We didn’t see this year coming, but we heard it from all sides. In Signal & Noise 2016, you’ll find the way we made sense out of all of that sound.
It was a rule instilled in me from a young age — did my parents pass it on? Society? Who can say, really? — but I've always subscribed to the idea that going to a show wearing a band's or an artist's merchandise was the lamest thing you could do. It didn't matter if the concert tee was iconic or even #veryrare — parading it in the same venue where the act represented was performing was strictly forbidden.
Things have changed, though, and we're currently living in a golden age of tour merch. Back in 2012, Odd Future opened up a Golf Wang pop-up shop all along their North American tour stops. This year, more of your faves took inspiration from OF: Kanye West, Justin Bieber, The 1975, and more have launched pop-up shops because, honestly, the merch is so good it should be available to the people ... even if the people are not attending a concert.
While not everyone on tour is opening pop-up shops, merch continues to be better and more creative than ever. Here's a look at some of the best swag out there right now, which you may consider buying, even if you're not a die-hard fan. Seriously — it's that good.
Justin Bieber's Purpose World Tour
Bieber's tour merch combines skate aesthetic, some '90s grunge and metal influences, and, of course, moody photos of Bieber. The result is reminiscent of iconic, old-school merch of that era, updated with JB's face. It's perfect for die-hard Beliebers and still cool enough for anyone who, IDK, might want to wear Justin Bieber merch ironically.
Haim's 2016 Tour
Haim's new tour merch is simple, with a focus on text instead of images or logos: one shirt raises an important question, one gives a necessary command, and one is so subtle that the band's name is partially cut off. While the sisters Haim could make anything look cool, these shirts — or, if bought oversize, dresses — seem like a necessary addition to any summer wardrobe.
Selena Gomez's Revival Tour
Beyoncé's Formation World Tour
Yes, the Boycott Beyoncé tee is real, Bey-sanctioned merchandise, but the Formation tour-stands offer so much more. I mean, that satin jacket? Helloooo. While most of the merch — Boycott Beyoncé shirt included, unfortunately — isn't available online, the hats, phone cases, and shirts she sells in her online store are worth your attention. Whether you're in the market for something loud — a tee featuring a photo of Bey, for example — or something more subtle — a hat with a lemon stitched into it, maybe — Beyoncé has you covered.
Carly Rae Jepsen's Gimmie Love Tour
Finding tour merch that doesn't boast the name of the related artist is rare, but it's also cool — only ~true fans~ will recognize the shirt, sweatshirt, or whatever as belonging to their fave. The bulk of Carly Rae Jepsen's merch features lyrics or song names and illustrations, with her name only appearing on the sleeves — perfect for huge CRJ fans who only want to associate with fellow die-hards, or those who want to rep but, like, in a low-key way.
Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour
The Bad Boy tour merch works because it perfectly blends nostalgia (Diddy and the '90s hip-hop/soul era) and the feeling of exclusivity. There are windbreakers with the 20 Years of Bad Boy Entertainment logo printed across the back, alongside "Vote Or Die" t-shirts. There are a ton of options PLUS the whole reunion aspect, which means if you attend a show you need to buy something. You won't regret it.
Check out more from the year in music, culture, politics, and style in Signal & Noise 2016.