Nadia Elkharadly: Music and Fashion

Music and fashion are two things that have always interested me.  Before I started writing about music, I wrote the occasional piece for local online magazine Toronto Street Fashion, and I really enjoyed it.  So when it was pointed out to me recently that I tend to include the occasional fashion commentary in my music reviews, I wasn’t all that surprised.  To me, music and fashion are two forms of self-expression that go hand in hand.

Some people say that image is everything.  I’m not sure that’s true, but I do believe it plays a factor.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone to see a band play and been totally disconcerted by their image, or rather lack thereof.  For example, a band playing thrash metal wearing pearl button plaid shirts from Guess doesn’t quite make sense to me.  Neither does a pop singer with dyed black hair, nail polish wearing an abundance of leather.  Except maybe Adam Lambert, that kid is seriously committed to a look, and somehow pulls it off.  But my point is, if a band or an artist is committed to a musical genre or style or sound, then they need to look the part.  If you want to play heavier music, leave the plaid and pastels at home, and throw on a black t-shirt with your jeans instead.  If you think dirty country rock is your calling, plaid, denim and cowboy boots are your friends.  And so on and so forth.

Don’t believe me?  There is much empirical evidence that bands for decades have understood the importance of style, even if it may have happened unintentionally.

The Beatles

Before Lucy was in the sky with diamonds, the Beatles were making their American television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show.  Playing poppy covers of doowop songs, as well as new material that fans around the world had come to know and love, the Beatles not only played the part of the good-boy brit band, but they looked it as well.  The matching bowl haircuts, the matching suits, and the matching good-boy grins on each of their faces created a mental picture that everyone is familiar with.  Looking sloppy or even remotely edgy would have been at odds with their adorably mild and appealing performance, indeed for their whole sound during that period of their careers.  And when the Beatles did begin experimenting with their musical style, their image and personal style evolved as well.

Johnny Cash

When Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two first began performing, they all dressed in black because that was the only way they could all match.  From the beginning, Cash knew the importance of image, and his “Man in black” persona was one he upheld throughout his entire career.  While he may have started out in black out of necessity, he continued to wear it to portray a sense of mourning and sombreness, and to reflect the character of his music.  He couldn’t play songs like “Folsom Prison Blues” or “Boy named Sue” in a rhinestone encrusted cowboy get up.  From sad and brooding to dangerous outlaw, the man in black image came part and parcel with the musician Johnny Cash.  The gravity and dark quality of his music needed an equally dark and mysterious person creating and performing it.  It just wouldn’t be the same otherwise.

The Ramones

These New Yorkers definitely had a unique style, and it was one that caught on like wild fire.  Its foundation was casual; accessibility, comfort and cost effectiveness were all key.  And it’s fairly certain these guys did not give too much thought into their outfits.  Regardless of effort or thought, a cohesive style it most certainly was.  Tight jeans, tight, worn out t-shirts, logoed or not and of course, leather jackets and sneakers – put it all together and you’ve got a look that the Ramones not only patented, but that their fans still emulate to this day.  Most of all, their look completely suited their music.  They dressed with disinterest, and they played an air of nonchalance that was nothing but cool.  It was a package that still stands the test of time.

Grunge Era “Fashion”

It was to the chagrin of every Seattle based band in the nineties that “Grunge” fashion became a trend, but the fact was there was a definitive style of dress that was prevalent amongst those bands in that area and era.  Much like the Ramones, functionality and frugality were all that mattered to these musicians.  Living in Seattle, the weather was damp and cold – hence the warm lumberjack jackets and flannel plaid shirts.  Their jeans were torn, their shoes were worn.  A pair of Doc Martens was a big investment, and they were worn until the soles were bare.  Whether it was the music that became synonymous with the clothing or vice versa, the fact remains that when you think “grunge” or nineties music, you think of Eddie Veddar or Jeff Ament in plaid, or Chris Cornell in his black shorts and 10 hole Docs.  The bands that maintained a longevity that took them out of the 90s also evolved past that style (grew up, if you will) but the style remains inextricable from the music of that time.

So there you have it; my capital R for random list of musicians whose image matches their music.  Fashion and music, they do go together!  Clearly I’ve barely scratched the surface here.  David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, even Santigold  and Lady Gaga, all of these musicians and artists have combined their music with a look or style that is all their own.  Please share some of the bands or artists that you think make a fashion statement that ties into their music.   Here’s hoping we get a few Wackers in their glam heyday photos courtesy of Bob (hint hint).

Until next time,



Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday

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Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

One Response to “Nadia Elkharadly: Music and Fashion”

  1. Great article Nadia. Musicians are performers and choosing the correct costume makes sense to enhance their picked personas (just cause I just saw them on the Olympic closing ceremonies, each Spice Girl had their own character and corresponding outfits). I think wardrobe is certainly something that needs to be considered in that it shouldn’t distract from the music, and if it doesn’t match or make sense it can take away from the concert goer’s experience. For example, if I went to see Measha Brueggergosman and she was clad in a scandalous Britney Spears-like outfit, I think it might take away from the beautiful operatic melodies she belts out.

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