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. My parents first date was at a Springsteen concert! I don’t think it matters how old or young you are Bruce Springsteen is a legend and anyone could rock that shirt!

  2. Actually it is quite a poor tshirt, it looks like an ‘unofficial’ one you would get from ebay

  3. PDGreenwell on said:

    You know you’re over 50 when… the Springsteen shirt that would stop me in my tracks was Born to Run. Yeah Buddy.

    I actually “discovered” Springsteen in 1978 with Darkness on the Edge of Town, but once I found him, I ran out and got all the rest. Thunder Road got me through my 16th year. I knew the people and the problems he was singing about, and it was such heart wrenching poetry.

  4. Wow – you are definitely on my wavelength!! I felt the same way about the recent hot pants trend. It’s nice to find a similarly-minded chick in my age group!

  5. This aging thing just gets in the way of so much fun stuff…. leggings as pants is apparently another no no for the over 40… hmmm 50 set… BUT my legs are gooood!!!

  6. When I was in high school I had a pink Jimmy Hendrix t-shirt from Forever 21…it made me feel vintage or retro or something…

  7. “They say that if you remember a fashion the first time around, you shouldn’t wear it the second time.”

    Except when it comes to the boss. Regardless of the H&M I would’ve bought it. Bruce rocks. I remember listening to his cassette back in the day, everyone was sporting those jeans.

  8. That was brilliant. Funny that you didn’t even care for Bruce to begin with.

  9. Ha! I have (tried to) shop in H&M with my two teenaged daughters. It’s brutal. It all looks so CUTE, but by the time I decide to try something, there are 43 adolescent size double zeros in the line for the change rooms. And I would totally have wanted that Springsteen tee- truth is I might have bought it because guess what? I LOVE Springstseen 😉 And I wouldn’t let my girls borrow it either… no matter how ironic they felt like dressing.

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  11. Wear it for the gym, lounging around the house, gardening! If you want it just buy it 🙂

  12. Yes! Hennes! Maybe we should reclaim Bruce and make sure there are lots of us first-time-arounders walking around in that t-shirt this summer? Although I have to agree with the commenter who noted that it looks like rubbish quality…

  13. We’re old enough to ooze cool from every pore now. Let’s wear it with pride! (Although I will never be young enough to rock PVC trousers from the punk era again – that’s some seriously uncomfortable knee action these days…)

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  16. Very funny! I would still have worn it… much to the chagrin of my teenaged kids!

  17. Amazing post! Love for Bruce spans all generations!

  18. I am not an American citizen so I cannot wear it either ! But I still think that ur thinking too much and u should definitely wear it ! It would be super cool and then why would u care what others think?? GO AHEAD AN BUYT IT !!!!!!!!!

  19. What, it had a name other than H&M? The demise of Hennes as a brand must have taken place before my teenage existence began.

  20. Don’t worry, you can always buy a Springsteen t-shirt from his website and then you’re a real fan who is totally permitted to wear clothing with his wonderful arse on it.

  21. As a 24 year old, I would be slightly offended by this post were I not against that sort of “easily-offended” personality trait our society breeds. Anyway, as a 24 year old whose musical obsession is Bob Dylan (by no influence from my parents, relatives ,or aging neighborly hippies) I think it is *slightly* judgmental to assume that any 20 something person who wear this sort of shirt is not a real fan, but only a fan in an ironic way. I know a ridiculously large amount of Bruce Springsteen fanatics in my age group who can name his entire discography in chronological order on demand. So I sort of wish you didn’t group all of us together as trend-seeking individuals who get a kick out of irony and “old musicians.”

    • Oh gosh, no offence was meant by this! And I’m very sorry if any was taken. This post is really about an emotional (rather than rational) and personal response to/realisation about something. I do of course realise that 20-somethings can love Bruce, and any artist, unironically – just as I did myself, as I say in the post (and my love didn’t come through my parents, either!). Similarly, for example, I realise that as a grown woman, I can, of course wear any T-shirt I like :). But this post isn’t so much about that, or listening to music in one’s 20s… I feel like it’s more about fashion, and how it’s targeted, and realising one’s place in terms of how society looks at you. And like I say: one’s reaction is very personal and not necessarily rational or looking at the bigger picture. I do know that when I look at the bigger picture, some of these thoughts are daft/nonsensical/irrational – and that Bruce’s work is known and loved by people of ALL ages. But I guess my point is: H&M brought out a fashion T-shirt which isn’t necessarily aimed at those fans. And I felt kinda old when I realised that it wasn’t targeted at me, either. 😉

      • I can completely understand that! (and I promise, I’m not truly offended lol). I feel that way when I see “The Beatles” tshirts on 11 year old girls in 2013. Chances are if something is sold in a mass market store (like H&M) and not on the artist’s website, that person doesn’t know a single song not on the greatest hits track list.

        I do completely understand where you are coming from, I just wanted to rise above the sea of trendy 20-somethings, as a non-trendy 20 something. I hope this makes sense! 🙂

    • thegirlwiththeblog – And I am ashamed that a woman my age is this pathetic. I turned 42 in January and I can Rock any shirt I want. My 21 year-old daughter is very much into older music and fascinated with the 80’s in a non-ironic way.

      • Aww, ‘pathetic’ seems a bit harsh! 😉

        My post is about instinctive reactions, not necessarily rational ones, and my realisation wasn’t that I *shouldn’t* wear the T-shirt – I’m a grown woman and I know perfectly well that I can wear what the hell I want, exactly as you say! – but that it *wasn’t marketed towards me*, despite it carrying the cover of an album which meant a lot to me.

        I realise that people in their 20s can love music that’s not of their era in a non-ironic way (just as I loved Bruce’s ’70s music – Paul Simon’s – in my 20s, as I still do now). This post wasn’t about that, though, as I say. It was more how you can sometimes suddenly feel slightly ‘put in your place’ by society – in this case, specifically, the fashion and retail industry – because this T-shirt clearly wasn’t aimed at women my age, despite it being of our era, and I found that quite funny.

  22. In my humble opinion,you have only one thing left to do,hurry to HM and see if all the tees areen’t gone and buy one and wear it the f…k out, because if you feel the passion about something there no worst thing to do than to repress it…

  23. That was funny, Thanks for the read.

  24. tempestnmind on said:

    Go back to Hennes and buy that shirt! Wear it, who cares how old you are. I’m soon to be 40 and I wear my G&R T-shirts all the time.

  25. The older you get, it seems to me, the more irony there is to be seen in the world.
    Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  26. pennydangerpoetry on said:

    I was in my early 20’s when this Bruce Springsteen CD came out. My friend Tina turned me on to it since I was more of a rocker. During a road trip…I fell in love with the lyrics/music…though never donned the t-shirt.

  27. Thanks for giving me a belly laugh today, especially the Beethoven pastoral tee idea (not)…I so get it. I too am over 40, and obsessed over Bruce. Memorized all the lyrics to EVERY album (till the mid 80’s or so) and having been in the fashion biz for 25+ years, the irony of who designed it and why the tee exists is not lost on me. Very astute commentary!

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  32. I was born in 79, and though I remember quiet well the music of the early and mid 80’s, my years of awakening and self discovery were’t into about ’92.

    However I too understand what you all are going through. I went back to college 7 years ago at 26 and though my “peers” were only 8-4 years my junior I felt like I was in another world. The 80’s came back hard but these kids were all born in 1988. They had no idea what the 80’s were. They were so clueless they were mixing in early 90’s style with 80’s and had no clue. They looked ridiculous.

    And now 7 years later, I married with a 15 y/o step daughter who gets embarrassed when I bring her lunch to school, yet everything she is, from her hair style, to her clothes, I literally picked out for her because she realizes my taste is better than hers. (I used to study fashion design at FIT d interned at some great labels, Marc Jacob, but I digress)

    The point is, though we are much older and far removed from those glory days, we are far cooler than these teeny boppers out here today. They have no sense of self, no identity. They become whoever the flavor of the month is and that flavor of the month is a product of a well paid stylist. It’s the blind leading the blind.

    Take back your pride and your confidence and throw on your old school tees or accessories. Just know you are the inspiration for what’s is hot today, so walk with your heads high. You are the original, and everyone else is desperately trying to find the cool that came so effortlessly for us. Tap back into that inner cool. Throw away the yoga pants, and jogging shorts and reclaim who you are!

    • Thanks for reading – and for such interesting comments! I think that not having a strong sense of self is very normal when we are young; and one incredibly liberating thing about growing older is becoming more at ease with oneself, less apologetic, more truly *us*. I wish I’d had the courage to be more truly *me* when I was younger.

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  36. As a 21-year old who is more likely to be found listening to classic rock than to whatever rubbish the record companies are pumping out these days, I am torn up about those t-shirts. On one hand – YES, I want a KISS tee for $15. But, I don’t want all these other people who love Kesha and wouldn’t know Gene Simmons from Rob Halford to have them. I don’t want the girls who teased me for wearing these things in junior high to imitate it now. They can go and jump off a cliff.
    And when I turn 45, I fully intend to continue wearing my concert tees, because it is who I am. “I do what I want” is kind of my motto, and that’s totally what everyone should do.

    • Absolutely! I’m so glad you do what you want, and wish I’d had your confidence when I was 21. What you say about your dilemma over these T-shirts makes me smile – and as I’ve said to many posters here, while I don’t doubt for a second that there are loads of entirely genuine 20something Bruce fans who would wear that T-shirt unironically, H&M aren’t targeting it at them… 😉

  37. I have the original…somewhere…went to the concert at the Coliseum in LA. And I would buy it again in a heartbeat. Maybe it WAS meant for us AND our daughters?

  38. Over sixty and I understand: My husband bought a Beatles tee the other day. I loved it. He said, “It was cheap.” I guess it’s too old to even be nostalgic.

    • Ha! And funny – I mentioned the Beatles when I was discussing this blog post with a friend the other day. Because I realised that one thing I didn’t really go into was how aesthetically pleasing – how essentially, great – the Born In The USA cover is. With its red white and blue, and Bruce’s bum. 😉 ie Great covers like Abbey Road will always live on and be ‘cool’, I think, and exist absolutely separately from the music.

  39. Great post. I share the same range of emotions whenever I set foot in Topman. I also came a bit late to Springsteen despite living through his 80’s period, but made up for it once I saw the light. I once visited Atlantic City purely on the back of the song – it wasn’t worth the trouble. I even wrote about it here

    • Ah yes, I think there’s quite a few of us who threw ourselves completely into Bruce once we ‘saw the light’ (and became evangelical about him as a result!) Look forward to reading that post about Atlantic City – thanks for sharing it.

  40. Reblogged this on gerrysmum and commented:
    I’m not yet 40 but this struck a chord with me too!

  41. witherwax on said:

    Hi Andrea, I have had that similar realization recently as well.
    I went into a guitar store to buy a new shoulder strap for my bass guitar and spied the most awful, over the top thing I had ever seen…and smiled. This was not just a red, white and blue (U.S.A) strap; no no this strap was seething with patriotic pride and it included silver star rivets, and a full American flag on either end and the letters U.S.A in bold right in the middle of it. All I could think was that this thing was SO ridiculous that I have to have it. I thought of how funny it will be when I wear it on stage and everyone there will have to notice it…and that is when it hit me.

    Given my age (40+) unless the people at the show actually knew me and my politics the irony of this thing may be lost on them, hell they may believe that I actually think that this stupid thing was cool! They could even think that I subscribe to an over-the-top pro USA, post 9-11, “Support Our Troops” mentality.

    I stood there for a couple of seconds trying to convince myself that I could actually pull it off but eventually my shoulders slouched a bit, my head dropped and my bottom lip came out to pouting position. I slowly put the strap back on the rack and reach for the most plain,nondescript black shoulder strap there and headed for the check out counter.
    Thanks for sharing your story and making me feel less alone on this.

    • Awww! Thanks SO much for sharing that story, I love it (and feel your pain). It in turn reminds me of when I was over in the US visiting friends some summers ago and bought myself a pair of US flag flip-flops from Old Navy – one was stars, one was stripes. I loved them in a soft-spot-for-the-American-flag, yet also as-a-Brit-who-never-wore-cheesy-things-ever way, but my American friends were HORRIFIED that I would want to wear such thing and didn’t get how, to my eyes, these flip flops were funny/cute/actually quite cool. To them, they were tacky as hell (and they rolled my eyes when I wore them to their Independence Day BBQ). That’s the thing about the American flag, as you say: it’s different things to different people. But essentially, aesthetically, it is SO pleasing, I think – a great design (and one of the reasons why the Bruce album cover is also aesthetically pleasing). In short: you guys have one of the world’s great flags. But then I suppose we Brits do too… 😉

  42. Reblogged this on Oregon Pilgrim and commented:
    Countdown is 11 days until the big 4-0. I thought this was fun. I’ve had a few experiences like this.

  43. If only I had known! I am turning beet red right now just knowing that I committed a fashion faux pas by wearing the Bob Dylan tee I inherited from my teen-aged daughter after she tired of it. (She surely bought it at H&M or Forever 21) Oh, I am so embarrassed! How many people must have seen me in that shirt and snickered. Well, I loved that shirt because I love Bob Dylan and I wore the hell out of it; damn if I didn’t wear it right through my 50th birthday. Alas, I had to throw it out only a few months ago as it became too ragged for even me, the fashion idiot, to wear.

  44. Attention ALL 40-something women: You are only too old if you are week enough to buy into that antiquated idea that being over 40 = “over the hill”. This is not your mother’s 40-something. And you should be empowered as a leader of young women rather than worrrying about what anyone thinks. Ask yourslef what is missing in your life and go get it! If I were in H&M with you, I would have made you get that shirt and wear it prowdly.

    • You’re absolutely right – as I said above, I know I can wear whatever I please, as can all women, of any age! Which is sort of the point of this post: ie society is telling me I *shouldn’t* wear this fashion item in H&M, despite it carrying an image of an album that *is* my age group’s album. And I found the whole thing rather amusing. 🙂

      I’ve only just started this blog, and I did it precisely because I *am* embracing my age (and being unmarried, without kids, living in a little bachelor-style pad in a big city, and shopping at H&M, I’m not a very typical – and certainly not my mother’s – 40something! Do read this about me:

      You’re dead right – we’re not over the hill, not by a bloody long shot! I know I’m not old – and I rail against anything (articles, adverts, beauty products, etc) that tells us 40something women that we are. But I’ve definitely found that the late 30s onwards is when I have started noticing changes – in how I physically feel; in how I feel emotionally about myself, and the future; in how society treats women over a certain age. Some of these changes are wonderful, some of them are tougher, some of them just amuse me. But I find all of them interesting. And that’s what this blog is about.

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  46. elkemurphy on said:

    Thank you – that was funny and spot-on! I have been standing in a Forever 21 store admiring the size 0 fluffy tops, and feeling out of place; I call it the ‘teenage store’ – and yet I love the stuff.
    Congrats on FP – you earned it.
    I was at a Springsteen concert in Berlin, Germany in the 80s, loved it!

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