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.

Single Post Navigation

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

  1. Well, I had a similar reality check when I went dancing over New Years Eve and while in the bathroom heard one of the girls say, “I look soooo old…I look like I’m 35yrs. old!” The other girl was quick to tell her how young she really was and looked! I’m 37 and never thought looking 35 was a bad thing! LOL

  2. Pingback: Freshly Pressed: Friday Faves | Html5 Tutorials

  3. Pingback: Freshly Pressed: Friday Faves | Umbria Update

  4. It’s a daily thing, I’m well into my “m’am” years (ie: the year at which no one in shops calls your miss, you don’t get m’ams) and overhear all kinds of “I look like … 30! Gross!” comments every day. Girl back up off that purple eyeliner because I’m about to rock it 1998 style.

  5. I loved this! Especially the analogy with the Beethoven album cover. I had an old moment recently when I went to the grocery store and the teen cashier asked me if I wanted the senior discount. Crap – ruined my day! Yes, I’m 55, but not retirement age and look younger…

    And it is tough seeing all the teens wearing my teen era clothes with the same body I used to have – and with better fabric 😉

  6. i don’t know any of springsteen songs, but thanks for reminding me. I’m not in my 40’s yet. but i guess one day i’ll feel that way, seeing some stuff i like but actually don’t fit my age. i’ll embrace my youth then before getting older and can’t wear adolescent t-shirts any longer. or, may be i just won’t give a shit about the demographic thing as long as i’m confident enough to wear teen’s stuff!

  7. truthnumbertwo on said:

    Reblogged this on truth number two.

  8. I love this blog. Unfortunately for me I have daily reality checks called a teenage daughter. Who loves, 1. to inform me that I am old and she proudly tells my age. 2. Informs me that things such as nail policy, clothes (especially jeans) , do not look right on me because I am “old”. But realizing it yourself is the worst, I think, because you now have to admit it to yourself.
    And as I watch our fashion and hairstyle mistakes repeat itself, I hear my mother in my head when we started wearing (flare) jeans and mini skits from her late teen and early 20s. “everything repeats itself” And as mothers are, she is so right….

    • She is! Thanks for sharing. And I’m sure if I had a daughter, she would be doing the same thing…

    • Wait. What. No jeans over 40? Is that what your daughter is saying? Is there any chance you could tape that, and then drag it out when she is 40? 🙂 But seriously though – at least as serious as I can get when thinking of “what to wear” – why does it matter if I am wearing jeans and a screen-printed t-shirt even at 45? Disclaimer: I have never been one to follow the crowd, or follow fashion, or, really, even to care how others see and think of what I wear. If I wear a suit because I know everyone else there will be wearing a suit, I actually end up feeling more uncomfortable and dorky because now I am a cookie cutter, but that’s not really who I am. Then I wish I would have left the house wearing what *I* wanted to wear, so that people knew the real me – not the me that complies with societal expectations. Your blog is right on. And I respect and understand your decision to not buy the shirt, and yet I am disappointed that it even matters. Thanks!!!

  9. I loved this! The 80s revival has been a bit on the nitpicking side..which is not a bad thing, necessarily. I don’t think I can ever do the big hair thing again, but I do find it very amusing seeing my kids watching the Footloose remake or Dirty Dancing or singing along to the many remix versions of songs. The best was when my 14 year old came home the other day and showed me the moves to this song…and started singing ‘let’s do the time warp agaaaaain’

  10. Pingback: Freshly Pressed: Friday Faves | Blogging Opportunity

  11. Or you could do what I did…at 47 I bought a pair of Lady Gaga tights, heehee. Lord knows where I will actually find an occassion to wear them and then lo and behold, we had a flashmob here on Valentine’s day called One Billion Rising and I found just the right venue 🙂 You’ll have to pin me down and hand cuff me before I start wearing sweater sets! Just sayin ‘

  12. I say the hell with them! Wear the shirt! Or maybe do one better and find a vintage one online or in an thrift store. x

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

  14. Loved this article!! But I say, if the T-shirt fits… Then u should wear it 🙂

  15. I think the reality check comes to me in the form of what I hear on the radio. I remember hearing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on classic radio, a station that plays Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, and thinking to myself that that can NEVER be right.

  16. Pingback: Freshly Pressed: Friday Faves |

  17. Well, I’m 20, and I love Springsteen! Admittedly, I first heard it in car rides with my dad, but I fell in love with his music on its own merit (: Thunder Road is my favourite song ever, and Springsteen my favourite artist. So not all 20-somethings are ironic fans of Springsteen (;

  18. angelsinthesnow on said:

    I love this! Admittedly I’m 23, but I have a great love for an awful lot of the artists that H&M now have t-shirts for. It bothers me greatly that there are so many people my age and younger walking around with Hendrix, Nirvana, The Beatles and Pink Floyd and they don’t even know who they are! I feel your pain but I reckon there’s no real reason why you shouldn’t get one of the Springsteen T-shrts if you really want it 🙂

    • Thanks – and that’s good to hear from a 20-something, as I don’t like to make assumptions! That said, the post is really about the fashion industry & retailers like H&M deciding to push or market certain things as cool, rather than a dig at any young person who then decides to wear that fashion. I wouldn’t blame them for doing so, it just made me smile that *I* wasn’t the target audience for an album I loved when I was young!

  19. I totally agree with some readers telling you “to hell with fashion aim/H&M/daughters&nieces/younameit”… but you know what happens then? Some What-Not-to-Wear-esque little craps (I mean the real ones or some family member come one) throw up their hands in horror and give you a dressing down on how that is not age-appropriate, fitting or becoming any more.
    And thus the forty-something is again pulled in two directions, for two different reasons: her own realisation of fashion trends and the crushing self-conscious feeling of inadequacy.
    Worse, I can just imagine what it feels like for a woman. I am a man, “only” late-thirties, looking about 30 if anything, and I’ve already found myself out of place even at certain bars and restaurants (let alone a night club, what was that, Pops?), I rarely sing to myself as I walk in the street listening to music, and I am now getting officially called “Señor/Senhor” (depending on the country I am) by most everyone. -Sigh-
    Congrats on being FP’ed and keep it up! Groove is in the heart 😉

  20. I have this H and M t-shirt, I do like Springsteen.So do my parents, I’m 24. And I recently cleared out every other printed t-shirt I own, I feel too old for them.And I can’t help wondering if I’m too old for H and M.

  21. For a while now there has been a disturbing trend of young people buying t-shirts with any kind of “cool looking logo” or image on it. They are so used to brands of logo clothing like The Gap and Volcom that they just assume the other stuff they see is more of the same. Either that, or they are so vapid that they will wear any kind of logo or symbol without considering it’s meaning.

    This reminds of this silly, but very on-point video:

    “Take Off Your T-Shirt (if you can’t name a song by the band that’s on it!)”

  22. Pingback: Freshly Pressed: Friday Faves - My Note Book

  23. tomfinglas on said:

    Tell me about can go to penneys in dublin and get “vintage” rolling stones/led zeppelin/beatles t shirts..the kids who buy these shirts probably have no real idea who the bands are..wearing “led zeppelin tour of united states of america 1977”..they like the vintage design..usually they are cheap,and will coordinate well with their “alternative” dress code..well what do i know,im just a 40 plus rocker who still wears greying once black “judge dredd” t shirts.

  24. So glad to find your blog… and I wouldn’t worry, just wear the T shirt if you like. I still wear a Sonic Youth one which may look slightly tragic as I’m .. ahem.. late forties is all I’m saying but do I care? My music blog is all about being older and still gigging/festivalling, and having so much great music to get out and enjoy.

  25. Pingback: Freshly Pressed: Friday Faves | Clube do Facebook

  26. I am so inspired by your post I’m going to make a Mitch Miller T-Shirt. Then I’ll make a Joni Mitchell T-Shirt for my sister. Both were artists my sister and I listened to in the car with my mother, on tape no less.

    (Bruce Springsteen “Born in the USA” was the first CD my Brother ever got, it was a big deal.)

  27. FaAAAAAbulous.
    where have you been my whole life?!!!

  28. Love this blog, love the eighties, especially the music! And I can empathize about feeling old. Some fashions reminiscent of the 80’s are coming back and I find myself looking at them a little too long and feeling embarrased when teen girls walk by me in the store.

  29. haha this really made me laugh (: Keep up the good work!

  30. Love it and totally relate. A twenty-something colleague was telling me about a problem she was having, in which we joked a little and talked about possible solutions. She ended the conversation by saying, “it’s so nice to have an older woman to give me advice about this stuff”. An older woman? I’m 37. My mom is an “older woman”, not me. As if I actually have it all figured out…

  31. This piece was great! Ive run into a number of t-shirts like this reflecting my youth only to paraded around on hipsters and wannabes. Hence I keep my original 1987 Sting concert t-shirt and Clash t-shirt around the house only. I wouldn’t want them insulted ironically. Good Stuff!

  32. beccylee on said:

    From a fellow 42 year old – just logged on to WordPress for the first time in years, hit Freshly Pressed and hey presto there you were shining like a beacon. A kindred spirit … except I would have bought the t-shirt, worn it a few times with my ‘boyfriend’ jeans and then given it to my 18 year old step daughter. You see, not having children of my own I seem to be constantly surprised to learn that I am not included in the demographic of ‘younger generation’. You see I know I’m generation X, but no one warned me of the arrival of generation Y (and what happens after Z?). I’m finally biting the bullet and dipping my toe in the bloggy waters for 40 something writers it just felt like the universe gave me a hearty “what the hell you waiting for?” nudge when I found your post. You are my inaugural following.

  33. And another 42 year old, who would have LOVED to wear the top – should H&M do it in my size 😉
    Yes, I still call it Hennes. I don’t know why they have to mess with perfectly good names….

  34. LOL! I’d be sporting a CCR t-shirt if that’s the logic of it 🙂

  35. I feel your pain. I have gone back to school to study marketing and one of the kids here kind of latched on to both me and my fiancé. We were walking around the campus and the young man (17) saw a teacher and commented how old the guy was. I mentioned that the guy was more than likely only five to ten years older than me. The kid looked at me and said no. The innocent child said he had to be at least 45 or 50 years old. That is when I reminded him that I will be 40 at the end of this year lmao!

  36. Pingback: You Like A Bruce Springsteen T-Shirt In H&M, Then Realise It Isn’t Actually Intended For You | gustyshare's Blog

  37. I can totally relate. I was in forever 21 yesterday with my sister complaining about how awful hi-lo skirts are, only to realize the young cashier was only politely smiling in return. I must have seemed so old to her…definitely don’t meet the. demographics of that store anymore!

  38. Love the Boss and this post. Any lady that digs the Boss has my respect, love the shirt as well.

  39. I’m 54 and can completely relate. But I still don’t think of myself as “old,” if that helps in any way, although I’m sure my 33-year-old niece feels that I am.

    My mother passed away 3 years ago at 94, and she used to tell me that no matter what the mirror said, she still felt about 23 inside. I look to that as my inspiration.

  40. My husband’s a big fan (he’s 13 years older than me:)) so I thought this was cute, clever, and well written:)

  41. Definitely will be following your blog now, as it shares a similar theme to mine (if you substitute 40’s with 30’s). I keep trying to tell my friends turning 30 is not a bad thing, and I imagine in 10 years I’ll be telling them the same thing about 40. But I get the whole music thing… I feel the same way when I attend concerts of bands I used to listen to at the beginning of college, and then look around and see lots of 15 year olds in the audience.

  42. I hate to be a pain but I have a music blog and I would love to know how you pasted/copied the entire Boss album from your spotify? Any help would be awesome…Thanks so much!

    • You’re not being a pain at all! There’s two ways. If you want to embed a straightforward album, like that, just right click on the album icon in Spotify and copy the embed code option, then paste that (I changed the dimensions once I did, though, to make it a little larger). Or if you want to embed a playlist you’ve made, again, just right click on the playlist title, and copy the embed code of that.

  43. Well, my daughter, 16 – shares my love of the Stones, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Some like it Hot, Singing in the Rain, It’s a bueatiful Life, the Producers and the Blues Brothers. You just gotta teach them. They don’t learn them anything in Schools nowadays.

  44. Your daughter has excellent taste… just like her dad! 🙂 And actually, even though I jest about the Beethoven T-shirt, I’m glad that there was classical music (and wonderful MGM musicals!) being played in my house when I was growing up.

  45. Loved this post! You write so well!

  46. I shall let you know something…The fact that the Bruce shirt exists is an awful idea. For two reasons. One, the amount of 13 year olds that will be wearing this is disgusting because they have never even heard of him. Two, the damn heads of H&M are totally trying to appeal this obnoxious trend of dirty hipsters. (you know the ones that drink PBR at a party and post pictures of their life like it means something.) I know I’m twenty something, but the fact that someone your age can’t rock that t-shirt is stupid. That represents someone you grew to love. Whose to say you can’t own that? No one. And thank you for writing this, it gave me inspiration for my own blog. Which yes you should go follow. And yes be looking for my post on the dirty hipster trend….

  47. Personally, I find it very sad that we can’t revisit the fashion trends of our teens! I LOVED bell-bottoms and tie-dyed shirts! But seeing the younger crowd wearing them does bring me a nostalgic smile! Great article. Sure enjoyed it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: