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You only have to look at smartphones to see how fashions changes. What’s cool and kickin’ one year is a total no-no the next. Some styles, though, are enduring and it turns out that a lot of those that have survived the test of time have been inspired by music. As huge fans of both cool design and massive tunes, we decided to take a closer look.

The skinny on Elvis

Own a pair of skinny jeans? Then thank Elvis and quiffmeister rockers like Bill Haley. The Teddy Boy trend rebelled against 50s’ respectability, with drainpipe trousers that flashed stark white sock. Drainpipes were complemented with multi-pocketed drape coats, perfect for concealing knives. But it was the trousers that shocked – even Teddy Girls wore them tight.

Why the word ‘Teddy’? It was aping not only Elvis but Edwardian fashion, with a twist. Tight jeans, slicked back hair – a fusion of American and olde worlde British but most of all, it looked like trouble.

Rip it up and start again

Punk was about the joys of deconstruction. Sid Vicious on stage with a sneer, covered in blood. Bands spitting on their fans. Anti-manners and anti-meeting the parents.  What could be more shocking than ripping your clothes? The ultimate insult to an older generation who believed in respectability.

Tear it apart music and slashed fashion. The ripped jean survived much later, albeit it more sanitised for the masses. Bleached too. Designers have experimented with cutting ever since – sometimes to flash more flesh.  But even Liz Hurley’s safety pin dress wouldn’t shock now.

Smells like teen spirit

Colour died when the aptly named grunge came to town – reputedly from the Seattle music scene. No more bows. Dirty messy hair hanging in the eyes – so you looked like a shy vagrant.


Most of all, it was Berlinesque black, sludge grey or filthy plaid shirts – all of it echoing a dirty guitar sound and lots of drums. Nirvana, Soundgarden – it was depressive punk with a heavy metal edge. Not forgetting the boots, holey cardigans and jumpers. It had its roots in poverty and it wanted to shout it loud, with feeling.

Madonna’s mix and mess

Extreme layering is Madonna’s legacy. In her film Desperately Seeking Susan, the Material Girl had it all going on – ironic girly bows tangled in messy hair, huge earrings, a multitude of necklaces, bangles, hats, gloves.

Anti-elegance but also an ‘in your face grandpa’ swipe at the world. Predominantly, it challenged that girls should be neat and coordinated. Bands like Bananarama would copy her but in a sweeter, less aggressive manner – off the shoulder dungarees, perfect makeup and accessories. Not sure if they copied the hairy armpits.

To cap it all 

Such a simple little accessory. Once a sporty thing – thanks to hip hop/rap – the baseball cap became more about edgy urban fashion. Musicians, like Public Enemy, wore it backwards, to the side, or with place names.

A hat on your head with a monogrammed New York transported you instantly from a dusty London Street – to gangster on an American sidewalk – in your head at least. A saggy tracksuit and bling completed the ensemble. Now baseball caps are common from Sheffield to Shanghai, Cape Town to Copenhagen.

Think of any other styles in your wardrobe inspired by a musical subculture? If so, let us know in the comments below. 

Image credit: LordKhan