Before Lady Gaga: Male Icons of Rock Fashion Royalty

In every era, women rockers and pop stars are at least as much touted for their fashion as for their music. For example…

Before Lady Gaga…

Before Gwen Stefani…

Before Madonna…

madonna

Even before Cher….

There was the Glorious Grand Dame of Glam: David Bowie.

david bowie

[Moment of silence][Uproarious applause] Thank you, now go powder you noses, Oh You Pretty Things.

Bowie’s androgynous, often outrageous, frequently surreal fashion may not have inspired what one wore out for a pint or two with the lads, but Bowie is nothing less than Rock fashion apotheosis. Before pyrotechnics, before rock shows became anti-fashion grungefests, Bowie’s shows included several costume changes each more eye-popping than the next—often executed in collaboration with fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto.

david bowie

david bowie

david bowie

david bowie

david bowie

david bowie

david bowie

david bowie

Bowie’s fashion evolved through phases colorful, whimsical, dark, and classic, but whether on-stage, front row at Paris Fashion Week, or strolling the sidewalk with supermodel wife Iman, Bowie will forever be without rival, the God & Goddess reigning over all the merely mortal icons of Rock & Roll fashion royalty.

But Bowie is not the only one. Let’s not forget the others:

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

Forget the beaded jumpsuits of his Las Vegas era… if you can. Until Elvis, only real bad guys… hoods and greasers… wore the greased pompadour. Elvis was the first rocker to make bad boy style cool. His influence reached across the pond to the U.K. where it may not have inspired the rise of Teddy Boy fashion, but clearly lit the look on fire – igniting its exaggerated pompadours and quintessentially Rockabilly styling.

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

The Beatles’ John Lennon started out as a Teddy Boy. Tragically, Elvis is more remembered for cheesy ridiculous rhinestone-studded jump suits than for the ultra-cool rockabilly bad boy style that inspired men on two continents in the late 50’s and has influenced rockabilly style forever since.

Long live the KING!

KISS

Oh shut-up if you think KISS are not Rock & Roll fashion icons. Just ask new major label rock sensation Black Veil Brides (Lava/Universal Republic Records).

In a recent Music Connection cover story BVB frontman Andy Biersack said: “From the time I was three to the time I was seven, I thought the only music that existed was KISS. So for me, a band just looked that way.” There will always be a place in Rock & Roll for black leather, studs, moussed-up hair, and killer face make-up. KISS was first to break big time with that look, and they have earned their place among the rebellious and sometimes ridiculous Royal Court of Rock & Roll Fashion.

Kurt Cobain

kurt cobain

What?! Are you fracking kidding me?! Grunge is anti-fashion! Yeah, sure, but Kurt Cobain and his grunge rock contemporaries unwittingly caused a tectonic fashion paradigm shift that rocked every High School in America. Almost single-handedly Cobain made every loser stoner kid who mindlessly paired ratty second-hand threads, disdained basic grooming habits, and obviously did not own a mirror look… cool.

Argh, I know, Cobain did no service to fashion in this regard, but his influence cannot be denied. Just showing up in his infantile Daniel Johnston “Hi How are you” tee made Johnston a cult favorite. Cobain is the Mordred among Rock & Roll fashion royalty and look around… it still smells like teen fashion.

Prince

From hairstyling to New-Romantic ruffled shirts, to custom phallic styled guitars, Prince could make waiting for a bus in Akron look sexy to both men and women—now that’s a gift. He adapts his look to his music because make no mistake my little rainbow children, Prince is a musician’s musician first. When Prince raves unto the joy fantastic, fashion follows the song, not the other way around.

Prince

Prince

He goes psychedelic when he funks, smolderingly suave when he croons, and showy when he rocks. Like any good prince he knows that Rock & Roll royalty must not disappoint, and he never does.

Honorable Mentions

Sean “Puffy/P.Diddy” Combs

Not a rocker, but probably the most touted male fashion icon of popular music, Combs is not only a real fashion designer, he also goes so far as to set dress codes for his parties, requiring that men wear suits and demonstrate good taste. He has influenced a generation of young hip urban men to learn how to tie a tie and accessorize smartly—their hippy business casual fathers sure couldn’t teach them. Sean, though thouest may hip-hop most auspiciously, thou also Rock… eth.

Marilyn Manson

Many would list Manson in the Top 5. Manson has certainly perfected the darkly glamorous Goth style. And to his credit he has attracted some of the highest quality ‘tang of any rocker: Dita Von Tease, Evan Rachel Wood, and Rose McGowan. SA—Mokinnnnn’.

But Manson’s style is ultimately a derivative hybrid of Goth and Glam basics like top hats and waist coats and
dramatic eye shadow. His styling of that look is impeccable, but revolutionary or iconic… sorry MM, love you man,
but no.

Boy George

Soooo not a rocker, but go on with your crazy gender-bending self Boy George. You layered colors and fabrics from head-to-toe, and demonstrated that boy make-up could just be pretty without a fantasy alien, monster, or animal narrative to go with it. We may not want to sing a long, but we don’t really want to hurt you either.

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