You Know You're Over 40 When…

You Like A Bruce Springsteen T-Shirt In H&M, Then Realise It Isn’t Actually Intended For You

(Note: the situation I’m about to describe can also be applied to a Fleetwood Mac Rumours T-shirt in TopShop.)

I was 13 when Born In The USA came out. But – being 13 – I didn’t quite ‘get’ it. In 1984, I was listening to Wham! and Duran Duran, and I didn’t understand why a sweaty, shouty man in a bandana was dancing in the dark, let alone on fire. (Mind you, I didn’t really understand Duran Duran’s lyrics, either. But then, who did?)


No, Born In The USA only came to life for me three years later, when it became the soundtrack to a school exchange trip to Germany (turns out the Germans liked Bruce Springsteen, even if I didn’t). Forced to listen to Immersed in tracks like Glory Days, Downbound Train and Bobby Jean – under the summery skies of Bavaria, and occasionally through the PA system of a coach – Bruce, and his songs, suddenly began to make sense to me. Of course, this might have been due to the fact that I was now a wiser, more musically sophisticated, hormonal 16-year-old… But whatever the reason, I grew to love what is, of course, a glorious album. Although Bruce was still a little too sweaty for my liking.

And then later in the same year, I gained an American pen friend – a brooding, intellectual type from Massachusetts – who worshipped Bruce Springsteen and sent me cassette tapes of all his earlier albums, along with an end-of-year essay he’d written about the meanings and imagery in Jungleland.

As a result, I fell hook, line and New Jersey fishing boat sinker for Springsteen. More specifically: for his music, which was unlike anything else I was listening to at the time. The energy of songs like Rosalita and Badlands, the sheer sexiness and lowdown dirtiness of tracks like For You and The River, the plaintive cries of troubled smalltown Americans who wanted to flee their small lives – whether forever or just for one night – in songs like Born To Run, Hungry Heart and Atlantic City… Springsteen’s music was exotic and familiar all at once. I too wanted to leave my small town (Wombourne, Staffordshire), although unfortunately I couldn’t drive, which all of Bruce’s protagonists seemed able to do. And while I’d never known what it was like to make love in the dirt – let alone to do so with a girl called ‘Crazy Janey’ – I dreamed of it happening some day soon. Preferably with a boy wearing a denim shirt and a guitar slung over his shoulder… sigh…

Sorry, where was I?

Ah, yes. Standing in H&M. Looking at a Bruce Springsteen T-shirt.

I’d owned a Fame T-shirt as a girl, but never a Bruce Springsteen one. So imagine my delight when, as a fortysomething, I spotted one in H&M. bruceT As I stood there handling this cheap-yet-magnificent item of clothing, my delight turned to admiration as I realised what excellent taste the people at H&M head office had. “Wow, like me, they realise how under-appreciated Bruce and Born In The USA are!” I thought to myself. “Good for them! They’ve made a T-shirt for people who love Born In The USA, like me!”.

And then it hit me.

Standing in H&M, surrounded by H&M’s core demographic, it hit me.

This T-shirt wasn’t meant for me. It was meant for girls whose parents owned and appreciated Born In The USA. It was meant for girls who probably thought that this was quite amusing. That Bruce Springsteen is cool but only in an ironic, my-parents-like-him, way.

They say that if you remember a fashion the first time around, you shouldn’t wear it the second time. Thus the resurgence of Eighties looks in the Noughties was not aimed at people like me, but at kids who found it cool and ironic to wear Eighties fashions and had no idea how we suffered for our crimped hair and puffball skirts.

Likewise, this T-shirt wasn’t made for me, or any of my fellow fortysomething Springsteen fans. It was made for 21 year-old actresses:

graphic-tee-emma-roberts(That’s Emma Roberts, niece of 45 year-old Bruce Springsteen fan Julia Roberts.)

And 23-year-old fashion bloggers:Screen shot 2013-02-02 at 14.28.31

For me to copy this phenomenon – ie to wear a T-shirt resplendent with the cover of an album my parents owned when I was growing up – I would have to walk around with this on my chest:

Beethoven-SymphonyBeethoven’s Symphony No.6, as never seen on any T-shirt

And so I left H&M feeling slightly sad, and really rather old, because (a) I really wanted to wear that Born In The USA T-shirt, but (b) I realised that it was intended for girls young enough to be my daughter or niece. And to add insult to injury, (c) it then dawned on me that those clever people at H&M’s head office who had come up with the idea probably weren’t my age, either. That H&M’s head office is staffed by ironic twentysomethings whose parents like Bruce Springsteen.

Good old – and by old, I do of course mean young – H&M.

Oh, and that’s the other thing. You know you’re over 40 when it’s something of a struggle to call it H&M. Because in your heart, it was, is, and always will be: Hennes.


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423 thoughts on “You Like A Bruce Springsteen T-Shirt In H&M, Then Realise It Isn’t Actually Intended For You

  1. Loved your post. Congrats on being FPd. Another of Springsteen’s albums made my list of albums I grew up with

  2. Loved this post 🙂 As someone on the wrong side of thirty, I totally related.

  3. It’s always bugged me that he seems to have to work so hard to sing (like you said, “too sweaty”), but he’s done some great stuff at times. His song “Racing in the Streets (covered really nicely by Emmylou Harris) has the great line “Now some guys give up livin’ and start dyin’, little by little piece by piece”. Did you see the show (can’t think what it was, on MTV or VHI), where they were showing him dancing to Born in the USA, and they had the lead singer of Def Leppard on there saying something like, “I see him dancing on this video, and I just want to say ‘stop it.'”

    • Ohh, Racing In The Street is one of my all-time favourite Bruce tracks (I taught myself to play it on the piano as a teenager!). I don’t mind his sweatiness now, though… In fact, I think he’s got far, far sexier and more attractive with age!

  4. My 40-something husband refuses to let me throw out his “Born in the USA” tour t-shirt — never mind that it is at least 2 sizes too small now and would scare small children if he wore it as the top to his swim trunks while walking down the beach. He proudly handed it down to our oldest teen son a couple of years ago when I insisted it was time to clean out dresser drawers, and my son had a look of “what do you want me to do with this” on his face. I didn’t buy a t-shirt when I hear Bruce play at Mile High Stadium in 1985, I believe. My, I am feeling old now . . . ~ Kat

  5. Thanks for the laughs while wandering down memory lane! Geez, now I feel old too.

  6. After reading this post, I have an amusing image in my mind of me wearing a T shirt with a picture of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, a group my parents liked.

  7. Hey, that Beethoven Symphony is excellent! I’d wear it 🙂

  8. I’m 47 and bought my first Elvis Costello shirt in Montreal two years ago at Osheaga where he was playing. I wear my Less Than Zero 77 shirt with pride. Screw the kids! I was a fan first.

    This post was boss. Well done.

  9. ruolngulworld on said:

    Great post. Reminded me of when I first saw/heard him perform Born In The USA live in Delhi, way back in Sept 1988. Though I’d rather buy a CCR t-shirt, if I could find one 😉

  10. To be honest walking into H&M always makes me feel old because I find myself constantly swarmed by tweens – and I’m only 25! Great post 🙂

  11. This is great, and so, so true!

  12. mayanur on said:

    Classic yet tinted with an irony that becomes our world today. I enjoyed tremendously your post, it touched the core 🙂

  13. ‘They say that if you remember a fashion the first time around, you shouldn’t wear it the second time.’
    great post and congrats!

  14. Not only is this kind of t-shirt for the yoof market ( as jsp would call it) but most of them have no clue who the band emblazoned across their tatas is!

    Me to young girl in office: love your tshirt! I saw the Cure in nineteen eighty blah, do you like Disintegration or is….

    She (shamefaced): erm I’ve never heard them. Are they good?

    Now I accept that it might be too old to wear a retro music skinny fit, but insist that to qualify you should know who the f*ck they are for christsake!

    I don’t know, kids today….arrgghh I sound like my mum now!


  15. Been a Bruce fan for 40 years, and proud of it. The man is an amazing storyteller, musician and human being. I’ve been to his concerts and can tell you that every age group is represented. I’ve seen little kids sing along knowing every word of his lyrics. I have posters, ( one hangs in my bedroom, ha! ) and a T shirt of his most recent “Wrecking Ball” tour.
    In May I will make my first journey to Europe. Italy to be exact. As luck would have it I will be near Naples and Bruce is playing Naples while I’m there. Wouldn’t miss it for the world. He will cap off my trip of a lifetime.
    Here is a link to a fantastic interview – it is well worth watching.

  16. Dragonflyboy on said:

    Reblogged this on nealstotts.

  17. Love the shirt, and the post! :=)
    Congratulations on being FP!

  18. loved reading your post! glad to find your blog at freshly pressed!

  19. Searching for the Light on said:

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. 🙂

    I first saw Springsteen in 1985 at Slane (close to where I then lived), they broadcast images of the nearby River Boyne while he sang The River on the big screens, very evocative and emotional. They kept the footage and used it at subsequent concerts, so I consider myself a part of Springsteen history!

    I am going again in June to the Wrecking Ball concert and can hardly wait. Although a life long fan (I own all his albums with the exception of the compilations) I have yet to wear a t-shirt and am probably now too old and imagine should I go out in public in one I would immediately be disowned by my children. (Hey, that’s an idea! H&M here I come! 🙂 )

  20. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. Being over 50, I should be able to identify with your “over 40” blog, and enjoy it thoroughly, what I have seen so far. You’ve gained a new following. I, myself, would gladly don a Peter, Paul, and Mary t-shirt, as that is what my parents owned and listened to frequently when I was a child.

  21. You have too many comments to read (well done!) so sorry if this repeats sentiments above but (humour aside) you must still buy that t-shirt! We 40 somethings are allowed to buy and wear such things! Go girl! I am 40 and I don’t care if I buy things which are plainly meant for younger specimens. Mutton/lamb. God, where is that line?! x

  22. What a lovely read! I really enjoyed it and giggled every once in a while.
    I never thought about it this way, about shirt with bands or artists from back in the days. But I’m afraid you’re right. The younger girls (well, girls my age) wear them because their parents listened to it and to look trendy and maybe a bit hipster. But if someone older would wear it, it would look.. Weird? I don’t know.
    However, I’m against labeling certain fashion trends. I think that you should wear whatever you like and whatever you want to wear. (Unless it’s not your size or unless you’re a grandma who wants to wear miniskirts and bodycon dresses.. No one wants to see that, I’m sure.)
    So I think you should go back to H&M, or Hennes & Maurits, and buy that shirt for old time’s sake!

    • Hehe, thank you! And you’re absolutely right, of course: I should wear what I like, regardless of what’s expected. It’s lovely to hear an under-40’s perspective on this, too 🙂

  23. Too true, but I say SCREW IT!!! Go back and get it. You want it, you lived it…you’ve earned it. The fact that the intended audience wears it because they deem it ironic is the real travesty. Not you wearing a band shirt of an artist that actually impacted your life. 😀

    • You’re dead right. Unfortunately I didn’t quite have that thought at the time..!

      • I understand. It’s like when you think of the perfect comeback to something someone said, an hour later on your way home from work. But the fact that you are still thinking about the shirt this long after seeing it, means you have to buy it. That is the shopping rule. The fact that you blogged about and got Freshly Pressed because of it, means that you should also buy something else you’ve had your eye on and might not otherwise have bought 😀

  24. Pete........... on said:

    Ha Ha – I still have an original “Born In The USA” T-shirt. It seems to have shrunk, or have I grown outwards? I saw him at Wembley stadium in 85. Love the man. His music is a soundtrack to so many lives

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  26. Crap. Who the heck are all my Bon Jovi tshirts for?! That’s it. I’m taking back rainbows… no more of this sharing crap. ;P

  27. Get yourself back to Hennes and buy it anyway. Sod the youth. Wear it with pride just don’t be tucking scarves into your back pocket. Loved this post. Congrats on FP

  28. I think you’ll probly hate me for being 25 and not snapping up a Brucey t-shirt. Also, I think if I was being ironic, I’d probly have to wear a BBC news tshirt seeing that it’s all my parents watch 😦

  29. Hahaha, this post is cute. It reminds me, as a 30-something of when the newer “Retro Redux Gizmo” dolls from the movie Gremlins came out in toy stores, and all these little kiddos were buying them (or getting their PARENTS) to buy them, yet, had no idea that it was from a movie (when I was their age) nor did they know any of the VERY important “Rules” about owning a Mogwai…they just thought it looked cuuuuute. lol Dang kids!!

    But in short, wear whatever the heck you want to wear, Springsteen did, and created a whole “look” and legend for himself. B)

    So what if all the young tweps are doing it, you had it first!! Enjoy what you love/loved!

    (I still have my orginal “vintage”1984 Gizmo doll in storage somewhere….because I know how to take care of Mogwais!! 😉 )

    • That’s wonderful!! And: I definitely think there’s something to be said (ie written) about design classics – ie I do think the reason the Bruce cover/the cover of Abbey Road/a Mogwai etc etc might come back into fashion. Namely, because they are cool/great photos/adorable creations etc etc. Obviously, that’s not something I went into in this post – that’s a whole other exploration of design and aesthetics and human responses and such… But I think it’s very interesting!

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  31. I think you really make some interesting comments on how a target-based marketing strategy may make someone outside of that market feel alienated.

    But are you sure that this target thing was really the way you assumed it to be?

    Because if the 40-year old group happens to love their product too, I think the brand would be happy that their product appeals to a bigger crowd. Even candy isn’t “just for kids.” Tootsie rolls are how old now…?

    So who cares what anyone might think? For someone like you, that T-shirt you saw strikes a cord with you and your cohorts; it’s like seeing your high-school or college jersey at your college bookstore. Even if someone might buy it just for style, you would buy it because it also means something more to you.

    You reminded me of something I’m working on for my “Going Back to Innocence” category: a post on discerning between a “should” versus a “want.” It’s a very psychological thing we all experience with decision making.

    And, if you still want it, I hope you get the T-shirt =)

    • You raising some really interesting points. I totally see what you mean – but I’m not sure the 20-somethings would particular *want* to be wearing the same thing as the 40- and 50-somethings (or that H&M would want “old” people to be wearing their fashions, because that would immediately make them less fashionable?!). And yes, the should/want dilemma in decision making is very interesting – as I said to someone on Twitter, this post wasn’t meant to be a rational dissection of my thought processes or decision-making (yes, I *know* I should and can wear whatever I want!) but more about an instinctive, emotional reaction.

  32. Great post! I have to say though, I think if you like the shirt, you should wear it, regardless of who it was intended for.

  33. Brilliant post 🙂 Congrats on being Freshly Pressed, you definitely deserve it.

    While not 40 myself, I can now wait in dread for the ironic Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana T-shirts at H&M.

  34. Whether the shirt was marketed toward you or not, buy it if you want it!

    I’m all about refashioning thrift-store finds right now and the clothing I buy was probably originally marketed for elderly women and I (being in my early thirties) do not fit that category, but that’s ok. I buy it anyway. 😉

    So have your T-shirt, and wear it too!
    And congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. I really enjoyed your post!


  35. And yet I still can’t find a Buddy holly tee 😦

  36. JaseyRae on said:

    I’d never wear a shirt of an artist i wasn’t at least a fan of some of their work. But I’m a music nerd, so i guess I’m an exception for a college kid. I hate posers too…i guess you were referring to them

  37. I’d totally run around with beethoven on my shirt! 😉

  38. You know what? I think you can buy that T-shirt and wear it proudly! It’s not about the age but about the looks 🙂

  39. Haha lol, this was hilarious. Have to say though, I would totally wear that shirt, and not for the irony. Springsteen is legend!!

    Congratulations on being freshly pressed!!

  40. Chikashi on said:

    Excellent! I had very similar thoughts when I recently spotted a Joy Division t-shirt in a shop frequented by my daughter. But, what if we turn the irony on its head and wore it, being aware of the irony? OK, yes, it would still look daft…

  41. I am on that other side of 30, too, but I DID buy a Pink Floyd T-Shirt in H&M last year – which is something my parents used to listen to and that’s how I love it, too. So, is there something seriously wrong with me now? Going to a store aiming at the generation after me for buying a shirt aiming at the generation before me? 😉

  42. I grew up listening to The Boss, mainly because my dad is a HUGE fan. But I definitely love him on my own – I have seen him in concert twice (both times with Dad), and loved his energy. Not the sweatiness, but how he rocked the stage for longer than I had ever seen any other entertainer do.
    Rock the shirt. Who cares what everyone else thinks… though they’ll likely think you are wearing it because your parents loved Springsteen. 🙂

  43. Pingback: You Like A Bruce Springsteen T-Shirt In H&M, Then Realise It Isn’t Actually Intended For You | shalilah2002

  44. Reblogged this on susanne287 and commented:
    For all my friends that grew up in the 1980!

  45. Huzzah! I would have bought the shirt and worn it anyway. I’m hip to that jive, yo.

  46. Jordan Brodsky on said:

    Great post!!! Amazing.

  47. You could still buy the shirt just for around the house or sleeping in – just not be seen in public in it. 🙂 I know what you mean though, I feel the same about Led Zeppelin t-shirts.

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