Music and fashion have always gone hand in hand. Famous musicians become role models for millions of people and everyone tries to imitate them.
The style of musicians like Frank Sinatra, Kurt Cobain, Gwen Stefani, and Avril Lavigne marked the style of an entire generation and remain important to this day. Others’ more eccentric and daring styles, like those of Elton John, Madonna, Prince, David Bowie, and Björk, have become an inexhaustible source of inspiration for fashion designers.
Today, we’ll talk about certain movements like mod, hippie, and punk and go through some iconic concert and video outfits that show just how much fashion overlaps with music. You simply can’t have one without the other.
We’ll start by talking about the mod subculture in England that came about in the late 50s and was one of the biggest breakout styles in the history of Haute Couture. Thanks to bands like The Jam, The Who, and The Rolling Stones, this well-groomed, sophisticated look became fashionable. It included tailored suits with narrow lapels, skinny ties, button-down collared shirts, V-neck sweaters, miniskirts, Chelsea boots, loafers, Clarks, bowling shoes, and hairstyles that mimicked those of actors in French Nouvelle Vague movies. In subsequent decades, we have cyclically revisited this style with bands like Oasis and Blur or, later, The Last Shadow Puppets.
Meanwhile, in America, a different fashion revolution was taking place with many artists writing protest songs that went against traditional values. The use of psychedelic drugs, the invention of tie dye, and second-hand clothing marked this era. Army jackets, platforms, and flared pants stood out as the style of young people who cared about not only music but politics.
Punk started in London during the 1970s as a reaction to hippie culture and almost simultaneously became a musical genre, a fashion expression, and a way of life. This movement took place in Malcolm McLaren’s and Vivienne Westwood’s clothing store called “Sex.” A precursor to DIY (Do It Yourself) this style emphasized uniqueness and provocation, and the music was controversial with incendiary lyrics. There were T-shirts with the face of the Queen of England decked out with with safety pins, Nazi swastikas, torn pants, stained leather, and studs, and the Sex Pistols were examples to follow.
The subsequent years would bring countless new trends: disco, glam, goth, pop, grunge, hip-hop, and many others that continue to be built upon today. Videos are an essential tool for visually communicating artists’ style and imposing fashion trends. Some of the most iconic outfits that we can remember are: Olivia Newton-John’s aerobic clothing in the video “Physical,” the red jacket leather that Michael Jackson wore in “Thriller,” the latex catsuit that Britney Spears wore in the video for “Oops!…I Did It Again,” Debbie Harry’s iconic blonde hair and red lips in “Heart of Glass “by Blondie, the different looks worn by each of Spice Girls in the video for “Wannabe “or any of the wild outfits in which we have seen Lady Gaga.
Some legendary artists have a distinctive image associated with them. Slash’s top hat or Axl’s bandana (Guns’ N Roses) are perhaps the first things that come to mind when we think of them. Then, there’s Kiss’s painted faces, the Jean Paul Gaultier corset that Madonna wore on her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour (which later contributed to the trend of wearing bras and less clothing), the elaborate Kansai Yamamoto-designed costumes worn by David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust and replicated by fans in creative ways, or any of Beyoncé’s concert looks, which are always from Balmain, Burberry, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Tom Ford, Gucci, or Fendi.
The way in which today’s musicians dress impacts their followers even more thanks to social media. Artists like Rosalia, Bad Bunny, and Justin Bieber are set apart by the way they dress, giving exposure to lesser-known brands such as Praying, Telfar, Liberal Youth Ministry, and Barragan (the latter two founded by Mexican designers) that make daring, avant-garde clothing.
By Sussy Oh!
Here’s a playlist of some songs that can be seen when heard: