Sam Norton

A&E Editor Emeritus


For many of us, it is not enough to just listen to music; sometimes we want to embody it. In present day society, music has served not only as an outlet for some, but it has also contributed to an unofficial dress code that we see on a daily basis by being a source of inspiration for the way we dress.

It is not just the genre of music that has an influence over fashion, but rather the celebrities that are wearing the clothes.

They also have a role in dictating the trends among the fashion industry.

It all started with funk in the 1960s with James Brown. According to the book, “100 Ideas That Changed Fashion,” by Harriet Worsley, “The roots of funk dressing lie in the black ghettoes of America, where the successful wore highly flamboyant clothes to advertise their riches in their own way—one that did not conform to white society’s values.”

This James Brown-sense of attire inspired the close-fitting shirts; flared pants, hats with gold chain bands and gold jewelry—and some of these trends are still alive even after the ’60s.

“The funk dress code was all about sex and money,” Worsley explains, “For the girls, the funk look was about showing off a body both beautiful and provocative in high platform shoes and slinky dresses or flares.”

But while this look was more popular among urban African-Americans during the ’60s, the platform shoes and slinky dresses are still present in history today—showing that the power of music is more than just a beat to strum your fingers to.

However, music such as funk not only inspired fashion trends, but also inspired the fashion choices of other infamous musicians, particularly David Bowie and Gary Glitter.

“Funk, together with the psychedelic movement, went on to inspire the glam looks adopted by David Bowie and Gary Glitter at the end of the decade,” Worsley states.

This style that we now refer to as “glam” was a chance for the men to adopt similar fashion staples of women.

It was the one place where gender didn’t determine what you could and could not wear—it helped society redefine what it meant to be “masculine.”

“In the 1970s glam rock gave men a chance to dress up like women and flaunt their finery and feathers. With its glitter suits, make-up, and heels, this was one of the few times during the twentieth century that fashion challenged preconceived notions of masculinity,” Worsley said.

David Bowie and Mick Jagger were at the forefront of developing this change in fashion.

During his performance in London’s Hyde Park in 1969, Jagger took the stage in a leather choker embellished with studs, a frilled tunic top and white flared pants, while David Bowie dyed his hair in bright colors and was known for his eccentric stage make-up.

“These gender-based glam kids were paving the way for the pinks and the New Romantics, and glam-metal bands such as Poison and Twisted Sister, who were to continue the party by celebrating artifice, make-up, and dressing up for both sexes,” Worsley explains.

But not all of these fashion trends set by music are still prominent in our society— some of them are reflective of who we once were.

“Punk was a surprisingly short-lived cultural phenomenon but it had a major impact, particularly in Britain, and spread to New York, Sydney, and around the world.

When punk first exploded onto the streets in the 1970s, many people were shocked by the appearance of these disaffected youths. Who were these kids with their heavy make-up, tattered clothes, and offensive slogans?”

This fashion trend included leather, rubber, PVC, and slashed, painted, studded, and chained clothing.

But even though this punk trend is not present among society, it helped challenge stereotypes and define gender and beauty—like Jagger and Bowie once did through the clothing they chose to wear.

Even though music inspired fashion trends during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s—it is the celebrities who wear the clothes now that inspire what we wear today.

Our obsession with who is wearing what is reflective in our culture as we try to emulate our favorite pop star’s sense of style. Maybe this is because we are constantly exposed to what they are wearing through tabloids and magazines—or maybe celebrities have taken music’s place as the main source of inspiration for fashion because they are the ones now making the clothes.

But even though the trends found during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s may not be popular among modern-day society, our current fashion is reminiscent of the funk, glam and punk styles.

“Post-1990s hip hop stars such as Lil’ Kim have popularized a high-glam look, and numerous hip hop performers have launched their own fashion brands, notably Kimora Lee Simmons with Baby Phat, Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Combs with designer label Sean John, and Russell Simmons with Phat Farm,” Worsley explains.

But celebrities presence among the fashion world does not stop with hip hop-inspired labels.

“When the pop diva Mariah Carey cut the waistband off of her jeans, millions of adoring fans followed—what better way to show off a trim midriff and bejeweled navel?

Pop princess Gwen Stefani became known for her kookie image, and went further than most by launching her own high-fashion label L.A.M.B. in 2003,” Worsley said.  No matter what the inspiration—whether it be funk, glam, punk, hip hop or even pop—music’s influence over the fashion world can still be seen today through the clothes we decide to wear and will continue to wear.

While this music fashion trend started with funk, it has grown into an entity of its own today and will continue to grow and influence society.



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