Staring from the cover of her seminal album Horses, Patti Smith is clad in suspenders, an un-ironed man’s shirt and jacket (complete with a lapel pin) casually thrown over one shoulder. P-A-T-T-I! She looks as chic as any supermodel to ever grace the cover of Vogue.
Fast forward thirty years and this writer is frantically searching for some super-chunky trainers to team with a 1950s prom dress, after seeing Lilly Allen rocking the look, while singing the worst swear words as sweetly as you might coo a nursery rhyme. Though on me this particular outfit was not the roaring success hoped for, I was not the first, nor would I be the last person to look to the music industry for sartorial inspiration.
Musicians, and particularly indie ones, often seem to have the edge on fashion. Take as an example the skinny-legged jean, a defining garment of the 1980s (currently enjoying a revival), which was in fact being worn from the mid-seventies, sperm-count threateningly tight, by members of punk groups like The Clash and The Ramones
Similarly in the mid nineties Courtney Love and her band Hole, helped bring the Babydoll/ Grunge style to prominence, their torn and mussied-up floral dresses giving the wearer the appearance of a dolly that has ended up at the dumpster. It was a look that would filter up onto the catwalks and indeed cluey fashion designers often use musos as their muses.
Hedi Slimane, Dior Homme’s former creative designer, was able to see past the scum, sweat and syringes otherwise obscuring Pete Doherty’s enormously marketable sense of style, and named him as a key inspiration (don’t scoff. Own a trilby or fedora hat? Well chum, ya bought into it.)
The concert stage offers musicians a forum for creative fashionable expression combined with a sense of theatre that is unlikely to be found elsewhere. From Kylie with her ten or more showgirl costume changes in one concert, to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O, whose onstage duds are works of art in their own right, musicians can bring the same kind of fantasy to fashion that the Paris Haute Couture shows do - and without the overwhelming sense of wankiness.
Indeed, in some instances a musician will have sufficient sartorial panache to distract from lacklustre musical talents - Patience, I’m talking to you. The Grates should consider themselves lucky you rock a tutu like Anna Pavlova.