During World War II, everything was rationed – including fabric – and this greatly affected the fashion industry as a whole. Following the end of the war, fabric excess was back, prompting inspirations for new fashion trends. During the 1950s women began to wear free-flowing “balloon” skirts and pretty tops, while men go sleek, comfy and casual with suits and ties, as well as sweaters and cardigan shirts.
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Then with new influences such as the popularity of rock and roll, and films like as Rebel without a Cause starring James Dean, a whole new fashion trend ushered in that primarily aimed at teenagers and young adults. Teen boys in particular began to sport leather jackets, tight denim pants, sneakers and greased-up hairstyles which many of their elders began to consider as gesture of rebellion and non-conformity.
Elvis Presley’s popularity is enduring not just because of his voice and music, but also because of his smart and fun dressing style – he’s got the whole package, so to speak. As he performed his hits such as “Jailhouse Rock,” “All Shook Up” and “Blue Suede Shoes” on stage, he swiveled his hips and wore wide-shouldered jackets and loose free-flowing slacks that went with his “suggestive” gyrations. Whenever he was off the clock, he would go for a more casual style — high-waisted trousers and a striped shirt or a Cuban collared shirt.
Men’s fashion during the 1950s was conservative, mostly consisting of a coat-and-tie ensemble. It was sleek but it could be drab and boring at the same time. But Elvis broke the fashion mold by experimenting different combinations of colors, textures and patterns to create a look that was truly his own – no wonder, young men wanted to copy his style. Truly, Elvis is not only “The King” of rock and roll, but also of fashion. His signature looks never go old; even in the 21st century, many style-conscious men (singers or not) can be still seen sporting the “Elvis look.”
Many people would argue that the greatest moments in fashion history come from the 1960s. After all, many of the prevailing styles of today have their roots in 1960s fashion. Although television was invented earlier, it started to rule during this decade as the “boob tube” had become commonplace in American households. Because of television, many people were now able to watch music artists and groups in the comfort of their homes. They would copy not just their idols’ musical style and onstage mannerisms, but also their sartorial style.
It just came at the right smack when the Beatles made their first major TV appearance at The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 and 73 million people tuned in to watch these four young Liverpudlians charm the American audience. Fans would be enchanted not just by the fresh sound that they brought to American shores – that would be later known as “Merseybeat” or “beat music” — but by their appearance too: tight trousers, pointed boots (which they called “winklepickers”) and most especially their haircut which became popularly known as “Arthur” or “mop top.” Fans quickly wanted to grow their hair long like the Beatles. Exasperated parents saw the new hairstyle as a form of rebellion or disrespect, and they would do anything just to cut their kids’ hair!
The Beatles’ stratospheric rise to fame signaled a phenomenon called the “British Invasion” where bands from the UK such as The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, as well as solo acts like Dusty Springfield and Petula Clark, started to occupy the American charts and airwaves – and the Western fashion scene as well. London quickly became the center not just for pop music but also for fashion and art, and a cultural phenomenon was borne out of the English capital called “Swinging London.” A notable subculture also sprang up in London called “Mod” (short for “modern”) which quickly spread in the United States and elsewhere. “Mod” was mostly focused on the “new” and the innovative, and adherents to this sub-phenomenon typically wore stylish and tailored clothing that featured bright and bold colors, geometric shapes, pastels as well as lots of black and white. Mods had a predilection towards the Vespa. Groups like The Who, The Small Faces and others were the proponents of the Mod fashion, which was quickly adopted by fans across the Atlantic and elsewhere.
But it won’t be long as hippie and psychedelic fashion became prevalent as the 1960s were nearing its end. This is where young people in particular became dissatisfied by the societal norms and values, while others strongly opposed the Vietnam War. But whatever their reason was, they began adopting and embracing the values such as peace and love (and free love as well), and this movement was reflected by the songs during that time. The use of psychedelic drugs became prevalent and this effect extended to the rock and folk songs such as “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles, “Purple Haze” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane, and many others.
Hippie and psychedelic music and fashion quickly became the rage. Hippies favored dresses inspired by non-Western clothing styles such as Native American, Asian, African, and Latin American. Natural and tie-dyed garments, long, full skirts, loose and flowy pants, and clothes with paisley or floral prints became all the “in” thing at the time. In defiance to corporate culture, hippies often made their own garments and accessories such as beads and headbands; they often walked barefoot or with sandals. Men began to grow moustaches and beards, while both men and women started to grow their hair long, leaving them untreated and natural as they had been.
Like in the past decade, music greatly influenced 1970s fashion. The eclectic, free-handed clothing styles of the late 60s fashion continued to dominate well into the early 1970s. While there were still plenty of hippies in the 1970s, the decade is mostly remembered for one thing – disco. Polyester was the hottest clothing material during this decade, alongside corduroy, velour, and white suits. Platform shoes, bell-bottom pants and sequined material also became popular in 70s fashion and are mostly associated with the disco genre.
Despite disco taking the music scene by storm, classic rock wasn’t left behind – in fact, it became popular than ever with the emergence of ace bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Eagles and Queen. Other sub-genres of rock like glam rock, space rock, progressive rock, space rock, heavy metal and punk rock also sprang up, with each of the artists and bands not only brandishing their own sound but also their own stage presence. Most of the band members sported long hair and presented a combination of the laid-back hippies style of the 60s and sartorial sensibilities of the 70s. Flared jeans, velvet trousers, fringed boots, jackets, distressed denim clothing, blazers and Oriental/Native American-inspired jewelry and accessories became the stylistic order of most of the 70s bands. Some front men could even walk in front of their audience half-naked wearing only jeans and perhaps a long necklace on, and still managed to rock the stage.
Most classic rock bands kept things pretty simple and laid-back during their downtime, but whenever they were onstage, it was a totally different story! Some bands like KISS and Alice Cooper even wore garish makeup as part of their on-stage stunts – you won’t recall these bands without mentioning their make-up as it became part of their identity and fame.
David Bowie was also a trendsetter during his time. Like his music, Bowie’s fashion sense continued to evolve throughout his life and career. He was an innovator in fashion as much as he was the same in music. From the androgynous spaceman Ziggy Stardust to his well-dressed, theatrical Thin White Duke persona, his style file mostly reflected the music that he made. Whether that either raised eyebrows or launched trends, there’s no doubt that his style was unique – only his and his alone.
As punk rock became rose to popularity by the mid-1970s (spearheaded by bands such as Ramones and The Sex Pistols), along came punk fashion which was characterized by the negation of anything excessive and pretentious that was typically exhibited by “hair” rock bands of the era (or even mainstream music and culture in general). Sporting unkempt, simple shirt-and-jeans ensemble, and haircuts as short as their songs, the dressed-down look was the characteristic style of punk fashion, although there are some things like jackets and vests that were added with studs and/or logos that expressed their musical preferences or socio-political views.
Among the many other fashion and styles that reflect the many sub-genres of rock, punk rock fashion is probably the most commercialized, with noted designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood and Anna Sui using punk elements in their own clothes.
80s rock fashion is considered by many people as the most outrageous (and ridiculous); it was the era of enormous hairs, mullet hairs, mohawks, Spandex, bandanas, sequined gloves, fingerless biker gloves, tight leather pants, oversized leather jackets, ripped clothing, technicolor denims, and padded-shouldered blazers. If you had been a member of the any of the 80s bands and wore any of these things mentioned earlier, then you were considered a cool and bad-ass rocker.