy. The other issue had news that Bruce Jenner might be cheating on his wife. As I understand it, his wife is the source of the Kardashian phenomenon, which I think is grounds for divorce or at least consideration of infidelity. GQ was the logical alternative as it’s a magazine for men. I think it’s geared towards a somewhat younger, more fashion-conscious, less married man than me, but I did meet the minimum qualification.

While the editors did not seem to be concerned with whether the men were wearing makeup or not (and many of the models clearly were), this issue did have a picture of a man wearing a Metallica t-shirt featuring the Kill ‘Em All album cover art. It piqued my interest, but something about it was wrong. First, the photo was in the fashion section; where a metal t-shirt should never be. Second, the shirt itself was navy blue (the picture above is not the blue shirt GQ picture; I couldn’t find it online), and I’m skeptical that Metallica ever put out a t-shirt on blue fabric. Metal t-shirts are black, occasionally white, and once in blue moon, red. Blue is quite simply unacceptable to metal heads. Third, the design was a bit “off.” When I got home, I looked on the Internet for the original design to figure out what was different. Metallica’s debut album cover features a picture of a club hammer laying in a pool of blood and a shadowy image of a hand. Yes, it’s a very violent image; get over it. What’s important is that the hand on the GQ shirt is clutching the hammer. In the original album cover art, the hand – actually just a shadow of a hand – is open, as if the killer has just dropped the hammer.

Kill em all cover

I started googling furiously as my confusion and anger grew. The short article in GQ implied that this t-shirt was part of a high-end clothing line. I found that this particular clothier sells t-shirts for $150 as part of a curated collection of garments, no less. I googled further and came across several sites that sold the “clutching” version of the t-shirt. I even found it on Metallica’s official merchandise store. Now I was really confused. Metallica was not selling a navy blue version, but they were offering the incorrect version of the hammer and hand. What is the world coming to? I’m still trying to sort out my feelings about this, but here are a few declarations of dislike I am prepared to offer:

  1. I don’t like high-end clothiers co-opting metal imagery because it has a cool design quality. Come up with your own design! You can be inspired by an album cover, but don’t just copy it and call it art outside of it’s original context. That’s not cool.
  1. I don’t like the design being changed from the original. The Kill ‘Em All album cover is iconic and need not be re-imagined. George Lucas can update Star Wars movies all he likes, but he better keep his hands off metal albums. Apparently Metallica was o.k. with it, but I am not. Then again, I’m not really o.k. with Metallica since they released the Black Album.
  1. I don’t like celebrities who don’t know metal wearing metal shirts. For example, I’ve seen pictures of Adam Levine wearing a Metallica “Crash Course in Brain Surgery” shirt. I’m skeptical that Adam Levine is a Metallica fan. He might know the aforementioned Black Album, but that doesn’t count because it sucks. I’m willing to bet he has no idea that “Crash Course in Brain Surgery” is a Budgie song Metallica covered on their Garage Days Re-Revisited More frightening, I’ve seen pictures of Kendall Jenner (Bruce’s daughter) wearing a Slayer t-shirt. I hope she’s a Slayer fan, but I’m skeptical. She doesn’t seem to be the kind of girl who would like to bang her head to “Reign in Blood” or “Altar of Sacrifice.” Perhaps she’s upset about her dad’s philandering and this is her way of acting out, but I doubt it.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I admit that I own a t-shirt featuring a bullrider named Ty something or other. I bought it at Goodwill because I had been invited to a country-themed party for friends who were moving to Texas. I don’t know anything about bullriding and I had never heard of Ty. I also bought an enormous Texas Longhorn belt buckle and wore both to the party. I gave the buckle to the host of the party to help him fit in when he arrived in Texas. As for the shirt, I wear it only when doing dirty sweaty laborious tasks. I do that because I don’t care if it gets dirty, unlike my Motorhead shirt, which I don’t want to get dirty. I won’t wear the Ty shirt in public because I don’t want to give the impression that I know or enjoy bullriding. I’ve seen bull riders on TV, and it looks kinda cool, but I’m not a fan. I don’t want to give that impression because THAT WOULD BE WRONG. If you don’t know about a cultural phenomenon – artistic or athletic – don’t wear the uniform.

For those of you trying to choose a Christmas present for me, let me make it clear that I don’t want a $150 “vintage” revisionist history Metallica t-shirt in my stocking. I would, however, love to get an Exodus t-shirt from the Blood In Blood Out tour I attended last week with my brother-in-metal, Sean. Exodus – which I mentioned in my last post – played a small club in Seattle, and they were great. Sean and I agreed that their set list wasn’t ideal – because metal heads are hyper-critical – but I enjoyed every minute of it. Exodus are pioneers of the thrash metal scene, keeping it going for thirty years (unlike Metallica). This was a show for old metal heads as well as the kids who appreciate classic heavy metal. The band and crowd were in great form. Lead singer Steve “Zetro” Souza was enjoying himself and appeared truly grateful that the fans were still fired up by the music. Lead guitarist Gary Holt was godlike; a truly great player. I stood in the front row for most of the show, but dived into the pit during their classics “Bonded by Blood,” “Fabulous Disaster,” and “The Toxic Waltz.” I didn’t get a shirt, but, I did get a few good bruises. Keep moshing, friends. Next time I’m waiting for a haircut, I’ll try reading Star magazine. It may be less controversial.


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