The 1970’s – Focus Fashion: Fashion in Rock Music Through the Decades

Written by on April 20, 2023

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The beauty of 1970’s music and fashion is how each style was able to be different and powerful in its own way. The 70’s produced lots of different kinds of rock, but each subgenre reinvented itself, truly working to subvert the norm. These sounds were born out of the iconic musical artists of the decade, introducing the public to soft rock, punk rock, heavy metal, and glam rock. Inspired by these artists and the culture that surrounded each subgenre, new fashion movements erupted. Whether people were sporting heavy denim looks, or a rugged, rebellious look, it was certain their fashion was anything but boring. 

Soft Rock

Soft rock is a genre that emerged in the late 1960’s. It aims to smooth over the edges of harder rock and place emphasis on melodic lyrics and rhythms. Songs in this genre tend to revolve around introspectiveness and storytelling rather than the rebellious rock nature. 

Some key bands to come out of this genre include Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, Steely Dan, America, The Doobie Brothers, etc. 

These bands seem to have varying styles, but a common factor among all of them is denim. Bell bottom pants, vests, and jackets were a staple in these band’s closets. The use of flannels, brown boots, and long, free hair were also very prevalent. These styles, adopted from 1960’s hippie culture, continued long into the 1970’s- even influencing other genres such as disco. 

These bands tend to take more of a folk rock fashion angle, which relates to their intimate lyrics and soft melodic songs. Muted colors such as blacks, browns, yellows, and blues were commonly seen in this era as well. 

Fleetwood Mac’s style in particular inspired an entire generation, with the clean witch aesthetic that many women have followed in decades to come. The “indie girl” genre of clothing today takes influence from Stevie Nicks’ clothes- incorporating long skirts, bell bottomed sleeves and pants, and heavy use of jewelry. 

Punk Rock

Punk Rock was the heart of the mid-to-late 1970’s. The bands that jump started this genre include The Talking Heads, Sex Pistols, Ramones, and so many more. The music came from this rejection of the mainstream, in both music and in life. The genre took off in America as well as London, both having similar but distinct styles.

The style stemmed from rebellion and this shift from the mainstream, taking form in heavy boots, safety pins and chains, and spiky hair. A strong marker of the movement are ripped clothes. This specifically went against the pre 70’s ideology that clothes were meant to look pristine, and people should look put together through their fashion. It also was born out of necessity, where a lot of punk looks were thrifted, and able to be made by those who didn’t have much money for new clothes. The punk style encouraged ripping clothes in unconventional ways and often reconnecting them with safety pins and chains. 

The punk style also heavily influenced bodily appearance, with an emphasis on spiky hair and a plethora of facial piercings. Such piercings included those on eyebrows, cheeks, noses, and lips, all of which were considered very outside the norm.

Glam Rock

This was one of the first countercultural musical movements of the 70’s and the decade certainly started off with a bang. Popularized by the likes of David Bowie, early solo career Lou Reed, T-Rex, and Mott the Hoople, as well as films like Phantom of the Paradise and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, glam rock became well known as the style of this era’s rock star royalty. Featuring flamboyant patterns, colors, styles, and androgynous performers, the era of glam rock was a stark contrast from clean cut style of rock of the prior decade. One of the most intriguing aspects of the glam rock style is the unique personality each artist would bring to the fashion. 

An example is the completely different styles of Elton John and early Queen, despite being some of the most mainstream glam rock stars. Bowie, for example, was an art school kid who brought a lot of traditional artistic and theatrical elements to his style, and mixed them with his own musical influences. Bowie would end up working with fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto in order to create many of his iconic outfits for his Ziggy Stardust character.

Heavy Metal

The 70’s was the age of the heavy metal pioneers. It took the hard edged bands from the late 60’s, such as The Who and Cream, and put a sharp and hefty spin on them. It was seen as a blend of psychedelia, blues, and biker. Listeners were drawn to the heavy guitar and macho attitude. 

Key bands of this time include Black Sabbath, Kiss, Judas Priest, Rush, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, and many more. These pioneers of sound are still known as the gods of heavy metal to this day. 

To many metal bands, imagery plays a large part in their expression. Adopted from hippie subculture in the late 1960’s, long black hair is a common distinguishing factor in the look of metal. Black, in fact, is this subgenre’s whole appeal. This genre’s classic uniform consists of jeans, boots, black shirts, and black leather or denim jackets. Many bands also incorporated uniquely shaped and colored instruments into their sets. 

A major component of fashion used by bands was metal itself. Many bands including Iron Maiden, Anthrax, and Slayer wore large chunky rings, crosses, and earrings. 

By the late 1970’s, Hair Metal, in particular, was created as a tongue-in-cheek term to pay tribute to new flashy metal bands that incorporated a great deal of glam rock into their looks. This includes the likes of Van Halen, Aerosmith, Guns and Roses, and Mötley Crüe among others. 

1970’s section written by Shannon Daly, Gwen Streitman and Jake Tannenbaum.



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