Gloriously Explicit ’90s Alternative Band T-Shirts: A Hall of Fame

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Yesterday morning brought the most excellent news that newly reunited ’90s heroes L7 are finally playing some reunion shows in the US this spring and summer. I loved the band for all sorts of reasons — the music, obviously, along with the general sense that they gave absolutely zero fucks — but the thing I remember perhaps most strongly of all was the imagery around their 1990 record Smell the Magic. As a very innocent 12-year-old, I’d never seen anything quite like it, and when I saw it on a T-shirt, it made, um, quite an impression. The ’90s were, in fact, something of a golden era for risqué band shirts. Click through, and you’ll find the results of a trip down the ’90s band T-shirt rabbit hole. (Metal bands are excluded because their shirts are always offensive.)

L7

True story: a friend of mine wore this to school on a casual clothes day (i.e., a day when we didn’t have to wear uniforms) and got sent home in disgrace.

Marilyn Manson

Shockingly, this didn’t go down especially well with Christian conservative types — in fact, back in 1998 one luckless teen was arrested for wearing it.

Bad Religion

Also unpopular with conservative types, although in fairness, it does look like the nuns are enjoying themselves.

Suede

Trolling before trolling was a thing, courtesy of 1990s England’s crown prince of debauchery, Mr. Brett Anderson. As of today, you can buy the damn thing on Etsy (although I would have already bought the shirt if it hadn’t been a women’s small).

Pearl Jam

Back before Pearl Jam were middle-aged lumpenrock mainstays, they were scatological 20-somethings!

Hole

A simple band name/song title combination, but presumably enough to cause conniptions in the parents of any girl trying to wear it out of the house. (Images from the My Band T-Shirt Tumblr, which is also an excellent read.)

Jane’s Addiction

Any of the band’s album covers would do, but still, there’s something singularly disconcerting about this particular image.

Melvins

You can’t quite read it because the image is blurry (it was the best one I could find), but the semi-naked female devil is saying, “Hey, what can I say? It’s a living.” Jesus looks less than impressed with her attitude.

Nirvana

Kurt’s views on fame and the music industry are crystal clear here. The irony, of course, is that there are about a gazillion places where you can buy this T-shirt today.

Arab Strap

And finally, this masterpiece, courtesy of gloriously squalid Scottish bedsit miserablists Arab Strap. We’d expect nothing less from the band who were responsible for this design (which, sadly, never did feature on a shirt).