CORE: You Wear What You Listen To

By Shannon Brien

When Bing Crosby and friends were refused admittance into a Canadian hotel in 1951 because they were dressed in denim, Levi Strauss and Co. customised a denim tuxedo for Crosby so he would never have these problems again.


Since then music and denim have been entwined, for almost every musical genre there is an associated iconic denim look. The 1950’s was about rebellion, Elvis Presely had gyrated his way onto the stage and rock and roll became the soundtrack of every rebellious teenager.

By the 60’s denim was mainstream and diverse. While cow boys still line danced in 501’s, “The Godfather of Soul”, James Brown, was feeling good in double denim and denim jumpsuits with appliquéd horses, this adventurous style was continued by fellow soul crooner Sly Stone as he experimented with psychedelic sounds and patch work denim. And “God only knows” what we’d do without the Beach Boys and Surfer rock giving us the summer classic, white denim.

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Sub-genres were surfacing by the 70’s, altering the face of denim and music. The Ramones, credited with creating the definitive punk rock sound, were a major punk influence throughout the 70’s donning skinny jeans and torn jeans held together with safety pins. Deborah Harry, of Blondie fame, pioneered the female punk look, rocking double demin, stonewash and denim jackets, but it wasn’t merely a decade dedicated to punk. Saturday night fever had hit and so did unisex jumpsuits, bell bottom jeans and matching denim jackets. The 70s were diverse musically and materially.



Music had changed exponentially by the 80’s, acid wash jeans were the face of pop and pop punk, whereas looser fitting styles were becoming the choice of ragga and hip hop enthusiasts. Ragga denim style was distressed, loose fitting with patch work and appliqué, it made use of shredded and stone wash denim.  The hip hop denim style was broad, Run DMC wore straight leg jeans while the Beastie Boys cuffed theirs and Ice-T tried to bring back the high waisted look to no avail.


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The hip hop trend of the 80’s continued through the 90s and with the popular breakthrough of rap, denim became the style of the streets. Overalls, baggy jeans and denim jackets were the common looks of Tupac, TLC, The Fugees and Kriss Kross and other hip hop acts brought back the Crosby pioneered ‘Canadian Tuxedo’. Janet Jackson made ‘mom jeans’ look acceptable whilst pop music adapted popular looks of other eras, cut off jeans, coloured denim and appliqué and patchwork.


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The ‘noughties’ saw denim break through pre defined musical genre barriers and embrace any and every type of denim style. Case and point…



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