Monday, May 14, 2012

Style trends of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2012: You wear it well

    Yes, they had songs. But their style gave the songs an added meaning, a deeper context.

    Guns N' Roses


    The hair, hats, bandannas and scarves. And let us not forget the sock, in the case of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

    The inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2012 -- Guns N'Roses, Beastie Boys, Laura Nyro, Donovan, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Small Faces/Faces -- all represent trends in fashion as much as styles of music.

    What would GNR be without denim and leather, top hats and bandannas?

    The Beasties without their Adidas shoes?

    Egads, Rod Stewart without that hair?

    Stewart and his rooster mullet are being inducted with the Faces. Along with Keith Richards, the British rockers defined the scruffy look with messy hair and fitted clothes that looked as though they'd been slept in.

    The band will be inducted alongside the Small Faces, which morphed into the Faces with the addition of Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood.

    The Small Faces might be the least known of the Class of 2012, but the mid-1960s mod band's fashion sense would top a Rolling Stone best-of list.

    "They spent more money on clothes than they did recording their albums," says Ira Robbins, editor of the rock bible "The Trouser Press Record Guide." "They were a total Carnaby Street band."

    The street and its boutiques defined the look and style of Swinging London in the '60s. The Small Faces prided themselves on being the best-dressed band anywhere.

    They still are, according to Tom Dechristofaro, singer-guitarist in Cleveland indie-pop band Afternoon Naps.

    "The whole mod thing was a crazy influence on me," Dechristofaro says. "It's where music and style and attitude all came together in rock 'n' roll."

    Donovan projected the kind of style you might find in Middle-earth.

    "He was an elfin creature," says Robbins. "You can't underestimate the power 'The Hobbit' and pagan theology had on people like Donovan."

    His fashion sense followed -- complete with paisley shirts and robes adorned with flowers.

    "He became a psychedelic fairy with a hippie-dippie gypsy look," says Robbins.

    By the '70s, Donovan was out of fashion. He was typecast as last decade's model.

    It's a problem that performers, like fashion designers, experience when they define themselves so closely with one style, era or movement.

    Abandoning the old to become trendy again is just as risky, says hairstylist and musician Christina Akita.

    "The '80s were so bad for rock 'n' roll fashion because you had all these dudes from the '60s and '70s trying to stay current," says Akita. "But they were too out of touch to be cool again."

    Akita rates David Bowie and Stewart as having the toughest time making the transition.

    "They started doing all these new, crazy things with their hair and clothes, and their music got bland," says Akita. "Like they were trying to appeal to a pop audience who doesn't like rock 'n' roll."

    Stewart's forays into '80s and '90s adult contemporary were accompanied by a much spikier mane -- imagine a rooster that had stuck its claw into an electrical outlet.

    "He became this schmaltzy crooner and started wearing these pastel-colored suits," says Dechristofaro. "It's pretty cheesy if you're talking about rock fashion, but at least he's still getting supermodels."

    Axl Rose shocked fans with his new "style" when he hit the stage in Brazil last fall.

    He was performing as Guns N' Roses (he's the sole original member). But he looked nothing like the singer his fans had come to know and love.

    It wasn't just that he had ballooned out, or that he barely moved onstage.

    There was no bandanna. No leather jacket. No denim.

    Instead, Rose concealed himself in a full-length yellow coat, with a black hat and sunglasses.

    His outlaw look and style provided the band's songs a different context 25 years ago.

    So did his new style -- which gave new meaning to "Appetite for Destruction."
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