Our 20 Favorite Metal T-Shirts

The infamous Danzig skull logo T-shirt
The infamous Danzig skull logo T-shirt

The moment you start embracing metal not only as a sound but as a lifestyle, the next course of action is to hit up your local head shop and start building up your wardrobe. While differences of opinion on the best types of T-shirts displaying allegiance to the Dark Lord are utterly subjective, there's still a few ways to pick out a great metal shirt from the rest of the pile. Whether it's gruesome or funny, mind numbingly intricate or super simple, it's about catching your eye, making a statement and usually garnering a few worried looks from people you pass in the supermarket. A few of us at the Weekly put our heads together to form this list of our 20 favorite metal shirts.

20. Intronaut - Dolphin BBQ
L.A.'s best experimental progressive metal group Intronaut just celebrated their 10th anniversary as a band. With a decade full of mind altering, tribal and provocative heavy music, this mesmerizing band has toured the world, and played with everyone from Tool to Mastodon to Meshuggah. This shirt's center is a dolphin on a BBQ made of the band's logo; an odd yet abstract piece of artwork on a shirt that just works for some strange reason. —Alex Distefano

19. Rob Zombie - Give Me Head Until I'm Dead
Rob Zombie has proven time and time again that he's smarter and funnier than most of the metal scene, and it's part of what's kept him around and relevant for this long. This shirt shows some of that inappropriate humor seen in Zombie's movies while still sticking with a cool design and a metal edge. It's just offensive enough to piss off your mom without getting you thrown out of too many places. —Josh Chesler

18. Deftones - Kitten
As if it wasn't clear beforehand, Deftones aren't your average metal band. By releasing a shirt with nothing but their name and an adorable feline on it, they further proved just how different they could be. After all, what's more metal than a super cute kitten? —Josh Chesler

Our 20 Favorite Metal T-Shirts

17. Alice in Chains - Eye Chart (Check My Brain)
Although doctors and metal rarely go together, Alice in Chains decided to give everyone a trip to the optometrist when they released their a shirt reading "Alice in Chains Check My Brain" as an eye chart. It's one of those shirts that'll get people to stop you in order to read your shirt, so be forewarned if you wear it in public. Of course, if they're into the band, it might make you a new friend. —Josh Chesler

Our 20 Favorite Metal T-Shirts

16. System of a Down - Sad Statue
Just about every System of a Down shirt looks exactly like every other band from their time period. You could almost cross out "System of a Down" on each shirt and write "Slipknot" or "KoRn" or any other late-wave nu-metal bands and it would work for any of them. "Sad Statue" isn't even close to the best SOAD song, but it made a far better shirt than just about any of their contemporaries. —Josh Chesler

15. Cattle Decapitation - Gore Not Core
San Diego-based vegan grindcore maniacs Cattle Decapitation have been lashing out musically against a horrific meat industry for almost two decades. Formed in 1996, the band has raged on in the underground to rise above and become a force to be reckoned with in the grindcore/vegan, extreme music scene. This shirt's logo is a plea to return to pure death metal and grindcore, poking fun at metalcore dancers. The back logo is a giant red rifle scope on a metal core dancer, with the phrases "Gore Not Core" and "No Karate, No Breakdowns, No Combovers, No Scene." —Alex Distefano

14. Mastodon - Happy Halloween Haters
For those who think twerking isn't metal, Mastodon has a strong (and hilarious) message for you. When the band received the "Motherload" of Internet hate for a music video featuring twerking, they decided to respond to keyboard warriors by delivering maybe the greatest Halloween shirt of all time. For those who got one of the limited edition tops, consider yourself lucky for nabbing an amazing piece of metal shirt history. —Josh Chesler

13. Down - Smoking Jesus
New Orleans based metal supergroup Down features famed Pantera singer Phil Anselmo, along with guitarists Pepper Keenan and Bobby Landgraf, with drummer Jimmy Bower (Eyehategod/Superjoint Ritual) and bassist Pat Bruders (Goatwhore). The band's sound has always been a murky, metallic mix of hard rock and even bluesy songs, but always with a heavy edge and distinct riffs and song structures. This shirt is a great visual representation of what the band stands for, with a shadowy silhouette like image of the face of Jesus, crown and all, smoking a fat joint. No wonder this band's hit songs have titles like "Hail the Leaf," "Bury Me in Smoke," and "Lysergic Funeral Procession." —Alex Distefano

12. Darkthrone - Transylvanian Hunger
This iconic black metal shirt has been seen worn by various metal bands including most notably Phil Anselmo, who has been photographed in it over the years more than once. It is considered to be a symbol of black metal culture, and is based on the album of the same name. It was Darkthrone's fourth album, and included only the duo of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto. Varg Vikernes, the mastermind behind Burzum, wrote the lyrics to several songs. The album's bleak, dark and macabre vibe is visually expressed on the shirt's front, with Fenriz in corpse paint holding candles, and the band's trademarked wicked, dripping and contorted logo. —Alex Distefano

11. Anthrax - Animated State of Euphoria
As most of the thrash metal bands of the late '80s were trying to be as scary and gruesome as they possibly could, Anthrax decided to go with more of a Mad TV vibe for one of the alternate shirts for their 1988 release. While so many of those bloody and gory shirts from other thrash bands have started to blend together over the years, this shirt still stands out in many metalheads' minds. —Josh Chesler

10. Cannibal Corpse - Eaten Back to Life
Evil iconography is great when it's original and even better when it has a sense of humor. Nowhere is that more understood than in the canon of Cannibal Corpse T-shirt artwork. Based on the cover of the album Eaten Back to Life (which turned 25 this year), the band's first release, we see the comfort in snickering at a design so gory and over-the-top that inspired many other great shirts after it. The artwork for Eaten Back to Life was rendered by horror comic book artist Vince Locke (Dead World) and depicted a zombie feasting on his own ribs and intestines. Still makes an ideal gift for anyone in your family. —Nate Jackson

9. Death - Spiritual Healing
This shirt represents a pivotal moment in the history of the seminal band, which many credit with founding the subgenre known as death metal. Chuck Schuldiner was slowly moving away from music and lyrics dedicated to gore, blood and zombies and into the world of psychology, manipulation, religion and the darker side of humanity. This is also the third album the band put out (1990), and is a shift towards more a very technical, proggy, more melodic form of death metal. It is the only Death album to feature guitarist James Murphy and bassist Terry Butler. This shirt is iconic because of the facial expression of the angry, grinning and sadistic preacher slapping a mental patient, in an ostensible brainwashing ritual. The artwork was the last Death album cover created by artist Ed Repka, known for creating some of the most iconic metal album covers. —Alex Distefano

8. Gwar - White "War Party"
Beyond the legendary costumes and unforgettable live shows, Gwar know their way around some solid merch. Although virtually any of Gwar's brightly colored, mesmerizing tees could probably be on this list, the white "War Party" shirt brings those borderline neon colors together and makes them pop all the more against the clean backdrop. —Josh Chesler

7. Black Sabbath - Vol. 4
Because ... Ozzy. —Nate Jackson

6. Pantera - Pot Leaf and Skull
This shirt fortified Pantera's place among both metal heads and weed smokers everywhere. The band's rebellious-looking curved font logo is behind a giant, bright green marijuana leaf, which is itself in front of flames and a menacing-looking skull. If you love heavy, groovy Texas-based American heavy metal and getting stoned, this is the perfect shirt to sport, especially at your favorite metal or concert. —Alex Distefano

5. Metallica - Metal Up Your Ass
It might seem like Metallica's Kill 'Em All album T-shirt would be the de facto choice for their slot on this list. But it's actually the artwork that pre-dated that one (and also inspired it) that we'd like to acknowledge. The band first used this name for their 1982 live demo featuring nine original songs and original guitarist Dave Mustaine. The name "Metal Up Your Ass" and this artwork by Stephen Gorman were supposed to be used for the band's first real album, but their record company Megaforce refused. That's when, according to legend, Metallica's late bassist Cliff Burton first uttered the phrase "Just fuckin' kill 'em all." The rest is metal history. Still, this shirt (which actually appeared as a shirt in 1985, two years after Kill 'Em All was released) is one of the most literal, irreverent representations of Metallica's glory days. —Nate Jackson

4. Cradle of Filth - Jesus Is a Cunt
Probably the most offensive and controversial band T-shirt ever printed. English black metal band Cradle of Filth came up with the concept, design and phrase in 1993 for this shirt, which was labeled as the most controversial shirt in rock history by Rolling Stone in early 2015. The front has an image of a nun masturbating and the words "Vestal Masturbation," and the giant, blasphemous slogan "Jesus Is a Cunt" on back. To this day, the shirt has caused much outrage among Christians everywhere, and even arrests, including COF drummer Nick Barker in the late '90s. Metalhead fans of the band have actually been arrested for wearing the shirt in places all over the world, including Italy, England, Scotland, New Zealand, Poland and even Florida. —Alex Distefano

3. Danzig - Skull Logo
It's evil, it's dark, it's snarling. This original design by Michael Golden is everything we want Danzig and his music to be embodied in a T-shirt togo (which was also used for Danzig's previous band, Samhain). As long as it exists, it succeeds in keeping the muscular, New Jersey frontman and former Misfit (who turned 60 this year!) forever young and frightening. —Nate Jackson

2. Iron Maiden - Killers
When aliens finally take over our planet and go digging through the rubble of our crumbled civilization, the only artifact needed to explain the legacy heavy metal is an Iron Maiden fan's battered Killers 1981 tour T-shirt. If you call yourself a metalhead, copping this piece of merch, duplicated countless times since it was originally designed in 1980, is step one in a lifetime journey of headbangerdom. For many, it was the shirt that first scared the shit out of their parents. The artwork was an amalgamation of the band's mascot Eddie and the work of artist Derek Riggs, who added long hair, a bloody hatchet and a helpless victim just out of frame to take the music's evil imagery up a notch. Though the band has a number of shirts that could easily appear on this list and are just as horrifying, the Killers shirt is where it all began. —Nate Jackson

1. Motorhead - England/War Pig Logo
It doesn't really matter what style of metal you favor or how much of a badass shirt collector you think you are, Motorhead's "England" shirt logo is the king in any metalhead's closet. At first glance, most people aren't really sure what to call this evil, snarling creature that's been the centerpiece of Motorhead's merch for almost four decades. We just know that it looks cool. The distinctive fanged-face logo, with its oversized boar's tusks, chains, and spikes, was created by artist Joe Petagno in 1977 for the cover of the Motörhead album and has appeared in the cover art in different variations for the majority of their discography. As icons go, it's the most recognizable salute to metal since devil horns. Some have dubbed it the "War Pig," or the "Snaggletooth." Whatever name you want to give it, this shirt still lives up to the mantra emblazoned on the back: "Everything Louder Than Everything Else." And in honor of the late "Philthy Phil" Taylor, the band's former drummer who recently died, Motorhead fans the world over are likely rocking this shirt as a tribute to one of metal's greatest bands. —Nate Jackson


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