For years, music and fashion has been linked. The clothes a musician wears on stage makes a statement regarding the image they want to project. And image can make or break an artist. If you are just getting into the music industry and are working on creating your image, you may be wondering, how should a musician dress on stage?
Musicians should think about the genre of music they are playing and gather inspiration from successful artists with a similar sound. However, it’s also important to include your own unique style. If you are just copying those who came before you, fans will sniff it out a mile away.
This article will take a look at artists in various genres of music and the fashion pioneers in those genres to give you an idea of the outfits you should be wearing onstage.
Metal has gone through many looks throughout the years. The most iconic looks include the metal and chain look that was popularized by bands like Judas Priest and the glam looks that were worn by Poison and later era Motley Crue.
Metal and it’s outrageous look were popular in the 80’s, but when the grunge era came, metal musicians began toning down their style and sound. Despite their best efforts, many heavy metal bands became obsolete. There has since been a revival, but most metal musicians favor a more casual dress style like jeans and a t-shirt.
However, this is not always the case.
Bands like Slipknot, for instance, choose to be outrageous by wearing masks and gas station-like jumpsuits on stage.
“Iconic, terrifying and sometimes quite funny, the Slipknot masks became such a part of their early legend that (the members of their crew were) stopped by fans and asked “Do they have real faces underneath?”LouderSound
Here is an example of an outfit today’s metal musician might wear on stage:
- Black skinny jeans
- A rock shirt (preferably not for your own band, that’s tacky)
- A leather vest or jacket
- A pair of Converse sneakers, motorcycle boots or combat boots
- Leather cuffs and silver jewelry
Pop has also gone through its share of fashions throughout the years. Cyndi Lauper was known for her punk looks while Janet Jackson wore high hair and broad-shouldered blazers.
In more recent times, Brittany Spears brought the sex appeal in schoolgirl looks and tight jumpsuits. Meanwhile, stars like Rihanna and Gwen Stefani played up a street appeal wearing sports bras and baggie jogging pants on stage.
Pop often mimics the current fashions of the time and it’s hard to pinpoint a central look but if there’s one defining pop fashion icon, it has to be Lady Gaga. I don’t think anyone will forget the meat dress she wore to the MTV Music Awards. Since then, she has never ceased to amaze wearing overblown platforms, colorful furs, over the top wigs and space age shapes.
“She can officially turn anything into an outfit, whether it’s a nice prime rib or a pink feathered Valentino Couture gown.”Bazaar Magazine
Here are some outfit ideas for a pop singer:
- A tight t-shirt with cute logo
- A mini skirt for girls or a pair of skinny jeans for guys, bright colors preferred
- A pair of athletic sneakers for guys or girls or platform heels for girls
- Guys can also add a colorful blazer
We really can’t talk about music and fashion without a nod to the ‘non-fashion’ that was grunge. During the 80’s, it was all about over the top looks of hairspray, wide shoulders and skinny jeans. Then, seemingly, one man brought it all to a halt, and his name was Kurt Cobain.
Now, I’m not saying that Kurt Cobain was singularly responsible for the grunge look of the 90’s. I’m sure this was a movement brewing in Seattle (the birthplace of grunge) for some time. However, with Nirvana being arguably the biggest grunge band in existence, Cobain definitely put a face on it.
The grunge look is characterized by jeans, flannels and messy long hair. (Many girls took it to the extreme but wearing their hair short).
Grunge fashion and how grunge affected the music scene can be best expressed by Billy Idol
“It’s like, what happened, I was always leading fashion and then the grunge thing came along. And because I’ve been so on top in the 80’s you know, I, you know, what can I do? Suddenly so grunge?”Billy Idol
Here are some dressed down looks that make great grunge outfits:
- Ripped jeans, preferably with a loose fit
- A t-shirt with some sort of vintage logo
- A flannel shirt
- Combat boots or sneakers
- A ski hat
Rap is another music movement that has had a major effect on fashion. The genre takes its fashion inspiration from the streets and it’s hard to define what came first, the chicken or the egg, or in this case, the music look or the street look.
In any case, when we think of a rapper, the first thing that come to mind is someone dressed in a designer jogging suit with plenty of gold chains and stand out athletic sneakers. Some may get more ‘pimped out’ wearing a fur coat and flashy sunglasses.
Rap music is focused on a rags to riches persona and it comes through in the clothes the musicians and fans wear. The fashion is described as the following:
“oversized, influenced by sportswear and much as luxury tailoring and designed to make sense in the street. It was clothing infused with swagger and for a rapper on the up and up.”FashionBeans
Rappers may wear any of the following:
- A designer sweat suit
- Baggie jeans that fall to the hips (with a pair of designer underwear underneath)
- The trendiest athletic sneakers are a must
- Lots of gold jewelry
- Gold teeth
5. Indie/ Folk
The indie folk music movement is heavily dominating radio rock. Musicians of this genre tend to be influenced by the grunge styles of the 90’s as well as the psychedelic style of the 60’s.
The hipster lumberjack look (think Mumford and Sons) became big in the 2000’s but many will recognize it as an extension of the grunge look, only slightly more rugged and burly. Meanwhile, bands like Cage the Elephant, whose music is a bit more rock n’ roll influenced, are reminiscent of early Stones fashion-wise.
Due to the wide variety of styles embraced in indie music, most say it’s a ‘dress how you feel’ type of thing. However, both the psychedelic and grunge movements stress an embracement of textures and prints.
“Plaids, solids, stripes, polka dots. Who says you can’t mix and match these prints? Part of dressing indie is experimenting to find a look that works for you.”PopCultureTees
In order to find your stage look, think of the type of music you play. Then draw inspiration from the iconic musicians who represent your vibe while considering your own personal style. You will end up with a look that expresses your personality perfectly.
If you’re an indie/folk musician, you will want to have the following items available in your wardrobe:
- Skinny jeans (preferably jeans that roll up at the bottom)
- A tight t-shirt
- A fitted button front shirt
- A skinny pants suit
- Loafers or boat shoes
- A porkpie hat
Why do musicians wear black onstage?
When it comes to choosing colors to wear onstage, black is always a safe bet. It’s slimming and it can work for a variety of music genres. It also provides a dramatic vibe and it can be easily mixed with other colors, metallic elements, details and more.
Black is also non-distracting so it allows the audience to focus on the music instead of the musician, which could be beneficial if that’s the intended purpose.
Black is often worn by orchestra musicians to be non-distracting. However, if you’re wearing it when playing with a metal band, add some glitter, sparkle and interesting cuts.
What is the best color to wear on stage?
Although many musicians prefer to wear black on stage, research shows the most flattering colors are cool blues, purple, pastels and neutrals. Musicians should also be mindful to choose colors that best complement their skin tones.
If you are going for an eye-catching look, bright colors like red and yellow will be sure to get the audience’s attention. If you want to look sexy, red, black, copper and bronze are the colors known for being the most sexually attractive.
How do you dress like a blues musician?
Blues is a genre not covered in our article, but it is a very popular style of music.
It’s hard to think of a blues musician without conjuring images of the Blues Brothers. And even though Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd were meant to look a little stereotypical and over the top, basically, they were on to something.
A blues musician should have a bit of a classier look as they often play in cocktail lounges and other upscale venues. Therefore, it’s not a bad idea to wear a suit or a button front and jeans or slacks for a classic look.
But no matter which path you choose, make sure to let a little rock n’ roll creativity come through. You don’t want to show up to blues gigs looking like an accountant!
How did music influence fashion in the 60’s?
During the 1960’s rock n’ roll was still new, and the fashion-music connection was just being established. The free love and recreational drugs that were so prevalent inspired the psychedelic music that defined the era. Consequently, fashions were loose and relaxed and characterized by intricate patterns and tie-dyed prints.
How did music influence fashion in the 70’s?
The 70’s started out as an extension of the 60’s. Folk music and psychedelic rock were still prevalent but heavy blues, which later evolved into metal was also starting to take over. As a result, the look was a bit more toned down with bell bottom jeans and casual shirts that featured paisley and floral patterns or fun decals.
The 70’s also saw the beginning of punk. Bands like the Sex Pistols popularized fashions that included chains, combat boots, plaid trousers, mohawks and boldly colored hair.