TRENDS OVER THE YEARS
Men’s fashion in music videos is often overlooked in comparison to that of female artists. There is a variety of iconic looks across multiple genres and male musicians have flaunted fashions that ranged from creative and experimental to reflective of their era while somehow being timelessly stylish. Decades of flair and finesse continue to be looked upon fondly by audiences, and more contemporary aesthetics are shaping up to be instant classics themselves.
The male pop scene has always been dominated by young heartthrobs, which was epitomized by the boy band craze of the 1990s. In the early 1990s, Boyz II Men danced around Philadelphia in matching orange jackets, jeans, and ties in their “Motownphilly” music video. Around the same time, the much younger male group, Another Bad Creation, embraced their youthfulness in the rainbow overalls for their “Iesha” music video. In the more humorous “I’m Too Sexy” music video, artist Right Said Fred’s fashion statement was that of unbuttoned shirts in reference to their famous lyric, “I’m too sexy for my shirt.” The middle of the decade saw the rise of NSYNC, who made a memorable impression in the music video for their debut lead single, “I Want You Back.” The members were draped in oversized overcoats, with Joey Fatone wearing a particularly striking gold metallic coat. At last, the popularity of boy bands reached their peak in the late ‘90s, and the music videos for these groups were filled with fashions that were an impeccable balance of casual and chic. The boys of 98 Degrees sparked a trend of sweatpants with wool v-neck sweaters in the music video for “Because of You.” Arguably the most quintessential boy band music video was “I Want It That Way”, in which the Backstreet Boys sang their iconic song in multiple all-white outfits, most notably their comfy white pants and matching sneakers.
Indulgence of expensive status symbols has become a staple in mainstream hip hop music videos, with prestigious fashion labels being among such celebrated luxuries. As the song title “My Adidas” would suggest, Run DMC popularized the eponymous tracksuits to the extent at which the groups signed an advertising deal with the company itself, thus becoming the first of their genre to have an endorsement deal with a major company. In a similar vein, Nelly indulged in a vast collection of Air Force Ones in the music video for the song of the same name. “Mr. Me Too’s” minimalist sound starkly contrasts with its ostentatious video, in which Pharrell parades $400 sneakers and glossy chains. Puff Daddy and Ma$e opted for the more subtle but still flashy velour tracksuits in “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down.”
In addition to the flashiness, some rappers opted to unapologetically wear more bizarre, garish outfits. The most famous example of such being MC Hammer’s parachute pants, which are often nicknamed “Hammer Pants,” in the video for his signature single “U Can’t Touch This.” Flavor Flav has been wearing gaudy hats and a clock necklace since the 1989 music video for Public Enemy’s breakout song “Fight the Power.” Kris Kross exemplified the early ‘90s trend of wearing entire outfits backward in their video for “Jump.”
Fashion in rock music videos embodies the many facets and subcategories of the genre. Nirvana’s classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the exemplification of the grunge movement, displaying Kurt Cobain’s signature dirty Converse shoes and oversized plaid button-down shirt. Faith No More’s lead singer already had a known affinity for multi-colored garments and such flamboyance was escalated in the video for “Epic,” in which the piano soloist concludes the song in a star-spangled button-down shirt. Suicidal Tendencies personified California’s punk scene in “Institutionalized” with their buttoned-up flannels and painter’s caps, complete with background skaters sporting Vans.
Beck is a musician renowned for performing in a multitude of genres, and he has thus applied that experimentalism to his attire as well. Early in his career, Beck’s personal style was relegated to his ringer t-shirt and bum hat. His style has evolved, of course, evidenced by his shawl collar wool overcoat in his music video for “Where It’s At.” Overall, Beck encapsulates the stylistic innovation that permeates male-fronted music videos of all types.