Music and fashion have a lot of in common. The popular styles are constantly changing and evolving. No two years have even seen identical trends in music or clothing. Designers and musicians are constantly striving to produce something unique. “When you’re younger, the music you listen to tends to affect your dress,” David Bernath, owner of Flat, Black & Circular, said.
Country fans sport the cowboy look, decked out in a rodeo hat and a flannel. They may even picture themselves walking down the street with the jangling of spurs at their feet.
Emo music listeners are arguably the most mocked of the bunch, dressing just like their idols on stage, donning tight girls’ pants, self-cut hair and a tear on their cheek. “Some emo kids have the hair dyed black, greasy, combed foreward,” Jon Howard, who has been with Flat, Black & Circular for 12 years, said. “That’s the biggest stereotype right now. But I’m hesitant to say that because I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing.”
Students are able to express themselves openly by wearing whatever they chose. Some students try to do it with make up, others with extravagant clothing. It’s not even uncommon to see neon pink hair on a guy walking down the street. “A lot more extreme styles are accepted these days,” Howard said. “I used to have spiked hair, and I used to have stuff thrown at me out of car windows while I was walking down the street. Now, your average secretary has spiked hair.”
Out of all the music/fashion overlaps, two have been extremely prevalent and inspirational to the younger generations over several decades. Hip hop has created a unified urban style of dress while punk created a rock and roll style that has influenced suburban youth as well as its sister genres.
Punks These Days
While The Beatles may have influenced thousands of teenage boys to defy their parents and grow their hair past their ears, punk music taught them to defy every rule of society since its early 1970s conception and has remained steadfast in its intention, influencing bands up to the current time. “Our music is a fusion of a couple different kinds of music,” Kevin Curtin, lead singer and guitarist of local punk band, The Boxcutters, said. “Its primary punk, but a lot of the song writing is like American folk music. Or American roots music you could also say. Part of the reason we’d be considered a punk rock band is because of how we dress. Punk is such a distinctive kind of fashion.”
Punk music has become a lot more pop sensationalized in recent years, but bands like The Boxcutters stay true to the original image and message. Requirements for being a real punk? A rainbow colored Mohawk, tight pants, bondage straps, Converse shoes and a tight Sex Pistols t-shirt will do the trick. “I would say the main thing is that it’s about first it’s loud fast music. Loud, fast and really creative music,” Curtin, who recently graduated from MSU’s Journalism school, said. “As for the whole culture thing, in the definition you have to incorporate that it’s a sub culture. Punk’s very underground. It knows itself well. Punk people definitely know their identity.”
The Punk style has been an inspiration for designers and other rock musicians despite the negative connotation of the ever-present “f–k off” attitude the community prides itself on. But when it comes down to it, punk is really about the music, not what you are wearing or what color your hair is. “A lot of the people of who listen to punk rock are also really big fans of underground hip-hop and might dress the same,” Curtin said. “Sage Francis and those guys have strong ties to punk. I don’t think it would be out of place to see a punk at a hip-hop show or the other way around.”
Hip Hop Cleans Up
Journalism sophomore Cierra Middlebrooks just completed an internship with the New York based independent hip-hop label Sophist Productions. She marketed bands to the local radio stations and did some promoting around campus. The production company also makes independent films. She said she considers herself a huge fan of hip hop. “There’s a guy named Jim Jones,” Middlebrooks said. “He dresses more like a rock star. He wears really tight jeans that you don’t see on most hip-hop artists. Hip-hop is definitely changing. You don’t see the baggy jeans very much anymore. Sometimes, they still wear them a little below their waste, but the jeans aren’t as baggy. ”
Hip-hop has come a long way from its early funk roots. Hip-hop and rap artists now sample everything from classic rock to 80s pop to musicals. Along with this fusion of so many types of music, hip-hop fashion has changed and evolved, just like what Sean Combs and Jennifer Lopez like to the call themselves. The clothing is known for sampling styles from all over the map, just like in the music. “It’s changing and I think Kanye [West] had a lot to do with that,” Middlebrooks said. “But I think it’s a good thing that it’s changing. A lot of guys I went to high school with are starting to change how they dress because of what they see people wearing on TV.”
Lately, the hip hop artists have been cleaning up their look on the red carpet. They’ve gone from big baggy sagging jeans, white tee shirts and gold chains to fitted Armani suits with white sneakers, while staying true to the classic Ray Ban sunglasses and gold chains (some things will never change). The most influential artists in the business take inspiration from their several places and produce multi-dimensional records that have tracks for dancing and others that hit fans straight in the heart. “The band that you hold in high regard can have a big impact on your life,” Curtin said. “Music can be pretty profound. You tend to dress like the people who are touching you with their art.”
Hip hop is not alone in drawing influence from different genres. Those who wear the gold chains no longer just listen to the artists who dress like them and the kid walking down the street crying may be a bigger fan of Eminem than you’d guess. Fans enjoy the freedom of moving freely between styles of music even if they stick to one particular style of dress, or none at all. “It’s kind of a melting pot these days,” Howard said.
A Melting Pot It Is
People listen to everything from pop to punk, hardcore rock to hip-hop, oldies and everything in between. The average person doesn’t wear spurs or have a mohawk. Most kids’ style, like their music, is far from being influenced by one singular type of music. Students like Shantel Hamilton, a medical technology junior, are a byproduct of the aforementioned melting pot. “I don’t have a specific type of music that I like the most,” Hamilton said. “It really depends on my mood what I listen to. It’s the same with what I wear. If I’m really excited I’ll wear bright colors or if I’m feeling mellow, I’ll just put on some jeans and a t-shirt.”
So how do you tell what kind of music someone listens to if you can’t tell by how they dress? Easy. Checking out the latest playlist on their iPod is a good place to start. Those who don’t dress the part are not stopped from listening to what they like. A lack of certain style doesn’t mean a lack of taste when it comes to music. “I’m fashionably challenged,” Hamilton said. “I’ll just buy something because I like the color and then I’ll get it home and try it on and think, ‘This is the worse shirt I’ve ever bought.’ I just buy something if I think it looks cool or I like the color . .I worked at Cold Stone and someone put on a System of the Down CD and I was singing all the words and people were like, ‘You like System of a Down?’ No one would have expected that I like them,” Hamilton said. “I usually would listen to Disney music at work.”
Music magazines are where many artists not only express themselves in interviews, but express their style through photospreads and cover shoots. Photographers for magazines like Rolling Stone have taken famous photographs for covers that have immortalized artists. “That’s one area that you don’t see a lot mixing. You don’t really see people buying Gold Mine and XXL,” Bernath said.
While you not might see a gray-haired man purchasing this months issue of a hip hop magazine, you do find that people will buy several different types of rock magazines, everything from Rollingstone to Spin and Paste. Magazines are the best place for fans and aspiring artists to get to know the style of and find inspiration from music stars they emulate. “If you want to look at it in a cultural way, people regardless of whether it’s because of music or not, will idolize the people they admire,” Curtin said. “If you’re into Paris Hilton, you wear sunglasses and have blonde hair. But if you idolize punk bands, you wear tight jeans and vests and spiked hair and studded belts.”
Fashion has been inspired by music in every way possible. Vintage-looking t-shirts of long deceased bands like The Beatles still pop up in clothing stores. Wedding dresses now come in styles to fit a little more alternative bride. Infamous rockers like Lenny Kravitz have signed up to do ads for large clothing corporations like The Gap. Rarely will you find a clothing commercial that does not have some famous artist’s music in the background. “A lot of people just want to look like rock stars. So they dress just like their favorite rock star,” Hamilton said.
Whether their favorite rock star is Fergie Ferg or the lead singer from the Panic! At the Disco, students continue to emulate the style of artists they admire. Whether they grow out their hair, throw on some tight jeans, cry themselves to sleep or dye their hair all the colors of the rainbow, music fans express themselves in a way that can be entirely unique and original or comfortable and normal. “I guess what it really boils down to, when you look good, you feel good. When you’re doing it for yourself, that’s great. When you’re doing it for other people, then it sucks,” Curtin said.

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