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Men's Fall Fashion Issue | Cover Story

Pop Life

September 08, 2002|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA

From the British Invasion of the '60s to Current Hip-Hop Culture, Music and Fashion Have Been Inseparable. Then MTV's Influence on the American Wardrobe Took the Relationship Between Fashion and Music to a Whole New Level. In the Pages That Follow, We Check In With Three Grammy-Winning Trendsetters Who Make Mainstream Fashion Work on an Individual Level and Trace the Garage Band Phenomenom that Could Only Happen in Los Angeles


Here I stand in front of my bedroom mirror, shamelessly posturing. I pump my puny arms for the umpteenth time, reminding myself that lifting dumbbells will get me closer to my goal: the roller-coaster biceps exposed in those sleeveless shirts that seem to be the rage of rock gods. I, too, want that flex-and-the city-look a la Lenny Kravitz, Enrique Iglesias and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. So, like a human oil rig, I pump.

I've cruised this rock fashion road before, the place where music and style converge. I was too young to look like a Beatle. I passed on Spandex and glitter rock, and I didn't indulge in hip-hop. But in between those musical genres and looks, I've rocked 'n' rolled in clothing that was influenced by the stars onstage.

In the '90s, with a bandanna-wrapped forehead, I grunged my way to Nirvana land in mismatched clothing anchored by lumberjack plaid flannel shirts. In the '80s, I tried out new wave and punk alternative looks: I spiked my rainbow-colored hair, wore wild sunglasses at night and deconstructed thrift store finds, perfect for the B-52's spastic rock lobster. I copied the Che Guevara beret-wearing looks of the Thompson Twins and the Clash. I stole wardrobe tips from Boy George (baggy geisha coats), Adam Ant (drum major ensembles), Billy Idol (bad boy leather) and Michael Jackson (a ''Thriller'' V-shaped zippered jacket, high-water trousers, a sequined glove) and created my own style.

Nothing captured my fashion fancy like the touch, the feel, the industrial grip of polyester, circa 1977, when the disco beat came into full bloom with the release of ''Saturday Night Fever.'' I'm not afraid to confess to shamelessly freaking with Chic or getting down with KC & the Sunshine Band or taking my cues from the Bee Gees in petroleum-based, body-hugging Qiana shirts and shiny slacks that coiled around my hairless physique.

''Music and fashion are definitely intertwined and have been for a very long time,'' says Marshal Cohen, co-president of NPDFashionworld, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based company that tracks apparel industry trends. ''It used to be that fashion influenced music tremendously.'' Now, ''because fashion is looking for a direction and trends to hang its hat on,'' the music industry is the dominant cultural influence.

''A lot of today's fashion leaders are looking at things they see, especially in music videos, for inspiration.''

What do they see? ''Rap and hip-hop artists walking around in baseball jerseys and track pants,'' Cohen says about the street trends generated from the world of music and worn by both sexes ''because music is genderless and fashion is theater.''

Tom Julian, an analyst with New York-based Fallon Worldwide, an advertising and trend-tracking agency, agrees that music has a powerful influence on fashion. Young people ''take their cues from their music heroes.'' Consider Britney Spears' midriff-baring, low-rise outfits, the sexy, form-fitting shirts and leather pants worn by Kravitz and, more recently, the '70s-inspired tunics recently seen on rapper Ja Rule.

''The fashion of music all trickles down eventually,'' says Julian, especially the fashion of music television. Indeed, this fall, MTV--with its video programming and youth magnet shows such as "TRL," "Cribs," "Undressed" and "The Osbournes"--is indisputably the Home Shopping Network for fashion cloning.

Of course, the relationship between rock and fashion was fixed long before anyone even dreamed of a 24-hour music video channel.

''The big-time connection between fashion and music really kicked in when the Beatles hit America,'' says David Wolfe, creative director of New York-based the Doneger Group, a fashion trend consulting firm. ''They represented so much fashion style with their Liverpool cool look'' that included lapel-free Pierre Cardin-like suits, silk ties, button-down shirts and shaggy hair. Even their girlfriends, in their Mary Quant miniskirts, became trendsetters.

Vogue magazine dubbed the British pop culture invasion the "youth quake," and Americans loved it. We embraced the looks that were fueled by Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy and others. The styles soon were reinterpreted by designers such as Cardin and Andre Courreges, who offered mini dresses with mid-calf boots--that were in turn knocked off by go-go boot-clad teenagers in the '60s versions of music television: ''Hullabaloo'' and ''Shindig.''

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