Baddest Ass Bands to Have On Your T-Shirt in Middle School, Circa 1997

Baddest Ass Bands to Have On Your T-Shirt in Middle School, Circa 1997


Pantera—This kid named Louie dropped out of parochial school and came to our lowly public school where the ceiling tiles dropped and kids screamed at the principal for not letting us listen to Marilyn Manson on the school bus. It was a change for Louie. But he fit right in. He wore a black Pantera T-shirt with a giant snake and green eyes. Ever since this has been my standard for being a bad ass.

Insane Clown Posse—This large kid named Austin wore his ICP shirt every second day. The frightful clown faces scared me and my Andrew Lloyd Weber CDs to the front of the bus. But Austin was tough. He once threw a horseshoe at aforementioned Louie in gym class. The last I heard of him was in the 9th grade, when the rumor was he had literally swallowed an entire calculator.

Nine Inch Nails—once I got sent to the principal’s office for lunch, and everyone there wore this band’s shirt (digital swamp, ooo!). I didn’t know this was a band. I thought it was some kind of club for kids whose parents didn’t come to parent-teacher conferences.

Rage Against the Machine—nearly verbatim to the band above. Except I was certain this wasn’t a band, and the club was associated with kids who wrote “poetry” on their notebooks in Sharpie pens during English class while I furiously took notes/raised hands.

Meatloaf—this is the kind of shirt that makes me wish I had the knowledge back then that my taste in music was “doing okay,” because when Judd wore a shirt for “Bat Out Of Hell 2” one day I never once questioned his superior taste in music (bats + mention of the word Hell = sublimity in the mind of a 10-year-old boy).

Matchbox 20—There was a brief time (perhaps less than a week) when I thought the music video for “Bent” represented what it meant to be a tragic American hero.

Rob Zombie—Wearing this kind of shirt meant the kid was immediately precluded from attending my birthday party.

Coolio—Although most of my classmates in southern Minnesota didn’t become familiar with this rapper until after Weird Al (the great gatekeeper) gave us his blessing, all the kids who I thought were in gangs listened to him and wore his shirts. This meant the hallways were hell for a kid whose bookbag CD player carried a substantial portion of Disney movie discography.

~Dunstan McGill