Photo by Robin Laurance. Source:

Fashion is music’s middle finger to politics & society

For as long as music has been commercialised, artists have used fashion as a way to communicate a character. Clothes engage the audience visually, but also show who a person is and what they believe in. Sometimes this is to make a political statement, whilst other times, it’s simply just for entertainment. Either way, how an artist looks is an integral part of becoming a successful performer.

Take the Sex Pistols. You don’t have to be a fan of their music to instantly recognise their brand. They made a huge change to society by introducing the idea of anarchy to many and bringing punk to the mainstream. But who was a key part of their success? Vivienne Westwood. A designer who understood the band’s philosophy, opinions and beliefs, curating a whole ‘look’ out of it. ‘Punk’ has never been a genre, nor a sound, but an ideology, a set of beliefs and an attitude but first and foremost, it is a look, a look defined by Vivienne Westwood’s clothes.

Unless you spent July with a blindfold on, you’ll have seen that Stormzy wore a bulletproof vest when headlining Glastonbury. This wasn’t a fashion statement, but a political one. The vest was designed by the most politically controversial artist around – Banksy. And what better way for a politically fuelled artist to showcase their work than to model it on another politically fuelled artist, headlining the biggest festival in the world. The vest symbolised the vulnerability of young black men, particularly in London with regards to knife crime, a pressing issue but ignored by the most powerful in parliament. Stormzy addressed this issue – not through words or music – but through fashion. His lyrics and clothing acted together.

But “politics” today is the politics of our bodies and our identities too. There are many more artists fighting the good fight for revolutions through fashion. Take Billie Eilish. She might be just 17, but she’s already wise enough to recognise that by wearing overly baggy clothes, she’s not just using her style to make us envy her effortlessness, but also as a way to get people talking about her music, without exposing her body. Two birds, one stone. She’s already landed a fashion contract with MCM and will soon be releasing a unisex collection filled with oversized silhouettes. This is a huge step forward for society, as so many clothing brands are realising the need for unisex, oversized clothing. Her garments reflect the need for acceptance to the gender-neutral community, those who no longer feel the need to follow stereotypes and those who don’t fit the fashion industry’s ideal.

Another modern artist known for her outrageous style is Lady Gaga. Throughout the years she’s worn a plethora of iconic outfits that shout about important gender and body political issues. She’s worn male-inspired suits to tell the world that, she too, is in control. She never misses Pride week, covering her body in rainbows to stand up for the LGBT+ community. And then there’s the elephant in the room: that meat dress. Although most people thought it was minging – which it probably was – she was trying to tell the world that if we don’t start speaking up for what we believe in, our bodies will be nothing but pieces of meat. Clever that ain’t it? Mad what a dress made out of raw scran can do.

Stop just listening to mainstream artists, and start looking at them too. Their style helps start revolutions, and one day society will look back at these groundbreaking fashion choices and wonder why we didn’t appreciate them more at the time.

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