It’s almost impossible to envision a world where music and fashion do not go hand in hand. Music affects our lives greatly and speaks volumes to the times we are living in. On August 4th, I attended my first concert post-pandemic, and it was one of the most exhilarating and liberating experiences that I’ve had in years. My teenage daughter and I went to see Green Day and Weezer at the “Hella Mega Tour”, sadly Fall Out Boy had to cancel due to one of its members testing positive for Covid. As soon as I walked into the stadium, I noticed that the punk movement is alive and well in NYC and Green Day fans at every age were rocking their leather jackets, colorful hair, corsets and plaid. It was thrilling to see all these teens and adults rocking out and having the best time. So naturally, it inspired this post on how music influences fashion.
The influence music has on fashion has been evident throughout history. Music, much like fashion, has always been used as a way of self-expression and both are also emotional and obtainable forms of art that the masses can enjoy and partake in. Fashion, like music, is one of the clearest signs of the times, and it says more about our culture than we give it credit for. We can easily distinguish the difference between the bell-bottom jean’s hippies wore in 1969 versus the skin-tight denim worn by emo teens in 2005.
The reason why fashion and music became so intricately linked is because music became a method of demonstrating individuality, political beliefs, and ideas rather than just homogenized entertainment. The way music influenced fashion (and vice versa) can be witnessed in almost every decade of last century. The following decades demonstrated how music trends truly affected fashion.
In today’s day and age jazz music may seem squeaky clean and innocent, but it was extremely scandalous during its early years because it was the first form of music that was played almost exclusively at nightclubs and speakeasies that hosted people of all races. Jazz music also tended to have strong feminist undertones, which changed the way women behaved and dressed.
Many women who were fans of jazz music dressed in flapper fashion. These feminists broke out of the traditional roles that society had placed on them and opted instead for short dresses, no bras, and loose clothing that gave them movement and freedom to dance the night away.
1950’s TEEN POP
Despite the impact the Roaring Twenties had on flapper fashion, most fashion houses ignored teens and only catered to adult tastes. Thankfully, this all changed in the 1950s, with advent of television and movies, and of course, as music became more widely available to the public. With the rising visibility of movie stars and rock and roll artists, such as Elvis Presley, a new demand began to arise. Teenagers craved clothes that bore a resemblance to the fashion that their favorite idols wore. The teen market grew to the point that designers no longer could ignore it, and so, the teen fashion industry was born.
The ‘60s were a swinging time in London as a more modern version of jazz began to evolve and the “modernists” movement was born. This ‘60s subculture also embraced the musical styles of ska, R&B, and soul.
The “modernists” embraced the bohemian lifestyle of the ‘50s Beatnik generation, so it came as no surprise that many chose to mimic that look as part of their lifestyle. Eventually, this extremely fashion-conscious clique of clubkids became known as Mods.
By the middle of the ‘60s, the Mod subculture’s brand of beatnik-meets-modern fashion became one of the biggest trends in high fashion history. Even today, both the music and the stylistic aesthetic of Mod fashion continues to be a joyful and youthful source of inspiration for top designers.
While London teens embraced the Mod movement, teens in America had a very different fashion revolution. During the Sixties, many American teenage boys were being drafted to fight during the Vietnam War, and as a result, musicians began to write music that reflected those anti-establishment times.
During this period, many musicians and fans began to experiment with psychedelic drugs like LSD and peyote. As a result, both music and fashion turned trippy, in the form of tie-dye motifs, bold floral prints, crafty accessories, crochet, fringe, and bell bottom jeans among the biggest trends of the time.
Much like Mods, many early punks also enjoyed the musical genre of ska, reggae, and soul. However, this music Punk scene quickly became known for aggressive rock music with just very light ska elements tossed into the mix.
The punk movement quickly evolved to become a social one. Due to punk music’s deep focus on individuality and freedom, many people joined the punk scene as a way to raise their middle finger to the establishment. So their sartorial choices were always been geared towards hand made items like leather jackets, brightly colored hair, piercings and anything that looked different from typical mainstream.
Punk is generally considered to be the first real music subculture out there, with Glam Rock being a close second.
1970’s GLAM ROCK
As special effects during the Seventies were being used in television and films, and Star Wars became one of the first movies to involve so many of these effects, it made sense for musicians to sign on. The ‘70s were one of the first decades that truly embraced science fiction as it became a major focal point in pop culture.
Musicians such as David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and bands like Kiss, began to draw inspiration from sci-fi as they ramped up their showmanship by adding sci-fi “backstories” to their performances, resulting in the birth of Glam Rock.
So, it should come as no surprise that many underground shops began to carry items that fit the Glam Rock aesthetic, although, many people loved the music but didn’t buy into the glam rock fashion movement. As a result, many consider glam rock to be one of the first actual pop subcultures out there.
One of the most eminent spinoffs of glam rock was goth music. Originally, goth music started off as death rock, which is just about as dark and gloomy as one would expect it to be. Death rock progressed into synthpop, new wave, and several other similar genres.
Most of these sullen music genres became tied to quite a few other habits, such as wearing all black, a love of horror movies, pale make-up, dark burgundy lipstick, and just enjoying the darker side of life. Gothic fashion’s beginnings often mimicked the spookier elements with ‘witch-like’ fashion, much like many of Tim Burton’s characters.
In the nineties, a new sound was born out of teenage angst, known as Grunge music. These young, garage band musicians rebelled against their very commercialized way that life of living in suburbia, and the anger they had against the world. Artists like Kurt Cobain ended up venting it via music…and it resonated with a whole generation of teens.
The gritty, unkept look of those style clothing quickly attracted those who liked the music’s edgy appeal. Marc Jacobs was an early adopter of this look. Today, the 90s grunge movement still remains a identifiable fashion trend.
By the late eighties and early nineties, hip-hop exploded and became one of the most popular forms of music. Hip-hop culture was born on the streets of urban neighborhoods like New York, Los Angeles, and Detroit, where rap battles, breakdancing, and turntablism became a way of life for teens.
It was just a matter of time that the influence of hip hop began to spread outside of urban areas and embraced by teens all across America. People began to emulate the fashion of rappers, and by the time that hip hop became mainstream, it became synonymous with a specific style of clothing. Some of the most popular hip hop trends were baggy pants with your underwear logo peaking through, Adidas tracksuits, oversized sports jerseys, bucket hats, bold colors, and plenty of gold chain necklaces.
2010’s EDM: ELECTRIC DANCE MUSIC
During the nineties, the underground world of electronica boomed, as warehouses hosted Radical Audio-Visual Experiences, which would eventually be known as raves. These parties were about promoting Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect through heavy beats, turntable matches, and of course, heavy drug usage.
This underground Electric Dance Music (EDM) movement never really left but in the early 2000’s the rave culture had a resurgence that morphed to include tiny bikinis, glowing wings, UFO pants, and of course, leg fuzzies,
2020’s GENDER-BENDING FASHION
Harry Styles-gender-bending fashionista
As we have now entered a new decade, the 2020s, pop music artists like Dua Lipa, Arianna Grande, Lil Nas and Harry Styles mix music with gender-bending fashion, So stay tuned…….
Pop culture influences music, and music influences fashion. So what type of music and fashion influences you?