It’s an ancient and pervasive idea that music reflects emotion. It’s also an accepted fact that popular musicians have an unparalleled affect on the world at large. In hindsight, the examples are infinite. From Madonna and Kurt Cobain to Bob Marley and the Sex Pistols, it doesn’t take long to think of moments when fashion and music have come together to produce something iconic and change the cultural landscape forever. We take a look at five of the most memorable crossovers from the past five decades.
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana Bring Grunge to the Forefront
A musical legend, Kurt Cobain was part of a movement that revolutionized the 1990s – he was at the center of grunge. You could even argue that the entire style movement was born from his Seattle thrift-store finds, lumberjack workwear and feminine floral dresses. His personal style matched that of the approach he had to his music and lyrics: Fuck ’em. This carefree attitude is what started the universal and inescapable truth – nothing looks cooler than not giving a fuck.
It’s not just fans of Cobain mimicking his style, however, as Marc Jacobs was among the first to bring the grunge trend to the designer world, when he showcased his infamous collection for Perry Ellis in 1992. Two decades later, this trend remains in the American designer’s work. Hedi Slimane’s Fall/Winter 2013 collection for Saint Laurent could even be seen as an ode to Cobain and grunge. Included in the seasonal offerings were ragged plaid shirts, mohair jumpers and faux-fur coats that could have come straight out of the late Seattle musician’s wardrobe.
Among many things, Kurt Cobain inspired many to wear their rebellion; be it through shirts, dresses or jeans. It’s no surprise that his style still continues to inspire designers, music and fashion lovers today.
Madonna Makes Disheveled Sexy
There’s no doubt Madonna has had a steady and successful career. Her style, however, has been less consistent. Amidst some of her more questionable choices, there were plenty of memorable moments. Her most iconic, however, belongs to her early ’80s music video look. Adorned with religious necklaces, hoop earrings, hair bows and lace, nearly every young on-trend teenage girl throughout the decade mimicked this look, and there are still traits of it present in fashion today. Girls wanting to relive the style today replicate her famous white-lace bridal ensemble she wore at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1984 year after year at Halloween and themed costume parties.
She’s not only set fashion trends, however, she’s also boosted the careers of up-and-coming designers. With a backlog of magazine covers and editorial shoots, her ability to continuously transform her look has kept her relevant in the fashion world, with many anticipating her next reinvention.
Bob Marley Successfully Re-appropriates the M-65 Military Jacket
Besides spreading the message of one love, Bob Marley also influenced many with his laid-back style, consisting of fitted button-up oxford tops, black sunglasses, bell-bottom jeans, military jackets, slouch hats and comfortable sneakers.
Before Bob Marley, military garb belonged to the realms of war veterans, dictators and revolutionaries. Through conscious re-appropriation, however, Marley took the M-65 jacket and flipped its original purpose completely around, occupying its front pockets with illicit substances instead of ammunition. In addition, the revered Jamaican also unknowingly helped out adidas by wearing a handful of their sneaker models over the course of his career and making tracksuits stylish years before rappers and hip-hop artists jumped on the bandwagon.
Biggie Smalls Merges Streetwear and High Fashion
The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, Christopher Wallace, however you remember him, one thing we can be sure of is that he’s still influencing fashion and hip-hop culture over a decade after his untimely death. Known for his groundbreaking music and being at the forefront of the scene meant his ability to dress was oftentimes overshadowed.
His lyrics were filled with references to various designer clothes and accessories, from multihued COOGI sweaters and BAPE jackets, which helped spearhead a colorful trend in streetwear brands, to head-to-toe Versace. Fans went crazy trying to find his limited edition Versace sunglasses – worn in the video for “Hypnotize” – while Lady Gaga can still be seen sporting them today.
There’s dozens of things to be said about Biggie Smalls, including how far ahead of his time he was in terms of style. Starting with his custom-made Versace silk shirts and Timberland construction boots, then moving on to Kangol hats and Clarks Wallabee shoes, Biggie and his stylist Groovey Lew, created a movement in the hip-hop fashion scene which still exists today.
Sex Pistols Bring Punk to the Masses
When the Sex Pistols joined the punk scene in 1976, their spitting anarchist anthems were the antithesis of high fashion. This was also apparent in their style, which often exhibited signs of rebellion and aggression in slogans or artworks. A lot of their clothes were second-hand clothing, this statement in itself helped to portray the anti-consumerist message they were so keen to reveal. Theirs was a very DIY approach to life. Managed by Malcolm McLaren and with uniforms made by Vivienne Westwood, the Sex Pistols were at the forefront of the punk movement.
Today, the Sex Pistols style continues to be a source of inspiration for ready-to-wear designers like COMME des GARCONS’ Rei Kawakubo, Balenciaga and Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci. The safety pin embellishment has been reinterpreted time and time again, most notably by Gianni Versace. It has become part of the fashion backbone. Rips, tears and fabric deconstruction are also considered trademarks of labels like Rodarte. Nearly every season there is notes of punk influence on the catwalk and this doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.
Holly Ladd for Highsnobiety.com