Style Lessons From The Beastie Boys

November 2018Words by Mr Jim Merrett

The Beastie Boys (from left Messrs Michael “Mike D” Diamond, Adam “MCA” Yauch and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz) outside Stromboli Pizza, New York, 1987. Photograph by Ms Lynn Goldsmith, courtesy of Faber

“Don’t step out of this house if that’s the clothes you’re gonna wear,” exclaims the parental figure in the Beastie Boys’ 1986 hit “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)”. But step out they did. Not only did the three white, Jewish Lower East Side frat-boy punks go on to become unlikely figureheads for the predominantly black and, back then, still emerging New York hip-hop scene – the same year’s Licensed To Ill was the first rap album to reach US number one – but over the next three decades, they repeatedly helped reinvigorate and reinvent the genre. In their own words: “like a bottle of châteauneuf-du-pape/ I’m fine like wine when I start to rap.” And as with a good vintage, they also got better with age.

But it’s not merely rhyming couplets laden with references to obscure American TV shows, popular culture figures and breakfast cereals we have to thank them for. Over the course of their career, the group also provided lessons in how to dress. From the brands to wear (“rock my adidas, never rock Fila”) to where to find the best in men’s clothing (call Paul’s Boutique and ask for Janice – this was before MR PORTER, of course) to where they kept their rhymes (in a LeSportsac bag, apparently).

Now a member down (Mr Adam Yauch, aka MCA, sadly passed away in 2012), the remaining duo (Mr Michael Diamond, aka Mike D, and Mr Adam Horovitz, aka Ad-Rock) decided to call time on the band. As the final word on their career, they’ve compiled Beastie Boys Book, an almanac – or illmanac? – that charts the many stages of the three MCs.