At least on the surface, which is sometimes all that matters, the '80s were more about fashion than music, as the images projected by artists sometimes lasted longer than the music they put on record. Here's a look at some of the most iconic artists of the decade from a style perspective. Accessories always included.
As frontman of the Canadian arena rock heroes Loverboy, Mike Reno certainly established a memorable image that was heavily dependent on his personal style choices. Clad typically in flamboyant leather pants (is there any other kind?) and sunglasses, Reno generally rocked without instrument in hand, which meant he needed something extra to put him over the top as the focal point of the stage. Enter the headband, an accessory generally intended for athletes but used by Reno cleverly in dual fashion, to absorb the perspirative results of his exertions as well as carve out a lasting visual trademark for himself.
Amidst the glut of hair metal bands that emerged during the late '80s, latecomers Skid Row needed to distinguish themselves from the pack in some significant way. Luckily, the powerful pipes of Sebastian Bach and the band's generally tougher sound already did that to some extent, but bassist Rachel Bolan provided the final, singular touch to distance the band from the soft, commercially acceptable nature of the pop metal genre. His nose chain, while it must have been a definite hazard for moving limbs onstage, certainly established a memorable look and an edgy, menacing image that suited the band's niche well.
Guns N' Roses' original guitarist Slash had no shortage of memorable visual elements to distinguish himself from other late-'80s hard rock musicians. After all, he cut an imposing figure clad in black, with his curly black hair uncontrolled and usually covering his face. Still, such an apparent handicap never seemed to interfere with the guitarist's scorching and precise playing, so why stop there with the visual trademarks? Slash also employed a dangling cigarette to round out his image, but most notable was his oversized tophat that served as an interesting contrast to his tough, dangerous biker presentation.
While there are an abundance of bizarre and comical elements associated with Flavor Flav, one of the founding and perhaps most well-known members of pioneering rap group Public Enemy, there is only one signature accessory that anyone thinks of when considering this artist. Flav has apparently given a number of reasons for wearing the large, gaudy pendant clocks around his neck, but maybe the best, most recent reason is to remind potential viewers that his multiple VH1 reality series are likely to be appearing on that network at the top of the next hour.
This quirky art rock new wave band from Ohio introduced a number of props into early-'80s pop culture, most notably the whip from the group's most well-known MTV hit, "Whip It." But nothing was more representative of new wave in a visual sense than the hats the group donned for that music video: red, segmented metal cylinders that resembled flower pots more than anything else. Although the band set out to broadcast its philosophy of the devolution of modern society, using electronics and technology to convey the message, many music fans just couldn't get past their goofy if color-coordinated headwear.
When the dance-funk group Cameo hit it big with 1986's Top 10 pop hit "Word Up," the long-successful band became a central part of '80s pop culture. At the center of the group's visual image, literally, was the striking red codpiece group leader Blackmon liked to wear on stage. Apparently careful to stay prepared in case he might be called upon to catch a pick-up baseball game, Blackmon maintained the style trademark as his calling card for years to come. Seemingly unafraid of falling into cartoon territory as a result of this image, Blackmon deserves points for crotch-area style boldness.