How Music Influences Fashion

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It is undeniable that fashion and music go hand-in-hand. As soon as a trend is spotted within the music industry, be it a rise in urban sounds or a revival of electronic music, you can guarantee that this will partially be followed by the same trend popping up in the fashion industry in some way or another. The music and fashion relationship is complex, so below we have singled out the biggest examples of how the music industry has been an influence on the fashion industry over the years, from the grunge era to the recent revival of grime. 

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It goes without saying that the music industry has played a massive role in determining what fashions are, well, in fashion. The most notable ones are the punk movement, the revival of grime and 90s grunge, which were all determined by music and fed their way into the fashion industry.

Music is one of the biggest influences in the world and its effect on fashion is second to none. Every major artist you see from the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna to Justin Timberlake and the Bee Gees have somehow had an influence on fashion's biggest trends. In 2003, Billboard magazine said that “music stars are the fastest-rising groups of fashion’s celebrity.” This is no word of a lie.

Over the years there have been plenty of music and fashion collaborations, with the likes of Rihanna hooking up with Puma and Kanye West getting involved with Adidas. Seemingly fashion and music go hand-in-hand.

There have been examples across the fashion industry of when this has occurred, from when Jean Paul Gaultier paid tribute to the late David Bowie's music in fashion shows in 2016, to the influence that Kanye West has on the fashion industry. Mark Jacobs is famed for his long standing relationship with music and how it influences his collections. Below we are going to show you the prime examples of when this has been done best, from punk and Vivienne Westwood to the Nineties grunge movement. The combination between music and fashion through the decades has been a complex one.

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Kanye West

The Sixties

The Sixties was an extremely important era for fashion as it was the first time that it began to be positioned primarily for the youth. Before, fashion had been aimed at the elite members of society, but during the Sixties things were changing. As political unrest began, the music of the era became the voice of the generation who wanted things to change. The music heavily influenced the way people began to dress and now that people were becoming a lot more liberal in their views, so too was fashion.

The first major fashion movement of the Sixties emerged from Great Britain. This was when The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and various other pop bands were seeing a growth in their popularity. Their music was different and the capital became known as 'Swinging London'. It was at this time that the fashion designer Mary Quant created the iconic miniskirt in response to the youthful, fun-loving attitude that was spreading throughout the country. As a result fashion became a lot more colourful and made its way over to mainland Europe and America.

When you think of the Sixties you probably envisage hippies and peace signs. During the second half of the Sixties Woodstock festival and artists such as Jimi Hendrix began to come to the fore of the music industry. The Hippie movement that began in San Fransisco began to spread and music became a whole lot more about free love, recreational drugs and was instantly more psychedelic. As a result this became more apparent in the fashion of the time as well. Clothes for men and women became loose and relaxed, with brightly coloured prints and patterns influenced by other cultures. It was at this time that tie-dye prints became extremely prevalent. This was the 'Summer of Love' period which had a major influence on fashion, and it all started with what the music industry was churning out.

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Bob Dylan

The Sixties proved to be a massive era for shaping the future of fashion and influencing people to be a whole lot more free-spirited when it came to dressing. Boundaries were broken across the fashion industry in the same way that musical boundaries were being broken. By the end of the Sixties, folk music had begun to make an appearance and the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton and Joni Mitchell were coming to the fore. They reflected working class America, singing about the down-and-out lifestyles that many people across America and in fact the rest of the world were living. This gave way to the rise in workwear - denim, western style shirts and military jackets became popular as a result.

Today, the Sixties are still a major reference point for many designers across both menswear and womenswear. Brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Anna Sui and Dries Van Noten are consistently seeking an escape from the modernity of today and look back to that Sixties era. It's safe to say that the music of the Sixties has been a major influence on fashion right up to this day.


Without the Punk movement, you probably would not have heard of one of Britain's biggest fashion designers. Vivienne Westwood epitomises what Punk means and she basically was born out of the movement in the 1970s. Not only that, but she essentially crafted the movement. She is thanked for bringing the movement into mainstream fashion, allowing the masses to get involved.

She is famed for stating, "I was messianic about punk, seeing if one could put a spoke in the system in some way", and her meeting with Malcolm McLaren spelled the beginning of how her own fashion designs would be. He is famed for his managerial work with punk legends The Sex Pistols and once married, he and Westwood began creating clothes that the band wore. The clothing was extremely punk-heavy and featured BDSM, bondage, safety pins, bicycle or toilet chains on clothing and spiked dog collars/chokers for jewellery, as well as outrageous make-up and hair. Thanks to McLaren's ties with The Sex Pistols, who were key figures in the Punk era, Westwood's whole aesthetic began to take shape.

The Punk era was defined by young people who referred to themselves as anarchists. They dressed in torn up clothing bought from second-hand stores, held together by chains and safety pins and this is still apparent in Westwood's designs to this day. They listened to bands such as The Sex Pistols, who although had a short-lived lifetime, are famed for being one of the biggest influences on the rapid expansion of Punk cross the world. Westwood and McLaren designed clothes for the band based on their Punk values and this essentially started fashion's obsession with Punk.

Although you can't say that the music itself was what influenced Westwood’s designs, it doesn’t change the fact that she eventually did embody the punk style for many of her followers, thus her designs go hand-in-hand with the musical movement. Through a business opportunity and her own beliefs, both the Punk movement in music and in fashion came to light. She created a fashion statement that is undeniably punk, whether fashion or music-wise.

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Vivienne Westwood

Nineties Grunge

Music and fashion in the 1990s is a major talking point. In 1992 grunge and alternative music came to the fore. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and The Cranberries were all growing in popularity and their grunge aesthetic and sound became the most popular version of rock at the time. Grunge fused elements of Punk with heavy metal, and thus the this spelled the beginning of the grunge movement in fashion. Where clothing had been somewhat stylish and kept, people began to adopt a more lacklustre and care-free approach to the way that they dressed.

A man who epitomised the look at the time was Jonny Depp. His long hair and laid back approach to dressing was inspired and fitted into the grunge genre. Black Schott Perfecto leather jackets, flannel shirts, fingerless gloves, olive green coats and from time to time acid wash jeans, were all the rage in during the grunge era. River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain were also stalwarts of the grunge aesthetic and their way of dressing has been copied time and time again on the catwalk.

There have been very few people whose style has been as emulated on the catwalk as Nirvana's frontman Kurt Cobain's has. Vogue describes him as having had a "Seattle thrift-store look that ran the gamut of masculine lumberjack workwear and 40s-by-way-of-70s feminine dresses." He completely counteracted the flash styles of the 1980s and opted for the complete opposite. “Kurt Cobain was the antithesis of the macho American man,” says Alex Frank from The Fader. “He was an avowed feminist and confronted gender politics in his lyrics. At a time when a body-conscious silhouette was the defining look, he made it cooler to look slouchy and loose, no matter if you were a boy or a girl. And I think he still represents a romantic ideal for a lot of women.”

Grunge first has its moment on the catwalk when Marc Jacobs was working for Perry Ellis. The collection was heavily influenced by Kurt Cobain's style and in 1992 it was seen in the pages of Vogue being worn by the likes of Naomi Campbell. In 2013 grunge was still going strong on the catwalk with Hedi Slimane putting out an ode to the music genre - think mohair sweaters and faux-fur coats, exactly as Cobain wore. You see Kanye West's obsession with oversized everything? Well the Nirvana legend did that first. Cobain's uniform was strictly ill-fitting, just like his music at the time, and it has been copied by the likes of Vetements and Kanye West since. He also had a love of wearing worn and torn knitwear, which has been copied now numerous times. First introduced to high fashion by Martin Margiela, it has been replicated by the likes of Raf Simons - his Autumn/Winter 2016 collection actually paid homage to grunge and Cobain by way of Margiela.

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Kurt Cobain

You have the grunge movement and Kurt Cobain to thank for ripped jeans and grandad cardigans too. Ripped jeans have become a staple in menswear, and cardigans are now seeing a revival, as brands like Gucci look back at the era for inspiration in their latest collections. When it comes to extreme layering, again you have no one to thank but the grunge stalwarts such as Kurt Cobain. Their laid back, throw on everything attitude has inspired the likes of Balenciaga, Gosha Rubchinskiy and Vetements.


Nowadays Grime artists have slightly adapted how they dress. Krept and Konan wear BAPE, Boy Better Know have their own clothing line and even Gucci is slowly become a grime fashion and cultural staple. Yet still the original pieces that were worn back when Dizzee Rascal first surfaced in the Noughties are worn now, and many are defiant that these are the holy grail of Grime fashion.

Original grime artists like Dizzee Rascal, Lethal Bizzle, Kano and Wiley are said to be the founding fathers, and most certainly those who brought it into the mainstream. Since 2010 Grime has seen a resurgence in popularity, with artists such as Skepta, Stormzy, Giggs and JME bringing grime to the mainstream. Consequently Grime has had a massive impact on fashion in recent years, with the catwalk becoming increasingly more streetwear-aware.

In the UK, Samuel Ross's A-Cold-Wall has seen a huge amount of success in a relatively small period of time. Ross's implementation of unique fabrics and vacuum sealed aesthetics that take inspiration from Grime culture and the things that grime artists wore in the early days has made it a massive success, especially at a time when Grime is undoubtedly the most popular genre of music in the UK. A Cold Wall takes the classic tracksuit worn by Grime artists and gives it a futuristic twist. A Nike Lab sneaker collaboration also took the former styles worn by Grime artists and flipped them, modernising them to suit today's audience.

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As Skepta famously rapped, "went to the show, sitting front row in a black tracksuit and it's shutdown", so the tracksuit became an acceptable menswear staple. Now people are wearing tracksuits to even the most formal of events and they're no longer as frowned upon as once before. The influence and resurgence in Grime is unrivalled in recent years - a far cry from what was once seen as the uniform of hoodlums on council estates. It is one of the greatest examples of when British music and fashion combines.

On That Note

It is without a doubt that music and fashion stand simultaneously. When a trend appears in the music industry the chances are extremely high that the same trend will be prevalent in the latest fashions as well. This has been seen many times over the years, with the Punk movement, Sixties, Nineties Grunge and now the Grime scene all influencing what we wear and what goes down the catwalk. Do music and fashion go hand in hand? It appears so! The fashion and music evolution is ongoing and we are intrigued to see what is coming next.


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