Clothes That Rock

Looks that leap from the stage to the street

Focus On Fashion

May 09, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,Sun Staff

Strutting onto the 9:30 Club's stage last month in sparkling black pants and a white lace-up fur vest, the Darkness' Justin Hawkins was a vision of rock splendor straight out of 1980.

But the long-haired singer's extravagant outfit wasn't the only element of his show in Washington that echoed the campy days of hairspray and heavy metal.

With pomp and pageantry, he crooned falsetto through Queen-inspired tunes, perpetrated gymnastic jumps a la David Lee Roth and then commanded the excited crowd to raise their lighters (or, in his words, "torches of love") during the band's guitar-heavy power ballad.

And when the over-the-top performance was over, one thing became clear: glam-rock (and fashion) was back, and it was more popular than ever.

For many in the audience, the Darkness' sound and stage antics presented a much-needed break from today's cynical and diluted indie-rock shows.

For others, the band's glitzy fashion sense, in particular that of the flamboyantly styled Hawkins, served as a long-awaited go-ahead -- it was (again) time for glam fans to flaunt their stuff, rocker-style.

And flaunt they did.

Groups of men and women in non-ironic leather pants and animal-print Spandex strutted through the audience of twentysomethings, their proudly displayed rocker duds evidence of the band's influence over music and fashion.

But the Darkness is no pioneer in that regard.

Though its songs are catchy, the group's musical style simply represents a modern permutation of a genre that lost its shine years ago. And as for dress, the four-piece is only the most recent act in a long line of pop music performers who have taken on secondary roles as fashion trendsetters.

Since the dawn of rock music more than half a century ago, rock and street wear have been "completely, inextricably linked," said Sass Brown, professor in the fashion design and apparel department at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

From Elvis Presley and the Beatles to David Bowie, Madonna and the Cure, rock stars have been directing the look of street clothes for years, Brown believes. The reason: a heavy reliance on shock value and all things cutting-edge.

The clothing industry "is constantly replacing itself and renewing itself. So it totally fits with the whole concept of rock 'n' roll rebellion," said Brown.

Nikki Sixx, founder of the platinum-selling rock act Motley Crue, believes the relationship may be even more basic than that.

Dressing like your favorite rocker is "to be [a] part of that lifestyle" without actually having to live it, said Sixx, who recently began his own signature clothing line.

"We all sort of gravitate towards things that are cool."


Here are some shops in the region that stock rock 'n' roll fashion pieces. From stretch jeans to lace-up vinyl vests, these stores can provide you with everything needed to express your inner glam-rocker.


* Stikky Fingers: Rock 'n' roll brands such as Dogpile and Doc Martens are stocked at this Fells Point location, where racks of plaid punker-girl dresses and vinyl pants beckon. Stikky Fingers is at 802 S. Broadway. Call 410-675-7588.

* 9th Life: You'll find glam accessories including leather studded wristbands at this kitschy shop. 9th Life is at 620 S. Broadway. Call 410-534-9999.


* SMASH!: Punk rock, heavy metal and goth clothes and shoes abound. SMASH! is at 3285 1/2 M St. N.W., Washington. Call 202- 337-6274.

* Commander Salamander: You'll find dog collars, metal-head leggings and goth wear alongside designer clothes from Von Dutch and other labels. Commander Salamander is at 1420 Wisconsin Ave. N.W. Call 202-337-2265.


* In the late '80s, when hair-metal hotties were all over MTV, this company's skull-and-dagger patterned leggings were more ubiquitous than bottles of Aqua Net.

* All the cool kids have 'em, and now you can, too. Visit this site and order a souvenir T-shirt from the venerable New York City nightclub of the same name. Your journey to glam-rock nirvana starts here.

* Think black vinyl pants and stretch jeans for men. Yeah, baby!


Rock and fashion are closely tied. Here are just a few musicians who have signature clothing lines:

* No Doubt's Gwen Stefani -- L.A.M.B.

* Hip-hop master P. Diddy -- Sean John

* Jennifer Lopez -- JLO by Jennifer Lopez

* Rapper Jay-Z -- Roc-A-Wear

* Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx -- N. Sixx by Dragonfly

* Eminem -- Shady, Ltd.


Some of rock music's most notable fashion contributions, from the 1970s to the present

THE '70S

Early: Ultra-glam, theatrical makeup and glitter were tres chic, courtesy of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.

Late: Mohawks, spikes and black leather jackets were popularized by the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and a few other seminal punk acts.

THE '80S

Early: The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees were just a few of the bands to make goth-styled clothing vogue.

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