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Music And Fashion

Kimberley Manderson


There’s no doubt about it: image is important when it comes to music. The relationship between music and fashion is a strong one; as a case in point, music icon David Bowie was recently voted ‘Best Dressed Brit’ in BBC History Magazine.

Be it for an upcoming indie band looking for an edge, or a controversial young pop star eager to shed her past (and in some cases most of her clothes), the way a band or artist looks and presents themselves is all part of the package.

By no means a new fad, fashion has followed music and vicé versa for decades. Music even inspires current fashion trend revivals, and in some cases fashion has brought to the forefront something a subculture has been celebrating for years.

The pairing can perhaps be traced back to the 60s and mod culture – though it’s open to interpretation before that. Far from following classic Hollywood glam – what we now call vintage pinups, or the rebellious jeans and white tee combo of the James Deans and Americana kids of the 50s, mod was created in 1960’s London by a new generation of teens. Mod was a subculture, a way of life focusing on fashion and music, originally born out of a working-class love of modern jazz and sharp Italian clothing.

Mod as we know it today can still be traced back to this. While its musical figureheads may be the likes of Paul Weller, The Who and new prodigy Miles Kane, who instead of jazz perform something altogether more rock with an R’n’B tinge, they still dress sharp, often with tailored suits and Chelsea boots. The subculture even inspired Beady Eye/former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher to start his own military-laced fashion line.

Though mod may have been the first subculture and musical movement to inspire and incorporate fashion, it certainly wasn’t the last. An anarchic group of young, poor teenagers in the 1970’s who safety-pinned, embellished and tarnished their clothes were responsible for a fashion trend that is still huge, even this season.

Punk has many claims to its roots, but one thing is sure – the music was the tip of the iceberg for this majorly iconic fashion. Angry, loud music born usually out of a political ideology or issue is what brought punks together, along with their likeminded anti-establishment views. It soon became apparent that the image represented this – from weirdly coloured and wonderfully flamboyant hairdos to the tartan-laced fashion which has been made famous by Vivienne Westwood, the dame of punk herself.

Of course there are many more music-inspired fashion trends around, like early 90s grunge thanks to Kurt Cobain and Co., or Marilyn Manson-esque goth chic, both of which have again been brought to fashion’s forefront over the last year. And it’s not just massive musical movements which can inspire a fashion trend – 12 or so years ago a certain pint-sized pop star donned a pair of gold hotpants, bringing a high street revival to the extremely short shorts. Just over five years ago one woman brought the beehive back, and thanks to Lady Gaga, there’s been increasing demand for everything from wet-look leggings to glitter bralets (though thankfully not meat dresses).

And there are a million more music-inspired trends out there, from glam rock to disco which haven’t even been touched upon. The real rousing question however is: has our relationship with music and fashion changed? And has this been for better or worse?

Starting with subcultures of nomad youths in the first generation of teenagers, finding a collective belonging with music, fashion, vehicles and more seems like a natural progression. From then on into a like-minded ideal, championing a cause through music, with fashion as an afterthought, though definitely still vital to the cause; music, fashion and lifestyle seemed to intertwine effortlessly for decades. But then something changed. Whether it be as a result of our increasing disposable income over the last 15 or so years, or the regurgitation of fashion trends ever present on the catwalk, music no longer necessarily designated or inspired the trends.

Sure, rap and hip-hop are genres home to extremely baggy clothing, indie bands will never be seen without their skinny jeans and those into metal music will favour tank tops and Rapunzel hair. But for the masses, it seems that there is a current fascination to simply have what your idol has, to emulate them as much as possible. Think Pete Doherty’s pork pie hat, Rihanna’s scantily-clad whatever, Beyonce’s black leotard, or anything from the aforementioned Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green label. Is it a coincidence that all these musicians and pop stars sit in the FROW?

One thing is sure though: whether it’s a youth subculture, political or cultural movement, or perhaps fans’ demand to dress like their idols, music and fashion will always have a close relationship. Though let’s all hope Miley Cyrus’ flesh-coloured PVC thing doesn’t take off.