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

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  1. Great post. Totally enjoyed it. Loved hearing a different perspective on these shirts, than what my peers think. Being in my twentysomethings I am guilty of being drawn to these tshirts for the ironic reason, but never buy one unless I actually listen to them, which I think every purchaser should consider! You never know when somebody similar to yourself, might come around and ask what your favorite song is.

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

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  4. If you liked it, you should buy it and wear it regardless of whose demographic they were imagining when it was printed. You only live once. Be there.

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  6. Agree and amen! hahaha…. Oh you are so right on with this! *shakes fist in the air at young hipsters everywhere and the fashion of the day**

  7. Totally right there with you. Mine was a ‘designer’ Misfits shirt. Ironically, also a New Jersey cult band. I realized that everyone on the hipster streets of Brooklyn continued to compliment my shirt. All of them in their early twenties. It hit me that the shirt was not meant for me and I too was just old. 😦

  8. It truly is a right and apt one considering every possible viable aspect.

  9. “ignorance is a bliss”
    i would have bought the shirt
    as i tuned in to “born to run”
    =) > \=

  10. It’s such a trip to go shopping with my mother. I’m 25 she’s 53…I hear “That crap is back?” quite frequently. I have started doing this myself. I know I’m not old and that is not to say you or my mother are either, but I digress…I see teenagers running around in neons and fishnets from the 80’s and flannels with ripped jeans from the 90’s and I’m in shock. It’s not like my generation had much of an “omg look at us” fashion movement, but it is still crazy to see. I dated my self not to long ago when I asked my boyfriend’s little sister who is 18 if she had ever hear of Hanson. She said no so I looked it up on iTunes…that’s when I realized MmmmBop came out 3 years before she was even born. Aging is scary!

    • Hehe! Thank you for those lovely anecdotes, really made me smile. And yes – aging is pretty scary. It creeps up on you. And it’s when you’re around younger people (eg you with your boyfriend’s little sister, me with my work colleagues) that it especially hits you!

      • I hear ya…I ran in to my mothers room a few nights ago screaming my head off…I have been finding grey hairs! She thinks it’s funny. I let her have her fun hehe. 🙂

  11. Love this post. It brought back so many memories. I’m a little over a decade older than you, so I was one of the lucky ones to see this concert the day after his birthday at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. I’ll never forget it.

    I too totally understand feeling old related to a T-shirt. My teenage daughter has Beatles and Pink Floyd shirts.

  12. This has to be one of the greatest posts I’ve read! I totally agree with you and had the same thoughts myself when I saw that t-shirt on H&M 1-2 years ago. Though I’m only 19 and a BIG Bruce fan (saw him this week twice in Oslo!) I had the same thoughts in my head as you – young girls buying a t shirt with Bruce’s ass printed on it with no clue who Springsteen is.

  13. Thanks so much! And: you have excellent taste 😉 How were the Oslo concerts?!

  14. oh, dear! you’re fantastic! I was reading some 40+ blogs, so I found you. now you have another fan. 😀

  15. Such a perceptive post. Ever since understanding the term, I have ranted about how I detest “Postmodernity”, which is exactly what you’re identifying in fashion trends. I myself am seventeen, but own every Vinyl record that Bruce released. It cuts me to the quick when I see people whose day-to-day musical interests usually revolve around Kesha or Nicki Minaj, subscribing to a cultural hype over a particular figure purely because they’ve heard that the centre of the attention was/is an icon.

  16. Cheers Matt. And: smart words. Nice on on the Bruce vinyl ownership 🙂

  17. Sophie on said:

    I think this is a somewhat bleak way of looking at the current popularity of some of the more veteran stars. I can see why you would think that the next generation is purely attempting irony, and I’m not saying that is not partly true, however is it so hard to think that girls actually like these t-shirts, without any negative hormonal underlying motivation? I know most girls who wear these type of t-shirts do it because of he “pretty pattern” – maybe not the best reason but a lot more innocent. Bruce is still touring, he is still releasing music, he is still popular: and in that hipster unknown way that this generation love.

    I’m 19 and, yeah, my mum liked Bruce Springsteen, but I LOVE HIM TOO. At aged 16 my mum and I used to have to drive long distances together, and there was no radio station we would agree on, eventually my discovery of Springsteen led us to shouting the lyrics of Born to Run on the way home. My discovery of him was not too different to that of the Andrea Mann just a generation apart.

    I’ll be wearing my Springsteen t-shirt to his concert next week with my mum and my best friend. Why would I go if it were just to take the piss?

    • elb743 on said:

      this is apt and had me in stitches, too! I think I know I am (55!) when I am in H&M and the clothes look great, but the music is too loud. XX, Elle

    • Hi Sophie! I admit it might sound a bit bleak, but that’s slightly how I felt at the time..! And while I do know that plenty of young people love and listen to Bruce without any irony at all – as you say, both you and I do/did! – my point, I guess, is that those in the head office of a massive fashion retailer like H&M aren’t aiming a T-shirt like that at fans like us (“Fans like us/Baby we were born to run…!”). Hope you enjoyed the Bruce concert – where was it? I was at the Wembley one 🙂

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  20. Ellen Bendtsen on said:

    Wel, well what can I say…I am 77 and only discovered Bruce Sprongsteen 4 mts. ago. Since then I have become quite obsessed with his music and the lyrics. He is quite something…not only a fantastic musician, but also a great human being….
    you are never too old to enjoy life. I am going to my first concert on 22nd February 2014….can’t wait

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