As a fashion lover and a rock music fan in equal measure, I get a lot of fashion inspiration from bands and musicians. And as a feminist and a fan of badass women doing badass things, many of my favorite bands are comprised of women, in whole or in part. As a result, some of the best fashion inspiration I've gathered comes from the musicians in the bands I listen to.
Being in the public eye and using clothing and style to build a visual language is a powerful tool that lots of musicians put to impressive use. It’s super prevalent in pop music, especially (think Janelle Monáe’s tuxes, Grace Jones’ flat top and power suits, or Kathleen Hanna’s "FEMINIST" sweater), and it conveys a message instantly. Rather than directing the focus away from what they’re wearing, pop stars seem to use style and other visual elements to reinforce their artistic vision or subvert it.
Punk rock arguably approaches the style question from a different angle altogether. When clothing is not automatically assumed to be part of the pop packaging and bands reinterpret styles that earlier punks wore, things become more interesting.
A conventional, cohesive look may not be the first priority for these contemporary punk bands, but it's still a big deal. They visually reference the cool punk musicians and barrier-bashing women who came before them, playing hard and fast with rules and tunes alike. Of course, being a musician has no bearing on personal style in itself. And the focus on women in bands should be their music, first and foremost. But having role models who style themselves in distinct, alternative, sometimes difficult ways, and who convey a message of power and strength before they even strike a note, is incredibly valuable.
Here are five ways I've applied style inspo from my punk faves into my own wardrobe.
Silence Yourself makes me feel how I imagine people who first heard Siouxsie and the Banshees or PiL in the late ‘70s felt: Newly invigorated, champing at the bit to express their anger. They do not make music that falls invisibly into some pop-y status quo — they demand to be heard.
Savages’ biting, post-punk sound is mirrored in the band's style, which is a cohesive favoring of black, well-tailored clothes. There's no extraneous fabric or bright colors, and that comes with a piercingly focused sound to match. This comes across as narrow or pegged trousers instead of looser ones, collared shirts, sheer blouses, and black boots — from Dr. Martens to heeled, more feminine styles.
Regardless of whether they choose more androgynous or more feminine looks, Savages project a lean meanness that embodies their sound.
Here's my version. It includes a Joe Fresh blouse, American Eagle jeans, and vintage Dr. Martens.
2. White Lung
They play a ‘90s-indebted kind of hard, fast, melodic punk that’s totally addictive. Way, (also a freelance writer), has been outspoken about feminism and admiring Courtney Love, and especially how Love’s attitude inspired Way to slough off the f*ckboys and be the great front person she always wanted to be.
Visually, White Lung’s look references ‘90s iterations of punk, too. Way often wears a leather jacket, furry coat, or animal print, Vassiliou likes mini dresses and jean jackets, and William can generally be found in some variation on that well-worn slacker uniform of jeans and T-shirt or sweater. They look tough — like a band you don’t want to question.
Listening to Tacocat is basically like a fun, bright, feminist party. Singer Emily Nokes, bassist Bree McKenna, guitarist Eric Randall, and drummer Lelah Maupin are based out of Seattle, and their dayglo-hued pop-punk is inviting and sunny, but with an edge.
Lots of their songs are about the less-than-fun aspects of being a girl, like getting your period, being catcalled, and, uh, jeans that don’t really fit your belly. Look, being a lady is exhausting, but Tacocat make it sound kinda awesome. OK, at least they make it look pretty awesome.
Their look is all about neon colors, unnaturally-hued hair, stripes, animal prints, dresses, and having fun. Randall, a jeans, hoodie, and T-shirt guy, has been known to don the odd sports jersey and rock a loud print from time to time, too. I feel like I fit right in here with my pink hair and affection for ridiculous platforms and colorful sunglasses. If you ever feel hesitant about throwing everything you’ve got at a look and being maximalist as hell, look no further than the awesomeness of Tacocat.
I regret to inform you that I don't own a crab costume, but my T-shirt and skirt are Forever 21, my tights are Joe Fresh, and my shoes and sunglasses are vintage.
4. Du Blonde
Regardless of the genre of music she’s playing, her fashion influences are clear. Often found in a leopard print coat that’s a more toned-down version of the tiger suit she used to wear in her folkie days, she usually complements this with the color red and is rarely seen without red lipstick. Her current influences seem to include lots of southern California imagery: Baywatch swimsuits, long bleach blonde hair, and big sunglasses.
These style references set off her music perfectly: She’s British, but with a love for American bands and pop culture that finds its way into her songs. The lead single from Welcome Back to Milk, “Black Flag,” was even named after the California punk band in homage. Intense and tongue-in-cheek, Du Blonde’s love of glam rock and punk in equal measure give her a totally inimitable image.
Very sadly, I don't own white sunglasses. I'm working on that. In the meantime, my coat is vintage, my slipdress is Forever 21, my tights are Joe Fresh, and my boots are John Fluevog.
5. The Coathangers
Their latest album, Suck My Shirt, was released in 2014, and the video for single “Follow Me” even has fellow Atlantans and pals Mastodon in drag, impersonating the band in a messy, ragged, aggressive way that feels totally true to their image. The band themselves make a short appearance at the end and try to look unimpressed, but instead just end up looking amused. It’s hilarious.
Their image is largely made up of how Crook Kid, Rusty, and Minnie present themselves. There are a lot of leather jackets, black jeans, band T-shirts, and Chuck Taylor's in their wardrobes. They get more conventionally feminine sometimes, in bright floral prints, black dresses, and fun sunglasses, but that IDGAF rocker edge is always there.
My T-shirt's vintage, my jeans are American Eagle, my shoes are Converse, and my sunglasses are BonLook.
The intersection of fashion and music is such a fascinating one, no?
Images: Laura Friesen