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Imonation | How music has influenced the fashion industry
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21 Jan How music has influenced the fashion industry

Fashion is a sign of the times. It is a reflection of the era we are living in, and deserves more credit than it is given. Just as music influences fashion, fashion influences music. Over the past couple of decades, the two art forms have become intrinsically linked to one another.

Most musicians dress based on their genre. When music meets the latest trend or links with a designer, the accumulation of influence and creation of identity is a strong force.

The 60s was the time where all music genres flourished. Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, to name a few, were international sensations that were worshipped by all. Turtlenecks, knee high skirts, fitted bodices, trouser suits and sleeveless gowns were the uniform of the nations.

The ‘Beatle Mania’ had a huge impact on London. The style capital and its designers took the musical icons as inspiration and clothed the Brits in outfits to fuel the ‘Mod’ movement. The kids that combined their classic taste with their music choice created a fashion movement that had their peers attempting to emulate their style. Cheap suits, Cuban-heeled boots and shaggy haircuts named ‘mop-tops’ were the first step into grasping rock’n’roll.

Photo by Mick Rock via Dazed Magazine

The 70s era was focused on using technology to make everything bigger and better. The effect was the creation of the first movie franchise that utilised all special effects ‘Star Wars’, which led to science fiction becoming a focal point in pop culture. The result of this new wave had musicians updating their showmanship to add a touch of ‘sci-fi’ as music now became visually appealing.

Glam Rock was born and ruled by David Bowie, whose eccentric red hair and brave, bold fashion choices moulded him into an icon. The flamboyant clothing of the performers in this era were often androgynous and did not abide to traditional gender roles, take the Cockettes and Alice Cooper as an example.

The Cockettes, courtesy of

It was the start of acceptance – as the UK legalised same sex activity in 1967- and diversity was spreading. At the core of Glam Rock, the rejection of the previous darker rock scene and the glorification of materialistic decadence was key. The combination of make-up, platform shoes, bright colours and glitter were the manifesto of the time.

Photo by Gunter W Kienitz/REX (94415b), via Music Musings

Arguably one of the most eccentric eras were the 80s. Every fashion rule was broken, torn apart and stamped on. Shoulder pads, stilettos and sweatbands were at the forefront of wardrobes.

The New Romantic pop culture movement emerged out of the depths of the nightclub scene and was popularized by its flamboyant fashion. The press often referred to the followers as ‘Blitz Kids’ and ‘Romantic Rebels’. The name evolved from the reference to early Romanticism from the frilly fop shirts that many wore. Music acts like Boy George and Visage didn’t just adopt the style of the movement but it crept into their music, which hailed them by the press as the founders.

Adam and the Ants by Allan Ballard, 1981

The early 80s was dominated by Adam Ant. His unique combination of clothing let him change his visual persona regularly, from punk and military-esque looks to shiny pink cowboy suits – and no look was finished without eyeliner.

Courtesy of RedFerns

Prince. Uncensored, bold and wild, the musician that stretched the dynamic to the extreme. Animal prints, velvets, golds and purple were among the bold fashion choices in his repertoire. His approach to fashion was playful with thigh-high boots, high heels and leotards being among the array of items he used to express himself on stage.

Courtesy of KMazur / Contributor / Getty Images, via

Vintage grunge and hip-hop were all the craze in the 90s. Kurt Cobain and his bleached blonde hair were equally as popular as Tupac and MC Hammer who made sagging trousers, oversized t-shirts and gold chains the craze of the mainstream.

Teenage angst was a thing. Many artists of the time had pent up anger that they translated into their music, resonating with many. The ‘unkempt’ look on stage caught on through its edgy appeal to Generation X. Courtney Love was equally as influential with tiaras, slip dresses, ripped tights and Mary Janes becoming the statement look of the “kinderwhore”.

Image courtesy of WikiCommons, via

New York, Los Angeles and Detroit spiked the popularity of the hip-hop culture in urban environments. Rap battles and dancing became the new mode of communicating feelings, messages and social injustices. Halter neck tops, crop tops, tube skirts, jelly shoes and tracksuits became the armour of this subculture. Aaliyah was a symbol of this attire refreshing her signature Tommy Hilfiger tomboy style with an element of sex appeal.

Another manifestation was the gangster fashion, the trend that was heavily influenced by the prohibition of gangsters in the 20’s. Snoop Dogg, Diddy and Tupac were fans of the double-breasted suits, silk shirts and alligator textured shoes. Another fan was Notorious B.I.G. who sported three piece suits on stage.

Photo by Kevin Mazur Archive/WireImag

Around 1995, the baggy jeans were stored away and rappers developed a taste for designer clothing and accessories – the beginnings of a more glamourous hip-hop scene.

Significant unions between musicians and designers have altered fashion’s course. An unforgettable moment was Jean Paul Gaultier’s cone-bra corset made exclusively for Madonna during her Blonde Ambition tour. The trend for less clothing and visible underwear stemmed from this moment and washed itself into the mainstream. Grace Jones and Jean-Paul Goude collaboration during the 1980s dominated music videos and advertising by rendering her body into a fashion object. Not to mention, her hair cut known as a “high top” was copied by the young black youth evolving into a widespread trend. Both these moments have become reference points for interpretation, even today.

Music will always be felt in the fashion industry. It is the back drop to all fashion shows and plays a part in its presentation to the world.

The introduction of music videos was a milestone that enhanced the link between the two medians as musicians were now seen by the masses through the media. The launch of MTV in 1981 placed artists on a pedestal where they became household names that the youth wanted to imitate. Though you may not have the same talent or stardom, you can wear the same clothes.

Fashion more now than ever is an important part of music and its portrayal, and its influence is only growing. The reference to designers in lyrics is now a common theme, directly binding the two and emphasising its importance. Both are fully aware of their influence on the other, and their future only sees this bond becoming stronger and closer.

– I


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