3 Ways to Wear Concert Merch in Real Life

Maybe it's due to Vetements, or maybe my bordering-on-embarrassing Kanye obsession (I know, I'm sorry) is to blame, but this year. one of my biggest shopping categories has been concert merch. My personal style has always skewed California-casual, so when it suddenly became current to rock a T-shirt, well, basically everywhere, I leaned in (and hard).

But the art of the concert-tee outfit is more nuanced than you might initially believe. Sure, it's easy to toss on a Life of Pablo tee with jeans and sneakers, but as a fashion editor, I feel obligated to mix things up a little more (at least every once in a while). So though my inclination is to stick with basics, I jumped at the opportunity to give my merch a style upgrade. 

As I mentioned before, some credit for the sudden rise of merch has to be given to the offbeat fashion brand Vetements, whose head designer, Demna Gvasalia, convinced the industry that sweatsuits and graphic tees are decidedly cool. But while Vetements boasts a steep price tag, artists have figured out that offering up eye-catching (and often limited-edition) runs of their own swag is a genius marketing tool. For the cost of one reasonably priced T-shirt, fans feel like they're in the club.

Included in that wide swath of superfans sit myself and many of my industry colleagues. New York Fashion Week, once packed with over-the-top street style, was this season full of Bieber tees and Supreme shirts (paired with Céline and Prada, of course)—oh, how times have changed. 

Read on for three ways to wear merch IRL! 

Photo:

Nicole Kliest

Any major Belieber knows there's no such thing as too much merch. Justin has been busy collaborating with retailers like Barneys, Forever 21, and Urban Outfitters on special tour gear, so I figured I might as well make the most of it and layer them together. My goal with this look was to give the season's sporty, laid-back trends a slightly more polished feel. White track pants with a bright-red racing stripe feel fresh, and mules add that little last bit of sophistication. 

Photo:

Nicole Kliest

I stole a styling trick from the F/W 16 runways and wore the Bieber jacket shrugged off the shoulders. If I'm being totally honest, I wish the shirt said "Beyoncé Forever" instead, but I can hang with Justin too (and I'm not sorry). 

Photo:

Nicole Kliest

These wide-leg track pants were one of my favorite pieces from the shoot because they have the sporty vibe I associate with my personal style, while the cut and the racing stripe gave them a more fashion-forward feel than your typical joggers. Styled with simple mules, the ensemble felt cool without forcing anything.

Photo:

Nicole Kliest

On Aemilia Madden: Purpose Tour x Forever 21 Justin Forever Tee ($20); Tory Sport Wide-Leg Track Pants ($135); Purpose Tour x Urban Outfitters jacket; Adidas Trefoil Hat ($22); Tibi shoes. 

Photo:

Nicole Kliest

It was this exact Pablo shirt that kicked off my personal merch collection (excluding The Shins tee I've held on to since my middle school days). After a giant rainstorm and flood foiled my chances to scoop up Pablo merch at this year's Governors Ball, I lurked on Kanye's site, waiting for the chance to buy the next release, and finally I succeeded. The long-sleeve tee has an oversize feel, which is great for lazy weekends, but if I'm in the mood to dress it up, I'll get crafty and turn it into a crop top instead. 

Photo:

Nicole Kliest

While this look skews a little nontraditional (hello, sneakers and open button-down), I like that the ensemble finds a balance between casual and dressed up. My style tends to be pretty laid-back, so I appreciate when one or two simple add-ons can transform a look.

Photo:

Nicole Kliest

It's only appropriate to say that I loved this look like, well, Kanye loves Kanye. But since the back of this shirt features some slightly explicit lyrics from "Freestyle 4" (they involve a Vogue party, if that's any hint), a cover-up is a must. Especially if I'm rocking this anywhere I need to be PC (not Kanye's forte, as we all know). 

Photo:

Nicole Kliest

On Aemilia Madden: Pablo Vogue Party shirt; Veda Howard Leather Skirt ($250); vintage button-down; Vans Old Skool Sneakers ($55).

Photo:

Nicole Kliest

Okay, I'll admit this outfit isn't exactly for the faint of heart, but it touches on some of my favorite trends for fall: sheer layering and furry sandals. Since I feel like jeans and a T-shirt are the base of maybe 90% of my weekly outfits, I figured it was time to take my got-to look to the next level. To borrow some words from my man Drake, it's the best [idea] I've ever had. 

Photo:

Nicole Kliest

Let me tell you right now that there's nothing more comfortable than fuzzy sandals. It's like enveloping your feet in little cozy pillows, but unlike Uggs, your feet can still breathe. Genius, right? When it comes to denim, I've heralded step-hemmed jeans before, and I'll do it again right here—yes, they're nontraditional, but you only live once, right? 

Photo:

Nicole Kliest

One of the funnier parts of embracing the merch lifestyle is the fact that random strangers love to remind you that they love Drake just as much as you do. I've had my fair share of high-fives (yes, really) and shoutouts. For that reason, I didn't want to cover up what the people really want. A sheer top keeps things interesting without covering up my "Summer Sixteen" pride. 

Photo:

Nicole Kliest

On Aemilia Madden: Drake "Summer Sixteen" shirt; Zara Tulle Tunic ($26, similar); Gap Girlfriend Jeans ($80); Tibi Kellen Slides ($395). 

Hitting up a concert soon? Here are five cool outfit ideas