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Brief History of Heavy Metal/Rock Fashion

A well-known characteristic of the genres of rock and metal is fashion. Many bands and subgenres throughout history have helped define the fashion of this genre. Starting out in the 60s was pop-rock bands such as The Beatles wearing suits and psychedelic rock bands donning long hair, wearing bell-bottoms, overflowing shirts, jewelry, and scarves. 70s bands such as Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath, and Aerosmith continued this fashion trend. In the late 70s into the 80s, however, leather jackets were the popular fashion thanks to metal bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and punk bands such as the Sex Pistols and the Ramones. Also incorporated in rock and metal fashion in this time period were military styles like bullet belts, kutte (or cut-off) vests, and the German Iron Cross, brought into style thanks to Motorhead. Thrash metal bands continued the leather jacket and bullet belt style and included high-top tennis shoes and tight jeans. Spandex, makeup, and poofy hair were the style for glam metal bands like Motley Crue and Dokken. 70s glam rock had essentially the same style but the 80s glam bands intensified it. 

Once the 90s started, away went the leather jackets, makeup, hairspray, and spandex and in came flannels, ripped jeans, oversized striped shirts, and greasy, unclean hair brought to the forefront by grunge bands. Groove metal bands like Pantera brought baggy cargo shorts and camouflage pants, a style that would be continued by metal bands in the 2000s and 2010s. In the underground, black metal kept the leather jackets and military wear and included corpse paint and leather armbands with spikes. Clothing and hair most associated with hip-hop (baggy pants, caps, dreadlocks, etc.) were the styles in the late 90s and early 2000s for nu-metal bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit. Spiked hair was also a thing in the early 2000s thanks to pop-punk. Other pop-punk styles include baggy pants and spiked wrist cuffs. 

In the 2010s, metal clothing such as leather jackets, bullet belts, and band shirts became a trend among pop culture celebrities. One example of this was Kendall Jenner, who wore a Slayer shirt at the MuchMusic Video Awards in 2014. Slayer’s guitarist, Gary Holt, didn’t take this kindly and wore a shirt saying “Kill the Kardashians” in response. Her half-sister, Kim Kardashian, was pictured wearing a Metallica shirt. Other examples of celebrities wearing clothes associated with metal include Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, Justin Bieber, and more. 

Well folks, there you have it, a brief history of heavy metal and rock fashion. One of the many interesting characteristics of the genre. Including everything from bullet belts and leather jackets to spiked hair and baggy pants. As for my favorite fashion styles, I would have to say the thrash metal style, traditional heavy metal style, and to some extent, the grunge style. My least favorite would have to be the pop-punk and nu-metal styles. Well, that’s about all I have to say about the fashion of metal and rock and roll. I hope you enjoyed reading this and thank you for making it this far.


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