It seems as if it is nearly impossible to walk down the street and not see someone wearing either camouflage or a military inspired article of clothing lately, especially around a rock venue on any given night. This type of dress is not a new concept, but military inspired clothing has become so mainstream that it is quite possible to call it a trend. It is no longer designed strictly for our soldiers in the service, but for people to wear as a way to make a fashion statement.
There may be many reasons why military inspired clothing is becoming so popular, but one reason that stands out is the music industry. One band in particular that is contributing to the influence of military attire is the Street Dogs.
Based in Boston, the Street Dogs are a true punk band. They were originally formed in 2002 by front man Mike McColgan (ex-member of the Dropkick Murphys) and Johnny Rioux. McColgan and Rioux originally started the Street Dogs as something to have fun with and stay busy. But with the 2003 release of Savin Hill, the Street Dogs realized that what was once just for fun was taken very seriously by their fans. After the release of their debut album, the Street Dogs decided it was best to add to their lineup. With a fuller band, the Street Dogs were finally ready to take to the streets, touring the United States. The band currently consists of Mike McColgan as lead vocals, Johnny Rioux as bassist, Paul Rucker as drummer, and Tobe Bean III and Marcus Hollar as guitarists.
What makes the Street Dogs so different from other bands is their ability to incorporate ska, street punk, and Irish punk into a unique, yet distinct, sound.
The Street Dogs’ third album, Fading American Dream, dropped on October 24, 2006. It was the band’s most political album to date. Not only are the lyrics on Fading American Dream war related, their merchandise is inspired by the war and military as well.
The Street Dogs aren’t one of those bands that sing about politics to try and be punk rock. Having spent five years as a firefighter, two years in Iraq (as part of an artillery crew during the first Persian Gulf War), and six years in the reserves, McColgan actually has a justified stance behind his political viewpoints.
The main logo for Street Dogs is the insignia for a private and for a brigadier general. The Street Dogs’ logo can be found on nearly all of their merchandise, including their CDs, t-shirts, and wristbands. Other military inspired designs that can be found on Street Dogs’ apparel include the American Eagle, a hand grenade, an AK47, skulls, a coat of arms and the United States Capitol.
"We actually try to steer away from using guns," said Bean, in an interview with Blast. "When we start designing new merch we throw out a bunch of ideas based on lyrics, songs, and our message as a band. From there we try to pick the boldest and strongest designs and the ones that most represent our band and what we are trying to say."
But the band clearly has a fashion sense that’s military-issue.
"We draw from that for a number of reasons,” Bean said. “Obviously our stance on soldiers is one. I personally like the military look live because it reminds me and hopefully others that there are still kids overseas fighting in an ugly war that seems to have no point. It also gives us a more unified look as a band. Also, when you’re on the road, Army-Navy stores are a great place to rummage through and pick up some cheap clothes.”
The band decided to have the majority of their merchandise designed with military themes because "simple and bold logos just look great on shirts, so we try to use those whenever possible. A lot of our other designs are tied in with song titles and content," Bean explained.
The band didn’t think they would be influencing fashion trends by putting out an album like Fading American Dream and by selling their merchandise.
"I really would never think of us as a trend-setting band when it comes to clothes,” Bean said. “But then again the Clash, who is one of our biggest influences, had a tremendous impact on the way punks dressed back in the seventies.”
The question remains: Are the Street Dogs trying to get a point across by having military themed merchandise and if so what is the point they’re trying to make?
"We are always trying to get a point across, whether it’s workers’ rights, the lost soldier overseas that is far away from his family, or just the social injustice that is heavily present in our country today," Bean said.
In a sense, the merchandise is also a way to express the band’s thoughts and feelings towards the wars. However, Bean suggested that, "One listen to Fading American Dream and you know where we stand on the war. We do support our troops, though, and would love to see them home safe and as soon as possible."
Bean explained that Fading American Dream is "a social commentary of what is going on in our country and world today. Times are bad. We are in the middle of an ugly and undefined war and losing innocent lives every day. We are sitting under the largest U.S. deficit of all time. Jobs are disappearing daily." That’s the kind of stuff that can be found on the album.
Although the rest of the band doesn’t have a military background like McColgan, they are still very passionate when it comes to their political views.
"We are a unit,” Bean said. “A machine behind a mouthpiece that we believe in and will back up any time.”
Bean believes that the heart of the Street Dogs is "five guys who believe in what we are doing and love playing music for anyone who will listen."
Last month, the Street Dogs began recording their fifth studio album. It is the band’s follow-up to their 2008 State of Grace which was their first album with Hellcat Records. The latest album will feature Rioux as producer and Rick Barton (original guitarist for the Dropkick Murphys) as co-producer. The Street Dogs will be recording at the Blasting Room, an infamous punk rock studio built by members of All, Black Flag, and Descendents, in Fort, Collins, Colo.
The Street Dogs have been headlining tours in the US and UK. They have been performing with bands like Anti-Flag, The Offspring, Reverend Horton Heat and Alkaline Trio.
On March 10, the Street Dogs released their single, “War After the War,” exclusively on iTunes. All of the proceeds for that song will be donated to Homes for Our Troops, an organization that builds specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans at no cost to them.
If you’re looking for the latest Street Dogs merchandise, look for an El Battalion t-shirt, in which the skeleton of a soldier is dressed in full uniform, holding a flag, and a rifle. Another design is the Final Transmission t-shirt, the front bears the band’s name as well as a battlefield cross. The back of the t-shirt features some of the lyrics and the title Final Transmission (one of the single’s from Fading American Dream). The band’s logo is located on the back of the t-shirt as well as the sleeve. There is also a War After the War poster (all of the proceeds will benefit Homes for Our Troops) that features a soldier in uniform carrying his rucksack.