Music and fashion are interconnected on several levels: one influences the other and vice versa, in a never ending shift of trends. Did you know major fashion trends were born DUE to music? And that certain fashion trends influence the way artists… write music? Let’s find out!
Is fashion that important to music?
Well, it actually is – whether you like it or not – and this happened way before the MTV revolution. As Jon Batiste once said: “People see you before they hear you and when they look at you, it’s got to sound like something.” Having a strong image can help the musician or band to stand out among his peers, to convey a certain message which should compliment the musical offering.
Legendary artists have a distinctive and rather unique ‘image‘ associated to them (Slash’s top hat, curly hair and sunglasses, David Bowie’s eccentric designer outfits, Prince’s classy purple suits – that’s the picture that forms inside your head when you think about them) which helped to make them recognisable by everybody.
On the other hand, as a music listener, you’re naturally inclined to dress a certain way to adapt to the scene you’re into – the desire to blend with other individuals who share the same taste and interests as you do is naturally written in our DNA.
World War II had just ended, garments were running out and fashion designers where in trouble. Slowly but steadily, at the end of the ’40s, a plethora of new musical genres and fashion trends started to appear in the ‘50s.
Rock’n’roll was born and the “Bobby-soxers”, American teenage girls that were OBSESSED by male crooners such as Frank Sinatra, started to adopt their style. Ankle socks, hair ribbons, rolled-up jeans, poodle skirts, sloppy sweaters and elements borrowed from French fashion of the time. It was also the decade of Teen pop fashion, of Elvis Presley: the small revolution that preceded the bigger revolution of the 60s: The Beatles.
The ’60s: golden standard
The ’60s are commonly associated with 3 main fashion trends: Hippies, Mods and… Beatles. The influence of the Fab Four on people’ style was profound and second to none – as much as their musical works evolved, so did their outfits and impact on the fashion trends of the relative era among teenagers (and adults!).
Mods, on the other hand, may be lesser known to younger audiences: it all started in the ’50s, when Londoners were listening to ‘modernised‘ version of jazz music and calling themselves “modernists”. The musical side eventually expanded to ska, R&B and soul during the ’60s, while maintaining the bohemian lifestyle of the Beatnik generation. Mod fashion remains, as of today, one of the biggest influences on modern trends.
Finally, the hippie movement: a peaceful yet visually striking reaction to the Vietnam war. Lyrics started to deal with the reality of things, both in a positive and negative connotation, while the LSD, peyote and drug popularity rise contributed to the formation of new sounds. Everything turned trippy, and you can definitely hear that.
The ’70s: punk and glam
We could fill at least 10 articles about the importance of cultural factors that led to the punk movement. The genre started out as a musical movement derived from the Mod culture, but with a harsher, more aggressive twist to the musical side of things, which eventually started to reflect itself on the genre’s “official” outfit.
Punk is all about emphasising how different you are from the “rest“, with bold visual statements and straight-to-your-face controversial lyrics. After-all, punk is considered the first and truest music subculture in existence.
On the other hand, glam was a result of the ongoing demand of “bigger and better” effects, performances and visual appearances in the mainstream scene. To put that into perspective, Star Wars may be one of the catalysts of the glam rock movement, which is heavily influenced by Sci-Fi.
David Bowie, KISS and Gary Glitter: the visual and storytelling part accompanied the musical offering, generating the glam rock genre. Having said that, the fashion side of glam didn’t really expand into modern society as it was considered a bit over the top.
The ’80s and ’90s
The ’80s were a transition period, in which glam rockers and heavy metal fans inherited fashion trends from the ’70s but started to question them and turn them into something else. One of the “original” movements born in the ’80s is certainly the goth movement, which was deeply linked with the death rock scene. The Cure are a perfect example for that. As with the glam rock scene, goth didn’t really become as popular as other fashion trends due to the extreme nature of their outfits.
In the ’90s, Grunge music took over and immortalised the sense of angst of an entire generation. The American Dream was starting to fade while people were living in suburbs, dealing with recessions and world economic shifts. The grunge look was a reflection of that: gritty, unpleasant, wrinkled clothes, with a zero-f*cks-given attitude and relying on anything but “expensive” clothes. Grunge is now welcoming a big comeback, at the time this article is written.
Finally, the ’90s also saw a huge spike in interest of the hip hop and urban neighbourhood culture. New York, LA and Detroit were the homes of the first rap battles, breakdancing, turntablism and everything that came with it. Needless to say, the hip hop culture took the world by a storm, and people started to emulate the looks and trends of rappers. Hip Hop is, as of today, one of the most popular genres and trends, both in music and in fashion.
2000 – today
While the new century brought new trends, fashion started to rely on the past, continuously bringing back clothing collections from past decades, while every new subculture and genre reinterpreted old trends with a modern/different twist.
Music is an ever-changing animal, and so is fashion: the two will keep on walking towards the future, sometimes together, sometimes in anti-thesis. And that’s cool, isn’t it?
Is fashion a strong element of your style when it comes to showcasing your musical taste?
Let us know with a comment!