From Bowie’s Haus To Our House
From left: Messrs Trevor Bolder, David Bowie and Mick Ronson performing “Lift Off”, 1972 Rex Features
How grunge, glam and other movements evolved from the recording studio to today’s runways.
“They seek him here, they seek him there,” sang The Kinks in 1966. “His clothes are loud, but never square.” And the chances are that, over the past half-century or so, the band’s “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” will have taken his sartorial cue from any number of musical style icons. It seems that for every musical reference added to the style glossary, there is a moment of inception, a moment when a band’s look influences a designer, and then a current-day echo. We explore the fertile cross-pollination between music and menswear, from the artist-trendsetters to the designer-disseminators, and today’s brands which are keeping the faith by giving the original vision a modern twist. Read on and you’ll never be caught out when some trendier-than-thou acquaintance starts tossing around the buzzwords.
From left: The Small Faces’ Messrs Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Jimmy Winston and Kenny Jones, 1965; Thom Browne fall/ winter 2013 collection, 2012; Tom Ford autumn/ winter 2015 collection, 2014 © National Portrait Gallery, London; Pierre Verdy/ AFP/ Getty Images; Tom Ford
“Mod was a sleek, sophisticated look, influenced equally by American jazz, the French Nouvelle Vague, Italian élan and British pop art,” wrote Mr George Melly. That meant fitted suits, Sta-Prest shirts, knitted ties, merino wool jumpers and, in the case of The Small Faces, vividly striped blazers and white chinos. The group’s sartorial choices would reflect the mod’s growing flirtation with psychedelia.
Mr Thom Browne boiled down the mod aesthetic – the razor-sharp creases, the shrunken, ankle-skimming fit – for the skinny suits that have been the bedrock of his brand since its launch in 2001. But he’s gone where psychedelia feared to tread for some of his most outré catwalk presentations – the linebacker shoulders and Ms Jean Brodie skirts for autumn/ winter 2012, or the models dressed like life-size Slinkies for spring/ summer 2013.
Mr Tom Ford’s autumn/ winter 2015 collection presents an opulent vision of modern-day mod: double-breasted hound’s-tooth coats; brushed cotton army jackets; and strobing Ms Bridget Riley-esque op-art tuxedos. At its debut in January, the models lined up nonchalantly in front of a white studio set-up, like a living photograph by Mr David Bailey – another nod to Swinging London.
The band Buffalo Springfield, 1970; The Teardrop Explodes, 1981; Saint Laurent spring/ summer 2015 show, 2014 Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty Images; Ebet Roberts/ Redferns/ Getty Images; catwalking.com
“Stop, hey, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down,” sang Buffalo Springfield on “For What it’s Worth” in 1967, as the Summer of Love curdled at its edges, with war raging and flower-child idealism giving way to paranoia. The band and their Laurel Canyon peers gave voice to the times, and embodied its militant-hippie look – buckskin jackets, paisley shirts, beaded tunics and leather waistcoats.
A mini Laurel Canyon bubbled up in Liverpool in the mid-1980s, spearheaded by Echo & the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes, who gave the look an indie spin: chunky army jumpers and Snoopy flying jackets, or sheepskin-collared greatcoats and leather trousers with puttees. Across the pond, Mr John Varvatos purveyed updated Canyon looks – bandsman jackets, kerchiefs, patterned Henleys – among his smorgasbord of rock’n’roll stylings.
Consummate music lover Mr Hedi Slimane – who made Laurel Canyon godmother Ms Joni Mitchell the face of his spring 2015 Saint Laurent ad campaign – went the full Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for his spring 2015 show, the theme of which – “psych rock’s new rising” – was fleshed out with snakeskin jackets, fur gilets, embroidered waistcoats and guardsman tunics.
Mr Kurt Cobain, 1993; Ms Christy Turlington, 1993; Marc Jacobs autumn/ winter 2015 collection, 2014 © Jesse Frohman; Condé Nast Archive/ Corbis; Marc Jacobs
When Mr Kurt Cobain, self-proclaimed feminist and honorary Riot Grrrl, pulled together a look that gleefully plundered both the men’s and women’s racks of Seattle’s thrift stores – lumberjack workwear over a floral dress, or a cheetah-print coat and feather boa – he kick-started a 1990s cultural movement that proved the dishevelled antithesis to the previous decade’s high-gloss, hard-body sheen.
Mr Marc Jacobs took grunge mainstream with his womenswear collection for Perry Ellis in 1992 – all flannel shirts and crocheted skullcaps. It got him fired shortly thereafter. Mr Steven Meisel then nodded to the look in a US Vogue shoot the following December, posing male and female models in interchangeable outfits. A dubious Ms Anna Wintour was persuaded not to spike the story, and the rest is grandpa-cardigan, grubby-Converse history.
In a pleasing-circularity kind of way – more than 20 years after his career-making-and-almost-breaking womenswear collection for Perry Ellis – Mr Jacobs is returning to the fray for his autumn/ winter 2015 menswear collection. Oversize coats and cardigan sweaters are tied over leopard-print shirts and plaid trousers, topped with vertiginous beanies. Smells like grown-up slacker spirit.
From left: Messrs Bowie and Ronson perform “Lift Off”, 1972; From left: Roxy Music’s Messrs Phil Manzanera, Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay, Brian Eno, Rik Kenton and Paul Thompson, 1972; Maison Margiela autumn/ winter 2015 collection, 2014 Rex Features; Brian Cooke/ Redferns/ Getty Images; Chris Moore/ catwalking.com
Glam was officially inaugurated on 6 July 1972, when Mr David Bowie performed “Starman” – a late addition to the Ziggy Stardust album – on Top of the Pops. Mr Bowie’s extraterrestrial trappings – spray-on rainbow jumpsuit designed by Mr Freddie Burrett, gold pixie boots, arm draped limply around guitarist Mr Mick Ronson – inspired a generation to shed the last vestiges of their post-war strait laces.
Mr Antony Price took glam’s peacock-ery and made it “haute”, whether selling “clothes for studs and starlets” from his Plaza shop on the King’s Road (including “arse pants”, which liberated the male anatomy from gravity’s depredations) or styling Roxy Music in bolero jackets and leopard-print leggings. Not incidentally, this paved the way for the frills and flounces of the New Romantics to enter into the bargain.
Maison Margiela’s autumn/ winter 2015 collection references glam specifically, with tinsel-like metallic knits, high-waisted flares, wide-collared, open-neck shirts and shiny purple plunge V-neck sweaters that any self-respecting Starman would covet. The zigzag print boots, meanwhile, look as if they’ve been snatched directly from the wardrobe of Mr Stardust himself. Let all the children boogie!
Mr Sid Vicious, 1977; Mr Jean Paul Gaultier, 1992; McQ Alexander McQueen autumn/ winter 2015 collection, 2014 Mirrorpix; Rose Hartman/ Getty Images; courtesy Alexander McQueen
Set in train by Mr Malcolm McLaren and Ms Vivienne Westwood, a couple of inspired haberdashers, punk style has enjoyed a longevity unmatched by its musical offerings, perhaps because so much raw material fed into its rip-it-up-and-start-again aesthetic, from Edwardian dandies to 1950s teddy boys and greasers. Mr McLaren’s charges, the Sex Pistols, wore it all in their heyday, and wore it best.
Back in the days when Mr Jean Paul Gaultier could justifiably be deemed an enfant terrible, he took DIY styles he saw on the London streets and sold them back as high fashion. From Mr Gaultier’s first menswear collection, L’Homme-Objet (“boy toy”) in 1983, the elements were all there – bondage straps, frayed seams and, of course, kilts. He even presented a garbage bag as a garment, an innovation that Mr Johnny Rotten himself had pioneered.
The house of Mr Alexander McQueen has consistently kept faith with the punk vision, from its f****d-up tartans to its skull prints and slashed shirts. The McQ autumn/ winter 2015 collection pays explicit homage to the abrasive movement with its bezipped biker jackets, studded belts and bondage-style camouflage skirts and culottes. As the Sex Pistols (almost) sang: “God Save McQueen!”.
Mr Afrika Bambaataa, 2011; From left: the Notorious B.I.G. and Mr Sean Combs; Givenchy spring/ summer 2015 show, 2014 Mauro Pimentel/ LatinContent/ Getty Images; LFI; Chris Moore/ catwalking.com
Mr Afrika Bambaataa is lionised as the godfather of hip-hop style, thanks to his genre-defining electro-funk, his two-turntables-and-a-microphone dexterity, and – not least – his ability to carry off an eye-boggling selection of Afro-delic prints.
By the late 1980s/ early 1990s, hip-hop and high fashion were engaged in an intense sample-off; Mr Isaac Mizrahi was designing collections inspired by his elevator operator – all gold chains and quilted satin – and declaiming that “the most stylish people are the homeboys”, while rap potentates such as Messrs Sean Combs and Biggie Smalls proved his point by co-opting the never-knowingly-inconspicuous rococo-print silk shirts of Mr Gianni Versace.
Mr Riccardo Tisci’s spring/ summer 2015 Givenchy collection gives the full-body print a digital/ Goth/ ecclesiastical spin. Meanwhile, the hip-hop elite returns the favour with designer collaborations (louche denim from Kanye-A.P.C., bright tracksuit tops from Pharrell-adidas), and, in the case of the West-Kardashian dynasty, commandeering the front rows from Paris to New York. Planet Rock and Planet Fashion are one.