Are These Popular Again?


When I was young, the most popular souvenir seemed to be the Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt. I saw them everywhere.  I saw them on old people, young people, men, women, and children. The locations varied from London and Paris to Istanbul and Perth.  The first one I had was one from Honolulu.

My thoughts on whether this was the mark of a traveler or tourist varied from day to day, but that didn’t stop me from wanting one. I regret not getting one from the Osaka location.  However, I rarely ever went there and would probably consider Murphy’s in Shinsaibashi my Japanese bar.

Then, for a while, I stopped seeing them. I had a theory about this, and maybe some of you out there can back me up on this one.  I think the cool tourist souvenir became the Starbucks mug or the Starbucks tumbler.  I saw quite a few people collect these things. I even briefly considered getting one when one of the people on the trip dragged me into a Starbucks in Vietnam.  I declined when I realized that I was in a coffee producing country and the locals probably had the whole thing covered.

Again, that’s just a theory. Maybe lots of people are still buying those T-shirts and maybe someone’s shelf is not full of mugs from that chain.

If you know, please let me know.

I should note that the Hard Rock in Toronto is now closed.  It was the first one in North America and it is gone–a victim of spiraling real estate costs and a lack of rent control.  We also lost the House of Lords–the only place to get a true rocker hair cut in the city.

I hadn’t thought of this theory for a while, but today my student came dressed in the Hard Rock T-shirt. Since we were doing a mock exam, I had time to think about the theory.  I am not sure this is a Perfect Moment, but it sort of fits in with the nostalgia and the urge to travel that I have been feeling lately.


About Anthony

I am: equal parts rebel, romantic and shockingly average Joe. a writer trapped inside of an ESL teacher's body. an introverted attention seeker. a teacher who hopes one day to be called "Captain, my Captain." an intellectual who can do some very dumb things. a person whose Japan experience, despite being so long ago, still exerts a strong influence upon him. a lover of books, music, beer, hockey and Pizza.
This entry was posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, coffee, collecting, ESL, nostalgia, souvenirs, students, t-shirts, teaching, tourism, travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Are These Popular Again?

  1. I had not really taken any cognizance of Hard Rock Cafe, T-shirts or otherwise, until I lived in Guangzhou, China. T-shirts did seem to be s big sale item. I would have preferred to buy a shirt at the Hard Seat Cafe in then eclectic Yangshuo. Yes, people do buy the SB mugs from where they visit, however, in the last few years I see more visitors buy postcards or stick to their own photos. I kind of like that although it might be hard on sales of kitschy stuff.

  2. Heide says:

    I think that most tourists suffer from monkey-see-monkey-do syndrome, so if HardRock café tees or Starbucks mugs are the “in thing” at that moment, people will feel compelled to get their own because that’s what everyone else does. Still, at least it’s a functional souvenir — and hopefully you’d see a lot of other cool stuff in your quest to collect them all.

    • Anthony says:

      I don’t mean to cast aspersions on people. However they want to remember their trip is up to them. I am glad they travelled.
      I was just thinking about it as a fad. When I think about it, it is no different than collecting spoons, or thimbles or match packs….or whatever.
      These days I really like pictures. Not sure why.
      You take photographic collections (doors, puddles…) Is there something that you collect?

  3. Hunida says:

    I think these shirts are still popular but they look a little different now. I mean I still think Hard Rock is cool. I visited the one here in Vegas, Denver, and NY!

    • Anthony says:

      I love the burgers at the Hard Rock…and if you’re in a country that doesn’t do burgers…it is absolutely necessary.
      At the Hard Rock in Osaka, the waitresses spoke better English than any of my students and any government employee I met.

  4. Location location location … culture culture culture. Each plays an integral part in Souvenir Think. As well as whatever the 15-minute trend is at the time. Three key factors methinks.

    T-shirts as souvenirs in particular are dicey. The wearer desperate for a shirt could’ve just as easily grabbed it off a rack at a thrift store as received it as a gift or carefully picked it out in a passion for or fond memories of Hard Rock Cafes {or whatever’s on the shirt}. So many more possibilities. Not enough time or space in a comments box to list ’em all!

    I for one have a Rolling Stone T-shirt with the infamous tongue logo — but the tongue in patriotic blue & white stars. That I bought at a yard sale for a buck circa 1982. (Can still visualize that San Francisco neighborhood.)

    Now, purely by coincidence, many years later, I not only had that shirt with me during my life in Japan BUT became a hardcore regular at a cool dive in Shinjuku named … wait for it … “Rolling Stone.” He’s since sold it (sadly) but weird dude who owned it was Japanese and LOOOOOOVED the Stones (and American rock’n’roll), hence the name. That little black T-shirt is IMBUED with memories. Not only memories of Tokyo’s Rolling Stone but the best years of my life.

    Threadbare that I dare not wear save on a very special occasion, dare not launder it save by hand. I cannot part with it.

    Now, I’ve never seen the Stones live. Like them well enough but am not a rabid fan. For all I know, that shirt with the unique British logo might be worth a helluva lotta money. No matter.

    In the end, that yard-sale shirt that was possibly another’s souvenir from a concert took on entirely new levels and depths of stories once in my hands.
    So. Ya. Never. Can Tell. With. Souvenirs.

    • Anthony says:

      That is one awesome souvenir with a fantastic story.

      • Yes it is. I may’ve misremembered. May be my black Lennon “Imagine” T-shirt from that yard sale … in which case, dunno where I picked up the Rolling Stones! It too saw a lot of Shinjuku’s Rolling Stone. Whatever its source, it was long ago, secondhand and changes none of the rest of that story. 🙂

  5. Erika says:

    I didn’t realize Hard Rock Cafes were still a thing until I saw one in Myrtle Beach a few weeks ago.

  6. John says:

    I always wanted one. About two years ago, I went into the Hard Rock Café in Dublin. I wanted to buy a Tshirt but the price was way too high.

    • Anthony says:

      Having heard from a friend about the wholesale price of clothes, I find the high prices doubly shocking.
      I have had two shirts–both were souvenirs someone got me.

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