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Mike Watt and the Rock N’ Roll history of the plaid shirt

May 12, 2017

It is a very rare occurrence in this line of work that I am given the chance to nerd out about two subjects I am passionate about. Sure, you’ve had to endure my amateur stabs at film reviews on this very blog over the past few months, but this doesn’t relate much back to my day-job world of streetwear .  Imagine my delight then when the latest Altamont Fall ’12 drop landed on my desk here at Urban Industry HQ and the name Mike Watt jumped off the packing list…

Mike Watt is something of a hero to me. The man played bass in Minutemen, a seminal underground American band that emerged in the wake of the first American hardcore punk movement in the late 70s/early 80s. Bands like Minutemen (as well as fellow luminaries such as Hüsker Dü and Mission of Burma) really appealed to me for the way they took the energy of early hardcore and then spawned a completely different sound from it. Minutemen weren’t afraid to forge a different path from the standard hardcore template of the day, and such diverse influences such as Funk, Jazz and British Post-Punk can be heard in their music.

Mike Watt met D.Boon in the 1970s in the working class town of San Pedro, California. The two bonded over a love of classic rock bands such as Creedence Clearwater Revival and T-Rex and would become lifelong friends and bandmates until Boon’s untimely death in 1985. Boon and Watt discovered punk rock in 1976 (documented best in the autobiographical song "History Lesson – Part II"), and set about forming their own band, eventually recruiting drummer George Hurley  to the group. The band would go on to forge the great DIY punk rock blueprint we have today, tirelessly touring across America forging a network of likeminded souls in the process. Minutemen would also become known for doing everything  ‘econo’ (slang for inexpensive, short for "economical"), whether it was booking the graveyard shifts at recording studios or touring across the country on a very tight budget – “If you ain’t playing, you’re paying” as Watt once famously quipped.

In the 2005 Minutemen documentary ‘We Jam Econo’, Watt expands further on this ‘econo’ stance. He explains that his trademark plaid shirt-wearing came about as a tribute to his heroes in Creedence, whose humble working man’s clothing was in stark contrast to the flamboyant rock n’ roll attire being sported by some of their contemporaries at the time. This notion of keeping things grounded and unflashy, is typical of Watt’s econo stance and blue-collar upbringing. Altamont have paid tribute to this by issuing Watt with his very own plaid shirt, complete with Minutemen Anchor stitch logo embroidery near the hem. In the early 90s, a young musician by the name of Kurt Cobain would also take to wearing plaid shirts, this time in tribute to Watt and Minutemen’s DIY aesthetic. A nation of teenagers soon adopted this look and the whole ‘grunge’ look was born. We here at Urban Industry are delighted to be here in 2012 paying tribute to the man who wore it best.


Check out the 2005 Documentary ‘We Jam Econo’: HERE

Listen to the Minutemen: HERE

Buy Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991 by Michael Azerrad: HERE

by SeanM

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