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How music influences the fashion industry

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 5139 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This study is purposely carried out in order to find out whether music has any influence on fashion. The research question that will be a guide to the establishment of the intended explanation will be: Does music influence fashion? The hypothesis therefore for this study will be; music has had a great influence on fashion both now and in the recent historical times. This is greatly supported by the fact that music is an independent variable and has everlasting effects of various aspects of the society including fashion (Powell, 2001, pp 134). Fashion in this case will serve as a dependent variable since it is affected differently by the different types of music that exist within the society. Additionally, it has been seen that fashion changes with the entry of a certain song to the music industry (Lounger In Society, 2009, pp 4). This study as it tries to establish the effect of music on fashion will provide helpful information to the fashion designers because they will be able to identify the best marketing strategies for their products by relating it to a particular genre of music that is considered fashionable (Huntley, 1972, pp 66).

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There are various entities in every society that influences its behavior and interaction among its members. The way people work, relate, play, eat or even dance is influenced by music in one way or the other. Within the society, it is also important to note that its members have different tastes and preferences to various kinds of music (Powell, 2001, pp 137). Such kind of music includes reggae, rhythm and blues, pop, rock, classical, hip-hop, jazz among others. Music in essence is a form of an art that organizes sound in a melodious manner with the aim of expressing feelings and emotions. It is rare on earth to find a human being who does not have a taste to any kind of music (Shmoop University, 2000, pp 13). The music could either be international like reggae, pop and rock, or local as used by various native languages within a certain locality. Music has tremendously grown and may prove hectic for one to be able to categorize it into various types because its origin may not be easily decoded by history (Huntley, 1972, pp 69).

The study of behavior and music shows that music has an eccentric influence on fashion as manifested by the trends emulated by youths and other members of the society. Fashion can be defined as the mirror of what the society thinks and does within a certain period of time (Randel, 2003, pp 253). This is widely noticeable when music of a particular genre is released and attracts the attention of many listeners. This is also expressed through the radio stations that people listen to and the videos for the songs they watch. Music is an integral part of the social environment and cannot be avoided. It also influences how young people grow up and ultimately contributes in the setting of various societal norms (Campbell, 1994, pp 27). This is seen as a way that creates excitement and alters how an individual especially teenagers dress and decide to emulate the dressing code of a particular singer. This research will greatly dwell in providing evidence that the various trends in the music industry have had a big influence on fashion (Warner, 2003, pp 123).

Aims and objectives

It has always been and will remain to be a belief that music is the food of the soul and a panacea of the mind as greatly depicted by the ability of children and other individuals to grasp a verse of a particular song within a short time (Randel, 2003, pp 253). This becomes a relevant topic because it influences different dressing styles of the society being examined. The purpose of this research therefore is to revisit the evolution and history of music and cultural backgrounds, outline various types of music, examine the prominent debates relating to music and fashion, and enumerate various fashion trends in each type of music. The research will further introduce and examine various fashion designers, musicians, and photographers who have influenced fashion through their careers particularly music (Cargan, 2007, pp 116).

Literature review

The success of this research and the definite provision of solutions to the identified objectives will dwell on the facts provided by various writings that relate to this topic. Various authors have shared their arguments and made immense contributions to indicate that indeed, music has an influence on fashion. This is clearly pointed out and illustrated by the dressing styles that people copy when they listen to a particular type of music. Tortora and Eubank in their book “Survey of historic costume: a history of Western dress” argued that the industry related to fashion has always been a risky venture due to unpredictable dressing trends emulated by the society caused by the dynamics in music industry. They pointed out that people changed the ways they dressed to imitate that of the singers in any famous song within a particular period of time (Tortora & Eubank, 2005, pp 171, 519).

An article by Hunter in the Cincinnati Magazine points out clearly that music and fashion are one entity and they go hand in hand. He used an example of the seventies where there was spontaneous freedom in the choice of music that was attractive to the youthful population of the time. During that time, people went for the outfits that would make one look disco-like and contrasts the ones of the nineties. He however showed that the fashion tastes for a particular age-group may be different and this is enhanced by music that they listen to (Hunter, 1997, pp 50). Duran Alan on the other hand gives diverse interpretations that have been given as it relates to fashion. He uses an example of David Bowie’s song, “Fashion” that clearly points out how rock music is intertwined with fashion concerning the dancing styles and mode of dress. According to him, the interpretation of fashion and how it has been affected by music does not involve the taking of rigid stands and should not be assumed (Duran, 1984, pp 189).

Wilbekin on his part while interviewing Armani (a designer) was able to find out that most of the fashion outfits he makes are determined by the type of music people listen to. An example of hip hop music is given where he says that it embraces the fact that one becomes more real and individualistic. This is because according to Armani, all rules of fashion have been broken by hip hop by technically fusing sportswear and high fashion. In addition, he says that the street wear has formed a fundamental idea of modern and casual lifestyles. We can be able to identify that this magazine critically answers our research question. He also uses the examples of D’Angelo, Mariah Carey, and Lauryn Hill to explain the influence that the musicians have made in his fashion boutique. He also points out that most hip hop artists are attracted to the legendary Italian wear like suits, fedoras, and jewelry and this will automatically be copied by their listeners (Wilbekin, 2000, pp 172).

In her book, “Fundamentals of sociology”, Sharma points out that music refines human tendencies in day to day life which enhances the societal feelings depicted through singing and dancing. He also adds that since there have been improved modes of communication, the influence of a particular genre of music spans over a wide area thus proving a universal effect (Sharma, 1996, pp 345). The effects are clearly brought out when Steele analyses the effects music has had to the society for the last fifty years (Steele, 2000, pp 155). It critically examines the effect it has brought culturally, socially and even economically. It is important to point out that during the same period, there was a great evolution of music and thus the effects were diverse. She enhances her analysis by using fashion pictures thus providing the required evidence of the changing fashion trends of the time (Steele, 2000, pp 163).

Blackwell and Stephan in the book “Brands that Rock” have used Madonna as a perfect example to bring in the fact that music influences everything and fashion cannot be left out. They explain that music hypnotizes everybody and this relates to Madonna’s fashion of KISS. They have indicated that the success of this fashion trend was achieved due to various performances and shows in clubs (Blackwell et al, 2004, pp 157). What would follow were unprecedented sales of the clothing inclined to the KISS fashions. In this case, it has been illustrated that people were able to elevate themselves to megastar status by choosing music as the best choice to do so. This involved the choosing of the best music style that was acceptable and quality and this would influence people of all categories (Blackwell et al, 2004, pp 153). Bunt on the other hand categorically states that because music influences the society, the effect will automatically shift to fashion. This serves to answer our research question because Bunt has shown that music has some influence on fashion (Bunt, 19994, pp 98).

The effort of Radano and Bohlman cannot be left out in this research due to their contribution in the provision of facts of the effects of Gypsy music in rural Hungary. According to them, the effect of this kind of music swept the rural Hungary irrespective of the age bracket. This was followed by the imitation of the dressing culture of the musicians and this had immense effect on the fashion and the traditional musical traditions (Radano and Bohlman, 2000, pp 409). In his comparative studies, Kerman in his part took much consideration on the assimilative culture of Elizabethan madrigal. According to him, the impetus of copying foreign musical styles led to the local flourishing of musicians and within a short span of twenty five years, the whole fashion industry had drastically changed. He credits the cause of the changes to the native inspiration of musicians and their fans (Kerman, 1962, pp 130).

Hockx and Strauss on their part made a significant impact in this field by taking a study on the Chinese culture. According to them, the dressing culture of the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have been influence by a particular musical genre. Beijing for instance has faced a lot influence from rock music while the city of Xinjiang has been influenced by pop music. They also point out that this has contributed immensely in dynamic change of fashion where music is the driving force. The local music industry has seen itself adapting to innovative ways which are instantly copied by the fashion industry and ultimately their fans (Hockx & Straus, 2005, pp 3). Hendrickson in his book “Musica Christi” gives us some information about the effect that music has had on fashion. He takes into consideration a discussion by various theologians that shows that the dynamic nature of music has influenced the defining of analogia entis and fashion. The effect of musical styles on fashion during the renaissance period has also been wholly discussed and this goes in line with our research question and our objectives (Hendrickson, 2005, pp 83).

Sims in his book “Rock Fashion” illustrates and explains the fashion trends that have accompanied the changing times of rock music. One example is the fetish wear items and biker clothes that were won by singers and this was immediately imitated by the listeners. Chain jackets and sideburns that the rock musicians like are most of the time seen among their listeners and fans. Sims goes ahead and uses the example of Cliff Richard’s white tie and Johnny Kidd’s eye patching that made most of their fans to change their wardrobe. His contribution in this research extends further when he points out that in the past forty years, the rock stars have influenced fashion in various cultural groups of the world (Sims, 2001, pp 14). Jones in his book “Fashion Design” expresses music as an inspiration to the world of fashion since designers are forced in one way or the other to be creative and follow the fashion details and fabrics that would fit the listener market for a particular genre of music. He points out that a good fashion designer goes with the music of the time if he/she has to make good sales. This clearly points out how music influences fashion (Jones, 2005, pp 17).

An article by Tony Ware in the CMJ Music Magazine titled “Brand New Wave” describes the dressing trends of the eighties where musicians wore asymmetrical outfits to battle for their commercial space in the discos. This extended to the various geometric haircuts by musicians like Britney and Kid Rock. From this analysis, we can point out clearly that the fans would go ahead and ape their model stars especially in the field of hip hop and pop (Tony, 2001, 45). Vernallis in her book “Experiencing music video: aesthetics and cultural context”, takes into consideration enormous effect that music video has influenced music and fashion. The visual imagery that pop songs of the sixties had on the society according to her, affected fashions to a very large extend. She points out clearly that the introductions of music videos enabled the fans to watch for themselves and thus were able to identify the particular dressing styles of their stars. They would in turn copy it and thus making the fashion of the society to be affected in a way that follows the trends of the time (Vernallis, 2004, pp 287).

Shepherd John in his book titled “Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World: Media, industry and society” made a significant contribution to this research by identifying the various musical types and how they have influence fashion. His book contains contributions from more than a hundred individuals relating to how popular music has influenced the society. His works contain all the influences music has had on the societal culture which of course has a direct influence on fashion trends that accompanies the songs. The book clearly indicates that, regardless of any part of the world, music has a significant influence on the trending trends of the listeners (Shepherd, 2003, pp 56). Morrell Ernest in his book “Becoming Critical Researchers” uses the evidence from the urban culture teenagers to conclude his finding that music has a direct influence on fashion. He says that hip hop for instance influences fashion as indicated by a college student wearing a T-shirt and a hat which is mostly a characteristic of hip hop musicians (Morrell, 2004, pp 72).

The contributions made by Kendall Diana to this research cannot be left out because she has brought clearly the aspect of fashion as a valued style of behavior found in many areas of our lives including music (Martin & Lehu, 2009, pp 34). She further asserts that contemporary music and clothing in the United States to some extent reflect some aspect of African, Caribbean, and Asian culture. It is also in this book that we can be able to know that music has facilitated cross-cultural influence in fashion indicated by the dressing styles that accompany the song in question (Kendall,2009, pp 66). Bennet, Temperley and Yang in their book “Lectures on musical life”, endeavored to show the influence that music as an art has had on fashion. According to them, music is rooted in the acceptable manners of the society and these results in dynamism associated with every kind of new music that comes across. They went ahead and pointed out that the performance of a particular fashion as rooted on music has a traceable and more gradual effect on the composition of the song itself (Bennet et al, 2006, pp 146).

Research Methodology

The primary method that was used to obtain the answers to the objectives of this research involved the use of questionnaire. A well structured questionnaire was formulated and contained probing questions that would ensure that the correct answers are obtained from those whom they were administered to. The use of this method of obtaining the required data is reliable and facts are recorded instantly thus merited (Miller & Salkind, 2000, 27). The method is also advantageous because information is obtained from the correct person and not second hand which would otherwise lead to distortion of results (Lippman, 1999, pp 34). The presence of the person who is administering the questionnaire is also an advantage for this method because the questions that have not been understood may further be explained in more understandable manner. The method however, is too involving and cumbersome. In addition, it was realized that open-ended questions took longer time to be answered and took long time to be analyzed while some respondents made a lot of exaggeration in some other questions (Cargan, 2007, pp 116).

The questionnaire that was used in this research consisted of twenty five questions all which were geared towards achieving the objectives of the research. Some of the questions included among the following: What is music? What is fashion? Is fashion influenced by music? Give the instances that you think fashion has been influenced by music? What types of music do you know? Briefly describe the history of music according to your own understanding. Name any musician who has influenced your wardrobe or that of someone you know (Titon et al, 2009 25). These are some of the sample questions that were in the questionnaire among others. In order to minimize errors and enhance accuracy, two hundred and fifty questionnaires were prepared and administered over randomly selected individuals. Results were then collected and analyzed before arriving at the final conclusion (Metz & Benson, 1999, pp 166).

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The other primary method that was used was direct interview with identified clients. Interview however had fewer questions than the questionnaire but answers were more detailed because the interviewer could use various skills to identify if the person they are interviewing has answered the question correctly (Seale, 2004, pp 165). Wherever a mistake was realized, the interviewer would immediately devise ways that would ensure the question is correctly answered. The method however has some limitations, these includes; the exercise itself being too involving and sometimes affected by language barrier or handling illiterate clients. The interviewer was also expected to avail himself to the client unlike the use of questionnaire where it would just be sent to trusted clients. Few interviews were however carried out because they were just meant to supplement the questionnaire. Data collected was then analyzed and relevant results recorded (Seale, 2004, pp 170).

In the course of the research however, there were instances that required the use of secondary sources with the aim of primarily giving weight to the data that were already collected (Kumar, 2001, pp 58). Our research used library search as and indexing and involved the research panel going through written texts that had similar topic on the effects of music on fashion. This method was the best alternative of secondary sources because it provides trusted results and data thus enhancing the accuracy of the data being collected (Kumar, 2001, pp 63). Futhermore, its analysis required minimal time and limited skills from the research panel. This method however had a limitation because it was difficult to obtain the exact required data and thus several texts were to be analyzed. This consumed some good quality time in the research (Campbell, 1994, pp 27).

Results and Findings

After the completion of the research and findings analyzed, it was found out that most people agreed with the fact that music affects their fashion in one way or the other. Some would find themselves aping the dressing styles of the musical stars or the hair styles (Hook, 2010, pp 3). Others however were not directly affected by music but out at their friends who find themselves changing their wardrobe to resemble that of renowned stars like Rihanna, Jay-Z, Madonna among others (Tera, 2009). Due to the agreeable fact that music affects our lives, it’s found out that the rate at which the listeners respond to a particular fashion was unpredictable since music solely depends on mass media for it to be heard or known (Manlow, 2009, pp 45). The introduction of musical videos is seen as milestone that enhanced how music affected their fashion because they can be able to perceive the current trend of dressing (Perpetual-vogue, 2008).

The history of music according to this research can be factually traced until the First World War where jazz music was sang in the 1920s (Miller & Salkind, 2002, pp 16). Famous jazz players like Louis Armstrong began his career as a jazz player and his music attracted many people of the time (Tera, 2009). The euphoria of jazz was later replaced by Swing type of music which was later replaced by Rock and Roll of the 1950s. In 1960s, The Beatles was the fashionable musical style of the time. The rockers of the 50s were primarily characterized by leather jackets and the keeping of long unkempt hair. On top of these, drainpipe trousers and rubber-soled shoes were a characteristic of Rock and Roll artists (Tonneau & Thompson, 2000, pp 269). Music of the 1960s made so many people to be cloth-conscious and teenage fashion of the time entailed the wearing of short hair, shoes and green parkas were relatively long. It was during this time that musicians started wearing necklaces and were quickly aped by their fans (Jones & Brown, 2005 pp 128).

Disco hits came in the 70s which became a driving tool of fashion in the urban areas and it may seem as though the style is dead but the current fashion is deeply rooted in it. People in the 80s and 90s desired the Grunge look popularized by hip-hop and involves attires not limited jumpsuits, sneakers, and Kangol hats (Katz & Dahlhaus, 1987, pp 93). Fashion of this generation is considered modest and the music industry of this genre was popularized by artists like Notorious B.I.G, Tupac Shakur, and Jay-Z among others (Hess, 2007, pp 406). Wearing of t-shirts and jeans is an example of the millennium music closely related to Hip-hop fashion and pop (Welters & Cunningham 2005 pp 19). The supremacy of baggy jeans and large black rimmed glasses are characteristic of fashion in this musical era. It was also found out that it is during this time that the use of pink color by the lady world found its way to the fashion shelves (Rosengren, 1994, pp 73).

In the course of this research, various kinds of music were identified and it was clearly pointed out that each musical genre was related to a particular fashion trend. Among the genres include; classical music, rock music, metal music, hip-hop music, trance music, jazz music, and techno among others (Katz & Dahlhaus, 1987, pp 93). It is important to note that irrespective of the type, music has an impact on its listeners. The roots of Rock type of music can be traced to the rock and roll era which began a dance but later became dominant to the teenage audience of the time. Metal music on the other hand is a rather rapidly played music that dates back to World War II (Henwood, 2010, pp 16). Most people consider it to be associated with members of the society who are not satisfied and this has greatly impacted on the other types of music. The minorities in America are believed to be the inventors of rap music characterized by break dancing and a lot of graffiti. This kind of music has also influenced the Jamaican music which is deeply rooted in reggae music (Benstock & Ferriss, 1994, pp 197).

Wedding music was also identified in the research but one can realize that it can be fused with other types like classical or traditional. This is because wedding is an occasion characterized by the changing moods of the people (Campbell, 1994, pp 27). It also diverse among the different cultures of the world and dancing in this occasion can range from the Brazilian salsa and even to pop music. Hip-hop on the other hand is the one characterized almost all instruments with bass taking the prominence (Bensmaïa, 1987, pp 88). It is generally used by artists to show different feelings and this has resulted in hip-hop culture and thus hip-hop fashion. The roots of this musical genre can be traced to West African music. Trance music is mostly played in clubs and discotheques and is easily traced to the 20th century music. It is basically characterized by fast tempo and quick repetition of beats that creates a hypnotic effect on its listeners (Longhurst, 2007, pp235).

The research would not have been successful if country music would not have been identified. This kind of music and a couple of other folk music gained popularity in the 40s to mid 70s by musicians like Bob Wills and Bill Mornoe (Greaves, 2009). There is also Techno music which was identified and this has been seen to have a direct relationship and following among high school students. Western music has a variety of musical genres among them are music which incorporates classical and experimental music (Wallin et al, 2001, pp 49). There is also the pop music and fabulous music that ranges from reggae, rock, and metallic. Latin music has also been gaining popularity in the recent past and with its unique dressing style, people are also aping the fashion associated with all the kinds of music (Krummel, 1987, pp 93).

Music as identified from the research carried out affects fashion and fashion trends in any society. It has been indicated that fashion is the styles especially dressing which are constantly dynamic in a given culture within a given time (Malone & Stricklin, 2003, pp 124). Someone may be considered fashionable when they fit to the current dressing trends that are mostly popularized by music (Llanas, 2010 pp 11). When they do not fit to such kinds of dressing modes then they are considered unfashionable. Fashion can sometimes be used together with beauty or style. Fashion trends have solely been influenced by musicians and songwriters to the extent that the fashion industry has been intertwined with musicians (Bierut et al, 2002, pp 259). Such artists use their fame popularity to sell a particular line of clothing. Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani for instance are making a kill by incorporating fashion and music (Gehlhar 2008, pp 230).

Adidas as a fashion phenomenon was popularized by rap song and this resulted in massive sales. This also happens to other wears like hats, tracks and T-shirts. The trend is seen to have change to sleeveless rock T-shirts in the 90s and was particularly popularized by musicians like Poison, Ratt, and Ozzy among others (Seale 2004, pp 165). The Grunge look is also a fashion trend that was popularized by Nirvana in the 90s while Kangol became fashionable when LLcool J placed it as a trademark of his hat. It is also in the 1980s that Madonna drastically changed the way girls dressed to look bold and beautiful (Perkins, 1996, pp 266). She became the queen of fashion during this time and most girls imitated her dressing style to the fullest (Tonneau & Thompson, 2000, pp 267). On characteristic of this era was the black leggings, bangles, bracelets, ballerina skirts, large earrings among others. This resulted in the formation of the MTV television network that brought out stars and their outstanding fashions (Solomon & Rabolt , 2004, pp 72).

The launch of MTV popularized the fashion trends of musicians like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Whitney Houston, among others in the year beginning 1981. Their names were extensively used in various households and this promoted imitation of their fashion by teens and even young adults (Malone & Stricklin, 2003, pp 127). This includes his legendary jackets which he wore mostly in his videos and later the white gloves of the millennium times that are still worn by his fans even after his death. A song sung by Madonna titled “vogue” mentions some of the renowned actors and actresses who have influenced the wardrobe of the populace (Bensmaïa, 1987, pp 89). Among the people she mentions includes Grace Kelly, Jimmy Dean Jean Harlow among others this was seen as a tool that generated more sales for fashion designers (Schneck et al, 2008, pp 186).

It is vividly noticeable that whenever a new song comes out, fashion changes and it appears rather funny to see how people change rapidly with the entry of a particular song. One example is during Avril Lavigne time when she released her song “Girlfriend”. Just because the video of the song featured her wearing a tight miniskirt was enough to make other girls ape (Lysloff & Gay, 2003, pp 334). It is important to mention the contributions of three hip hop artists who have been the latest movers and shakers in the fashion industry. Kelis Daringa in the video of her song “I’ bossy” is credited for the introduction of the sleek and A-symmetrical haircut that was immediately imitated by her fans (Malone & Stricklin, 2003, pp 124). Rihanna on her part as a pop star changed her look from the traditional brown hair to the edgy black style. The influence that she elicited can best be seen by looking at teenage girls around. Kanye West on his part has impacted the fashion industry wherever he goes. Talk of sweater vests and unique sunglasses and all directly linked to him (Tonneau & Thompson, 2000, pp 260).


Both music and fashion are forms of art and are inseparable since they depict our expressions and viewpoints within our scope (Hawkins, 2006, pp 12). It was found in this research that people dress in relation to the music they listen to and thus providing an answer to our research question, “does music affect fashion?” Our cross-examination of the last six decades has given us tangible evidence on the growth of music and how it has influenced and how it has impacted on the wardrobe of their listeners (Lysloff & Gay, 2003, pp 330). Fashion designers and marketers are fully aware of the effect of music on their products and they can only be able to maximize their sales by coordinating it with music. It is also important to mention the fact that people are placed in a particular stereotypical image due to the music that they listen to and the clothes they put on (Bensmaïa, 1987, pp 88).


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