While so much is written about the art of his record sleeves, there is next to nothing mentioned about his tees. Yet the cotton shirts sold at Morrissey concerts are a striking part of Mozarmy culture.
And they are an essential must-wear item for Morrissey's legion of fans who snap up every bit of merchandise. If there is no latest album to purchase, there’s always an abundance of teeshirts. And, in the absence of a record deal our hero currently ships more shirts than singles.
It’s funny how the gig teeshirt has stood the test of time while other aspects of pop memorabilia disappear. If we don't buy records anymore then the one remaining tangible piece of pop memorabilia is the teeshirt.
The teeshirt has stood the test of time more than vinyl, tape or CD. It’s only a matter of time before boffins produce a digital tee. Just like digital music you will just order the concert tee of your choice and your blank Fruit of the Loom tee will be transformed at the flick of your iPhone.
When I first saw Morrissey in 1991 there were just four or five designs to choose from at the merchandise stall. Fast forward a quarter of a century andThe Mozfather has gone teeshirt crazy. There are currently 30 different designs for sale on his official store.
And the content on the clothing seems more powerful than ever - a very visible extension of Morrissey’s views on everything from the meat industry to royalty.
With Morrissey’s teeshirt armoury getting stronger and better than ever, I thought I’d dust down my tee collection and ponder my top ten faves:
10/ The year 2000 tee (1999)
I bought this at Nottingham Rock City in 1999. The opening UK date of 1999’s Oye Esteban tour. (check out the amazing setlist). Moz lifted a lyric from Reader Meet Author for this one. “The year 2000 won’t change anyone here” scribbled alongside our leader dressed in pullover and jeans. This was a promo shot from a couple of years earlier. What I loved about this tee was its timing - the impending Millennium, which of course was eagerly awaited yet meant exactly zero to anyone. Check out the sleeve too - MOZ - emblazoned in black. Lovely touch. A bit like a Premier League badge on a football shirt. The rear of this tee features several US tour dates.
9/ Olympia (2008)
Morrissey has occasionally produced special tees for particular gigs. A very limited run of these surfaced in 2008. He did a special London Roundhouse tee around this time too. How many of you got your hands on one of these before he had to cancel his Camden residency with illness? Anyway, I managed to get this beauty from the L’Olympia gig. Not that I went to that show. There is something quite dramatic and delicate about this one. Very Oscar Wilde? very religious? a bomb in a wreath about to descend to earth…
8/ Meat Free (2014/15)
The main man is more vocal about animal rights now that at any time in the 1980s. He released an album called Meat is Murder with The Smiths in 1984 which turned a legion of fans into vegetarians (including me). Today, social justice for animals is a central theme of his concerts. During gigs he plays a shocking video showing animals getting slaughtered. It’s grim and distressing viewing. But it’s the truth. So if you still persist with eating meat after watching it then you have a heart made of steel. Today, in interviews, and in statements on his True to You site, Morrissey constantly argues that the meat industry is the number one threat to the world. This tee is fantastic as it features Moz in a cartoon character super-hero type pose with knuckles clenched: “MEAT FREE”. It is also quite intriguing to see a tattoo sleeve. Morrissey has no ink in reality (as far as I’m aware). In 2015 Morrissey became vegan.
7/ Motor Cycle Au Pair Boy (1991)
I bought this one at Aberdeen Capitol Theatre in 1991. His very first UK solo date as part of the Kill Uncle tour. This image would later feature on the cover of the Live in Dallas video. The photo was taken by Eamonn McCabe three years earlier. I still own this tee. It still fits. I will occasionally wear it. Though I should really frame it before it falls to bits.
6/ Wide To Receive (1997)
My fave song from Maladjusted and I love this shot of Morrissey in gleaming white shirt and jeans. It was around this time I invested in a big watch just like he wears in this shot. Moz took to statement timepieces around this period.
The bottom rear of the tee says WIDE TO RECEIVE which caused quite a stir when I wore it around working mens’ clubs of St Helens at the time…
5/ Morrissey at 50 (2009)
Why oh why did I not buy one of these when the great bard marked his 50th at Manchester Apollo? I attended both shows yet failed to invest in what has become an iconic garment celebrating our hero’s half century. Those two nights in 2009 at the Apollo will be forever engraved on my mind. I sat up in the gods on both evenings. The atmosphere was electric and I can’t recount seeing so many celebrities at a Moz gig. By me sat Jo Brand, Alan Carr, Janice Long and my mates Danny Gallagher and Cathy (who helped my get in to the Friday night show).
4/ Dublin (2009)
Another from a great Morrissey year. And again it’s a very limited run for one gig at Dublin’s National Stadium. This was probably the most expensive gig tee I’ve ever bought. I think with the poor Euro/Sterling exchange rate it worked out at about £40. The gig ticket was pretty extortionate too. But hey, we’d all pay a million quid to see Moz live so it doesn't matter. I’d managed to sell a few copies of my first book The Day I Met Morrissey to fans before the gig so I had some loose change to spend on merchandise.
You see kids, every penny I get from my books goes back into the Moz machine ;) Anyway, this gig was super special. Very intimate. Very cosy. I love this tee because this show remains one of my greatest Morrissey nights. I love the simplicity of the Irish green, the shamrock, the fact only about 50-ish of these exist. The magic continued post gig. A lovely fella called Kev Kelly took me out with Boz Boorer. It was a late one…
3/ Harvey Keitel (1991)
This was a stage backdrop for the first solo tour. I couldn't wait to get my hands on the tee. And this is my original from all those years ago. Along with Edith Sitwell and the two skinhead girls, this was among the first batch of tee designs to not feature Moz.
Keitel is a legendary US actor and producer.
2/ Be Kind to animals, Or I’ll kill you (2015)
I did say that Morrissey was a defender of animals. Wow. Very upfront statement about mankind’s duty towards animals. This is a must-wear item when you go out for your Sunday nut-roast. Not advised to be worn at the village hog roast or summer barbecue. Actually, these are the very places you should wear this shirt. This tee was in the running for the greatest ever Morrissey tee. But that accolade goes to this beauty...
1/ Fanny the Wonder Cat (2011)
Ahhhh. Our two most fave things in life. Cats and Morrissey. My cat Zebby (below) particularly likes this one. This tee was the essential must-have item on offer during the 2011 UK tour. It features tour dates on the rear. Photo by Jake Walters.
This image also made the cover of a UK national newspaper magazine. It’s just such a great photograph. Funny, lovely, random and one can only imagine the fun trying to get cat to balance on head. He actually looks quite settled. And so - this is my number one Moz shirt of choice. The full story of how the image came about is told here by Fanny’s owner Jake.
I realise I have missed out so many classic tees. “We look at danger and laugh our heads off,” being one which narrowly missed the cut. Then there is the recent one of the Queen with a naked Morrissey…
So there you have it. My top ten Moz tees. What do you think? please leave a comment below on your fave Morrissey shirt. People who can fathom how to leave a comment here will be entered into a draw to win my two Morrissey books.
Dickie has written two books about Morrissey fan culture. They are available to buy on this site. Buy his first tome: The Day I Met Morrissey here and Dickie will also ship his second: Morrissey International Airport. Two for one. Dickie will sign them both and ship anywhere in the solar system.
"Teeshirt mate? OK mate!"
While on the subject of Tees - the only concert gig where everyone wore a Smiths teeshirt was 28-years-ago.
At Wolverhampton Civic Hall in 1988 fans got free entry if they wore a Smiths tee.
The bouncers checking each fan with: "teeshirt mate, ok mate!"
The legendary show, Morrissey's first ever solo concert, can be watched again here: