Reflecting on Iconic Rock Fashion Through the Decades

If you’ve ever worn platform booties, you probably want to thank David Bowie.

Our generation owes him a debt of gratitude for helping popularize those platforms. In fact, you may have quite a few ‘thank you’s’ to hand out for the trends musical icons like Bowie pioneered.

Many had styles almost as culturally significant and impactful as the music that delivered them to fame. Their looks helped outfit generations and often ended up transcending them. Elements of their styles bled through the paper barriers of the decades and influence runways, chain stores and streetwear to this day.

Much of our modern bohemian style can be credited to the musical artists of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Long, flowing tresses of hair that we take for granted today were once considered sloppy and inappropriate. Yet early advocates of the style, like Janis Joplin and John Lennon, helped normalize the look.

Loose-fitting and bell-sleeved blouses were a hallmark of Jimi Hendrix’s style, at once both a part of and inspired by the free-spirited nature of the counterculture movement. Your cute-but-casual blouses are surely descendants of the volume-heavy tops favored by such artists.

The ease of the time period and its artists starkly contrasted the constructive social and sartorial rules of the preceding generation, and ushered in the new style archetype of the bohemian.

The mid to late ‘70s saw completely new and influential fashion icons emerge, many of whom made lasting impressions of the fashion scene. Genres such as rock, punk and disco each offered up their own unique clothing perspectives.

David Bowie, a master of identity creation and evolution, challenged social norms with his androgynous, non-gender conforming looks and theatrical approach to makeup, hair and accessorizing.

His celestial influences clearly manifest themselves in today’s fashion path makers’ designs. Tom Ford’s return to NYFW was announced with the blasting of Bowie’s “Fame,” and Gucci sent models down the catwalk in sparkling space dust and neon lightning bolts.

Punk groups like the Ramones fed off of and into the subversive normcore culture that their fan base claimed as their own. Leather jackets, choppy haircuts and plain tee shirts were their sartorial calling cards. The ringer tees and distressed mom jeans sported by the Instagram glam-girls of today more than likely have roots in the understated rebellion of punk bands like the Ramones.

A particularly timely decade of music’s love affair with fashion is the ‘80s. We are in the midst of somewhat of an ‘80s revival, with power suits, strong shoulders and experimentally-proportioned pieces dominating the recent fashion weeks.

Prince and Rick James played with such silhouettes, and modern artists such as Lady Gaga have taken inspiration (and shoulder pads) from the decade to new heights.

And who can deny the influence of the ‘90s on our current fashion obsessions? The Spice Girls in their micro-minis and punchy prints echo across the wardrobes of fashion followers and innovators alike.

More subtle styles defined by gritty flannels and hipster aesthetics that pop up on college campuses across the nation can attribute their popularization to grunge rockers like Kurt Cobain and Billy Corgan. The fun optimism and dark humor of the almost-millennium is still irresistible only 20 years later, thanks to a handful of innovative and risk-taking artists.

It is often said that fashion is cyclical. To create a fresh and enticing future, fashion often finds itself drawing inspiration from the past. And as it marches on into the unknown, we can take solace in knowing that a few, eternally chic artists have given us a good start.

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