How Did the Union Jack Become Def Leppard’s ‘Pyromania’ Look?
If you were a hard rocking kid in 1983, the Def Leppard “Union Jack” T-shirts were likely hard to avoid. It was the perfect culmination of a breaking band and an iconic looking T-shirt going hand in hand to help push Def Leppard to the top of the rock world. But according to Joe Elliott, there was no grand plan surrounding the look that became so popular.
Reflecting on Pyromania turning 40 this year, Def Leppard shared the story of those shirts on their social media, with Joe Elliott revealing how he accidentally stumbled upon what would becoming an iconic look.
“The day before the ‘Photograph’ video, I had a budget of £25 to buy something to make this video the next day,” recalls the singer. “I was down at King’s Road and I think it may have been McLaren’s shop Sex. I bought these plastic trousers that were too short so I had to get leg warmers. Adidas boots, handcuff belt. I’ve got 8 quid left, and there’s this Union Jack shirt for £7.99. Outfit done. It wasn’t some big plan. It was just all I had.”
Speaking with SiriusXM back in 2019, Elliott added, “It was an accident. Rick [Allen] was wearing the Jack shorts in ’81 and nobody took any notice. But then you see him jumping off the riser in the ‘Photograph’ video and we began to see these in the crowd and then somebody, maybe a manager said, we should sell them. So we just started picking them up for the merch stand and we just thought it was hilarious all these Americans buying these Union Jack shirts. It was like 200 years ago, you’d be kicking us out of the country.”
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Pyromania would climb to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, buoyed by the success of the singles “Photograph,” “Rock of Ages,” “Foolin'” and “Too Late for Love.” The album is diamond certified in the U.S. for over 10 million copies sold, and that T-shirt became one of the more popular band tees of the ’80s.