The coats hats and boots of the world’s most stylish rockers steer fashion trends for the masses.
Here we take a look at some of rock’s most snappy dressing luminaries to discover their fashion roots. The who’s who of groundbreaking rock and roll fashion designers.
Suited and booted
When Elvis Presley first wiggled his hips and curled his top lip, he was breaking taboos. But although his dress sense got more outlandish as his career progressed, he probably looked his sharpest back in the early days when he bought his suits from Lansky Brothers, 126 Beale street, Memphis.
Lansky’s were the outfitters of the Memphis music scene, kitting out among many others, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington and BB King. In 1952, Bernard Lansky noticed a young man who kept peering in his window but never bought anything – eventually he asked him in. It was Elvis who told him that if he made it, he’d buy out the store. Lansky is reported to have said: “Don’t buy me, buy from me.”
The Liverpudlian heart-throbs of the swinging sixties were nothing if not clean cut. Their first matching suits came courtesy of city tailor, Walter Smith. In an article in the Liverpool Echo, the suit maker remembers the fab four’s first fitting – he told them to leave their smelly boots outside and to mind their language.
And what did the now octogenarian tailor measure the Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr for? Blue wool and silk mix suits with drop shoulder, thin lapel box jackets. And the trousers? Drain pipe. Later it has to be said, the Beatles did in fact bin their stinky footwear in favour of Chelsea boots from Anello and Davide.
Widely credited as pioneers of heavy metal, Black Sabbath took their name from a horror film showing at the cinema opposite their rehearsal rooms. Inspired by the fact that people were queuing to spend their money to see a scary film, they decided to be the musical equivalent of a horror movie. It certainly did the trick, but where did the boys in black get their unearthly look?
If you’re a rock star and you’re into black leather – you need to see Brown, Ray Brown. Born in 1959, the Australian designer is good news for the theatrical wing of rock – bad news for cows. And while he may not have invented the metal stud, he certainly set the pace when it came to using them.
With a client list that begins with Alice Cooper goes via Lady Gaga, Guns n’ Roses, Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne, and ends with Whitesnake. If you’re a member of a hard rock band, chances are you’ve got a Ray.
Any colour so long as it’s black
Johnny Cash has long been known as the ‘man in black’. But how did the singer come by his look? According to Cash, in his 1971 song, ‘man in black’, the colour choice is a political as well as a style statement:
In our streak of lightning cars and fancy clothes
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back
Up front there ought to be a man in black.”
But there’s also another, more prosaic explanation. According to Cash’s tailor, Manuel Cuevas, he convinced the musician to try black. He claims the conversation went like this:
He said, “Alright, I’ll try it.”
Although initially packaged into matching suits, ties and shoes, it didn’t take long before the Rolling Stones threw off their clean cut image, grew their hair and became the anti – establishment bad boys of rock and roll. Now fifty years old, the group plays on – their audiences often spanning the generations.
None of the band members is short on style, but it’s probably front man, the eternally youthful, swaggering, pouting Mick Jagger who is most revered as rock’s longest lived clothes horse.
So how does the great man go about deciding what to wear? For a tantalizing insight, here’s an excerpt from a piece that appeared in the Telegraph way back in 2003 during which Jagger tries on clothes for an upcoming Stones tour:
So that’s how it’s done!