A History Of All the Metallica Shirts I Used To Own

Growing up without friends who were “metalheads” gave me this romantic notion that I was above society, that because I was listening to Metallica and Slayer that I was on some next-level shit. You think you know everything in high school. As I started goi

Metallica was an integral part of my life in high school, and my current life to some degree. They were the first band I had a sincere obsession with, defining my attitude and tastes for years to come. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be into skronky free jazz, bounce, or pissed teens from Norway doing hoodrat shit with their friends. They sparked a real curiosity to go further into discovering music, all while making some of the best metal records ever (live and die by The First Four). In fact, I had quite a few Metallica shirts during those four years, maybe around eight or nine, which is definitely more than is socially acceptable. I realize that I'm not on some MTV Fanatic/Hoarders level shit with this, but still, it's somewhat unusual. Why did I own that many? Probably because at the time, they were my favorite band and I had to let everyone know. Obnoxious, isn't it? Pushead can probably credit one of his car payments to me. My lifestyle determined my deathstyle, and I'm glad I won't die as an indie rock fan. While I wouldn't rock most of these shirts nowadays, I have no regrets about owning them, or of my excessive fandom.

Head down this consumerist memory lane with me, won't you?

I went through two of these shirts. The first one I had when I didn't wear band shirts all that much. In middle school, I was all about dragon shirts, with frosted tips to match. Gadzooks shoppers, walk with me. The second fared better, but it's lost to the sands of time. Can't snark on the design because it's classic.

Master of Puppets was my bible throughout high school, and there hasn't been a bettter album made since. I couldn't own the Kill 'em All or Ride the Lightning—both albums in Puppets' league—shirts because they had a bro on the electric chair on the back, and when your mom is a staunch opponent of the death penalty, that shit is not happening.

"So, like, Justice—if that is her name—is supposed to be blind, yet there these dollar bills falling. Like, the system is corrupt, man. Money is the root of all evil, hey, puff puff pass! There is no justice for all, just the few, dude." I'm sure someone's had that discussion, faded, looking at a bro's And Justice For All shirt. Jason Newstead is staring off into the distance, wondering what he got himself into. Sure, there's fame and fortune to be had, but would a future that entails Load and Reload be worth it? Was leaving Flotsam and Jetsam the right choice? Kirk smells something emitting from Lars, who in turn is all, "The fuck you staring at, boy?" James looks like he's about to pop an eye of the beholder out.

"Hammer of justice crushes you" was perversely poetic. When I first got into Metallica, it was not cool to like them, mainly because that whole Napster deal was still fresh in peoples' minds. And as much as I was a Metallica fan, I was a file-sharer too, as were most of my friends. Hell, I got into this band from tying in "Metallice I Dissapear" into Napster's search engine. What they crusaded against was the vessel my then-unending devotion for them arrived in. "They killed Napster," my brother yelled to me once, not realizing there are such things as record executives and legal systems. Henry Rollins was still making jokes about it in 2010. Even he has to scrape the bottom of the barrel for material every once in a while.

One of the chief aspects of metal is selling the idea that metalheads are rebels against society, that we're against the grain all day, every day. Long hair, leather, bullet belts, fast guitars—WE DON'T CONFORM! WE'RE SPECIAL SNOWFLAKES ALL WEARING ALL BLACKEV ERYTHING. The painful realization that metalheads are just like most people hadn't dawned on me yet. Growing up without friends who were "metalheads" gave me this romantic notion that I was above society, that because I was listening to Metallica and Slayer that I was on some next-level shit. You think you know everything in high school. As I started going to more shows in college and began reading Sarte and other smart guy mess, the cynicism crept in.

This shirt was perfect in my attempts to present myself as someone who didn't dance the popular kid dance. "Rebel" is emblazoned right on the forehead, there's no subetly or fucking around to be had here. There's a definite biker motif going on, absolutely dynamite for that "rebel" feel. Metallica's logo is about to be devoured, which is totes brutal. That skull yin-yang on the back? A near-coma from counterculture! Living that "edgy" lifestyle, making marketers wet for me. No homecoming king was every gonna screw with me, because I would (threaten to) slash his tires and bang his girlfriend. I was sooooo badass.

These mummies, apparitions, roadies, whatever the fuck they are, they got some busted ass weaves. Need to take y'all to India to get you some of that real shit. That's about as good of a ironic revisiting I can give this shirt, because that's not the main point here.

If I can point to the single most important day of my life as a teenager, it was August 2, 2003. Summer Sanitarium—the second edition—came through to Reliant Stadium in Houston, and I came to it. Sure, there was a lot of nu-metal baggage because Hetfield claimed Metallica couldn't fill a stadium on their own, but it still remains the best show I've ever seen. What I remember most about the Deftones' set was an obese woman, about the size of myself and another portly buddy put together, who kept yelling "I LOVE YOU CHINOOOO" and how I wish I could drop a hair dryer in her "Digital Bath." Evidently, I am in a Linkin Park DVD filmed at this show, though I've never watched to confirm. Fred Durst did not perform a guitar solo, but he did butcher "Behind Blue Eyes."

Forget all that horsecrap. METALLICA, BREH. The flamenco guitar of "Battery" was the last moment of tranquality before the Reliant floor opened up with teenage angst, colliding meatheads, and flying sweat. Lars may have lost his hair, but when he pointed at us to mosh, you know he hadn't lost his command. James had kicked the booze and was giving us fuel, fire, and desire. Robert Trujillo didn't have Jason's sick growls, but his "For Whom the Bells" intro got us trippy. Made me search fervently for Morley Power Wahs on eBay afterwards. The explosives that went off during "One" might have trembled my feeble teenage brain. Even the St. Anger material sounded good, insert drum joke here. Smelled like cheap weed, cheaper cigarettes, mass-produced beer and repressed sexuality when all was said and done. It's an amazing fragrance. So you saw Minor Threat and Bad Brains in D.C. Who fucking cares, old guy. Metallica had explosions and shit. After that day, I could die an accomplished boy.

Semi-related: Kid Rock was on the first Summer Sanitarium, and I used to think that "American Badass" was the best song ever until I discovered he sampled "Sad But True."

Hell really is just another day the office. The reaper has a grimace on his face, but it's hiding a lot of boredom and resentment. His life consists of condeming people to eternal damnation, stamping "damnation" on silhouettes, sending them into an skull-earth, day in and day out. He saw Office Space and thought it was some candy shit. This working man has dreams, too. He just wants to go on a cruise, a nature retreat or maybe a humanitarian aid trip. Even the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp would be nice, as who better to rejuvenate downtrodden spirits than Sammy Hagar? The vacation time must be there—he's been doing this job for how long now?—but we keep fucking up as a species, so his grind never stops. Humanity's cruelness is unending. Next time you decide to buy a Vampire Weekend record or pass over a job prospect for discriminatory reasons, think of him first.

Yes, I was a part of the Metallica fan club at one point. 2003, to be exact. Of all the things I swindled money out of my parents for, this might be the most dubious. For one, I was not granted access into Metallica's inner circle. How my life would be different if I could help Lars collect fine art—"Nah, bruh, everyone got a Ritcher. Bacon is where it's at. These are dark times, man, Bacon is all about that darkness. Monet? Dude, you're in the biggest heavy metal band in the world, that shit is soft. Good call on getting rid of those Basquiats, by the way. Too trendy. Did you see that Basquiat film anyway? Total trash, David Bowie made a horrible Andy Warhol." A 25 year-old with no real job prospects can still dream.

And to think, after all this, at least I didn't rock the fake tux, the Spongebob Squarepants design (REAL TALK: OFFICIAL MERCH), or a shirt from a show I was too young to go to. It's been a nice ride, but I've got to check on the latest bootlegs from Hells Headbangers.

Andy O'Connor lives in Texas and tweets on the Internet - @andy_oconnor