Heavy Metal Fashion - Origins

Origins

The clothing associated with heavy metal has its roots in the biker, rocker, and leather subcultures. Heavy metal fashion includes elements such as leather jackets; hi-top basketball shoes (more common with old school thrash metalheads); blue or black skinny fit jeans, camouflage pants, shirts, jackets or shorts, and denim jackets or kutte vests, often adorned with badges, pins and patches. As with the bikers, there is a fascination with Germanic imagery, such as the Iron Cross.

Distinct aspects of heavy metal fashion can be credited to various bands, but the band that takes the most credit for revolutionizing the look was Judas Priest, primarily with its singer, Rob Halford. Halford wore a leather costume on stage as early as 1978 to coincide with the promotion for the Killing Machine (Hell Bent for Leather in the USA) album. In a 1998 interview, Halford described the leather subculture as the inspiration for this look. Shortly after appropriating the leather look, Halford started appearing onstage on a roaring motor bike. Soon, the rest of the band followed.

It was not long before other bands appropriated the leather look; Iron Maiden's original singer Paul Di'Anno began wearing leather jackets and studded bracelets, Motörhead innovated with bullet belts, and Saxon introduced spandex. This fashion was particularly popular with followers of the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) movement in the early 1980s, and sparked a revival for metal in this era.

The studded leather look was extended in subsequent variations, to the wearing of combat boots, studded belts and bracelets, bullet belts, spiked gauntlets, etc. The codpiece, however, appears to have been less popular among the general public.

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