Every genre has its style
Trending fashion changes with each season, and permeates all aspects of music, art, and culture. But every music genre has its own taste
Nearly 30 years later, an outfit consisting of converse, Levis, and an unbuttoned flannel layered over a t-shirt will be associated with Seattle’s grunge era. Fans of Nirvana continue to wear the look made famous by Kurt Cobain.
While fashion trends cycle through each season, specific styles retain key elements as time passes. Certain color palettes may remain, or a specific cut of t-shirt or accent in accessories will turn into a wardrobe staple.
Oftentimes, fashion styles will vary between groups of people. Friends with similar tastes may trade clothing items or go shopping together to help find new outfits. Artists may also find themselves befriending those who have similar styles to their own, oftentimes finding inspiration from one another.
Subcultures between music genres also gets reflected in clothing. Grunge’s now-legendary look saw a resurgence in the mid-2010s as Tumblr teens rediscovered bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam. Plaid pants and dark jeans continue to reign supreme among punk rockers who decorate their jackets with bottle caps and messily-sewn patches. Rappers don baggy jeans and layers of chains. Pop stars consume bright and glitzy colors.
Fashion houses themselves have made ultra-famous musicians the faces of their brands. Billie Eilish dresses in Gucci on red carpets, Miley Cyrus basks in Channel, Olivia Rodrigo posts pictures in vintage Jean-Paul Gaultier.
As fashion evolves throughout the years, so does music. Listening to different artists evokes certain imagery. But while bands carefully curate their personal look, it is not uncommon for them to have a similar style to that of their peers.
Psychedelic music brought on experimental tie-dye colors and flowing shawls decorated with glimmering beads. Disco experimented with polyester and satin, flared pants created for musicians and audiences to dance the night away. Punk fashion was established by Vivienne Westwood as the Sex Pistols strut around King’s Road in Chelsea, London. The two art forms find themselves consistently going hand-in-hand.
From a branding standpoint, the pairing makes sense. Commercials and fashion shows often feature music as an accent to what is being worn. Musicians want to curate certain looks that can be connected to their personal brand. The relationship is mutually beneficial for fashion houses and artists as they promote one another.
Over the course of the past 60 years, the two have become even closer. What first began as bands plastering their logo on tees has now seen artists becoming designers themselves. Rihanna pours her focus into Fenty, Kanye West generated a billion dollars with Yeezy, and Beyoncé established IVY PARK. In the age of streaming services, artists tend to generate more revenue from merchandising than they do from their own songs.
Tyler, the Creator, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Drake, and more have dropped limited edition clothing items to promote their tours, the items available at each show. Billie Eilish once teamed up with Urban Outfitters for an exclusive clothing line. Artists will launch pop-up shops where they premier music and sell their merchandise.
Changes in sound and artistic direction bring around new styles. Miley Cyrus’ shift into rock music was teased as she dressed in leather pants and a tight black tank during her 2019 set at Glastonbury. Singing covers of Led Zeppelin and Metallica, she embodied the sounds and style of 1970s rock and roll. Harry Styles cites Prince, David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Freddie Mercury, and Elton John as artistic influences, his music and fashion reflecting them clearly.
Fashion designers also select specific artists to act as muses for new lines. Gucci’s Alessandro Michele looks to Harry Styles. Alexander Wang invites his favorite musicians to sit in the front row during his fashion shows and has had Courtney Love, Ludacris, and Bauuer perform for after-parties and runways. Wang himself acknowledges the significant relationship between the two artistic modes, the designer once stating,
“In fashion, the biggest movements that I feel connected to have always been from music, whether it’s grunge, punk, glam rock, hip-hop.”
As rap blended with rock music, punk fashion came into play. Street fashion switched from slick hoodies and baggy pants to jean jackets and dark band tees. Alternative and indie music returned to mainstream audiences, along with its alt fashion filled with black platform boots and short plaid skirts.
Walk into a music festival, and audiences will be dressed in similar styles to whatever artist they came to see. Experimental bass music that pulls on psychedelic influences can find cascades of color and Grateful Dead t-shirts. Punk rock clubs tucked away in corners of bustling cities are filled with teenagers still stitching their own jackets and dancing in Doc Martins.
While fashion trends fall in and out of style in cycles, so do certain sounds. Disco ruminated for decades, its glitzy fashion trends becoming something made for a good cringe-worthy laugh up until its resurgence over the past year. Dua Lipa, The Weeknd, Lady Gaga, and Tame Impala all released disco albums in 2020, their clothing bringing back the styles of the old neon dancefloors.
The intrinsic link between fashion and music manages to amplify both forms of art. The relationship between the two allows for strangers on the street to befriend one another upon seeing what another is wearing. Subcultures form to create communities filled with like-minded people, embracing both artists and admirers.