Rock N Roll Outlaws, Music’s Unlikely Fashionistas

What gives Keith Richards his pirate swagger? Why is Debbie Harry queen of cool?

Who is it that deems David Bowie the best dressed rock star ever?

How do you define the rock’n’roll edge?

Bowie was completely out there with his choices, Harry slightly gawky at times, and Keith certainly wasn’t the prettiest Stone.

So why do they inspire so many to replicate their style?

First and foremost it’s all about a devil may care attitude, usually a lack of funds and a whole heap of ingenuity.

One major observation, is that clothes look lived in, never fresh off the rack.

That well worn band t-shirt bought at a gig then never taken off, faded denim, frayed and ripped in just the right places, these are quintessentially the basis of the look.

The rock edge is never contrived, pretenders can be detected a mile away.

Take one look at manufactured pop stars.

Stylists go out of their way to provide that essence of cool, never quite capturing it.

It isn’t easy and not everyone can nail it.

Because it is more than a leather jacket, it’s how you wear that leather jacket.

The fact is, the harder you try the less likely you are to achieve it.

Celebrities crave this kind of cool. Why? Because it sells and it can’t be faked.

Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood were clever enough to tap into pop culture and ride the punk wave.

With their shop on Kings Road, London, they brought anarchic style to the masses. Chrissy Hynde from The Pretenders and Sid Vicious famously worked there.

What I love about that, is a good chunk of society wearing their designs would have never seen the irony. That in itself is at the core of punk, they were clever cats!

Some celebs do possess that je ne se qua.

Take Kate Moss for instance. she is a major style icon, yet she doesn’t employ a stylist and always suits herself. This is part of the reason she is so cool, she doesn’t give two hoots what others think. That’s why it works, she is confident in her skin.

Memories of her and Johnny Depp looking like the king and queen of cool, are hard to erase, a match made in fashion heaven.

When they split, fashionistas went into melt down. Who would be the next rock star Romeo and Juliet? Who could possibly pick up that mantle? I struggle to think who are the successors.

Before them we, had Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg, who just oozed cool. Suede fringing, hip hugging cords and floor skimming coats were apparel du jour. Modern day dilettantes marching to the beat of their own drum.

Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love did the same in the late ’80’s and early “90’s, until Cobain’s sad suicide in 1994.

Their look spawned copy cats all over the world.

Even designer Marc Jacobs spring’93 collection for label Perry Ellis in 1992, was not so much a nod to grunge, as a huge headbang to the Seattle band scene.

His “flannette” shirts were in fact, sand blasted silk and “polyester” dresses, gossamer chiffons, and I’m guessing the boots were bespoke, not a pair of Doc Martens picked up at the disposal store.

I’m sure the kids in the scene who were buying their threads at op shops and K-mart thought the whole thing quite hilarious.

So rock and roll influences can be seen throughout the decades of fashion, and will continue to do so. ‘

The question is, what came first, the chicken or the egg?

Does fashion influence music, or are they a hybrid of society?

CiaoJo Bayley, Fashion Editor, The Culture Concept Circle 2013

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