One day, like most days, my mother made an offhand comment: "I don't know why male musicians dress so boring. If I were a rock star, I'd dress like ZZ Ward every day." When I saw her at the Theatre of Living Arts last February, Ward wore a sequined black tank top, black and white leather pants, and her signature black hat—not necessarily an outfit you would want to picture your mother wearing. In an effort to banish that thought from my mind, I started mulling over the statement, wondering how I would dress in the parallel universe where I become a famous musician, and soon it worked its way into conversation—an icebreaker I never expected.
The discussion around music and fashion seems especially pressing now, as a performance by Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran sparked an intense Internet debate about the double standards for male and female musicians. Regardless of one's opinion on a clothing double standard, the fact remains that clothing and music are both important methods of asserting one's individuality and personality. If thousands of people are going to be watching you perform, the way you present yourself to them matters. So I brought the implicit question in my mother's comment to the Street music section: how would you dress as a rock star?
Arjun Swaminathan: If I were a rock star, I’d have to exude that smooth yet flashy style. Starting from the top, my hair is slicked back and I need those sweet thin–rimmed black Oakley sunglasses. For the torso, a plain Nike t–shirt is fine, but a sleek black leather jacket on top is a must. The lower body doesn’t need to be too extravagant—a pair of fitted Bonobos jeans is clean. As for shoes, I’m rocking the freshest Timberland boots on the market. Hell yeah.
Julia Davies: If I was a rock star, my on–stage style would be strongly influenced by Kali Uchis. As a rock star I would want my outfits to be eccentric and excessive and serve as a part of my performance. I would accessorize with tiny 90s sunglasses and lots of jewelry. I would switch from all black velvet two–pieces to over–the–top sequin dresses. Then I would probably top off the whole outfit with a pink bob wig. The goal would be to exude confidence and energy.
Samuel Kesler: I think that with performers, we expect a certain amount of flair. After all, everybody else has to dress normal, so when you have the chance, just go for it. I imagine my stage attire as transforming album to album, my emo debut drawing from Panic! [at the Disco] and MCR [My Chemical Romance] with marching band uniforms and dark eye shadow. Then when I go more punk, leather jacket with a white t–shirt, blue jeans and boots. I’ll take a heel turn for country, where I’ll be dressed in all white leather, fringes everywhere, and even higher boots, with a white Stetson to cap me off. After the years long hiatus, I’ll return with my shoegaze album, the entire band going all black, skinny jeans and turtlenecks. After that, I guess I’ll die?
Teresa Xie: Whenever I imagine myself as an artist, there’s always a leather jacket in the picture. I think I would definitely have more of an edgy, monotonous look, as opposed to a bright spectrum of colors like Tyler the Creator sports. I wouldn’t be opposed to a bold belt and a fire–engine–red top, but only because I would want my outfit to reflect who I am as a person, and my music to reflect who I am as an artist.
Paul Litwin: If I were to dress like a rock star, the first thing I’d do is buy some comfortable–ass shoes if I’m gonna be on my feet performing for hours. Assuming I have a rock star’s salary and I’m trying to make a statement with my brand choices, I’d undoubtedly go with the Saint Laurent court class sneakers, a great example of a high–quality low–profile shoe. If I had rockstar–levels of confidence, I’d definitely sport a pair of ripped men’s skinny jeans, and top it off, I’d definitely rock this $3,300 Gucci hoodie, cause I like tigers, and why not?
Melannie Jay: As for myself, I've never been able to come up with a satisfying answer. Truthfully, it varies—am I a blues rocker in this world, or did I go full hardcore? Am I playing lead guitar, rhythm and vocals, or maybe even bass? Depending on the above answers, I might wear anything from a white button–down and blazer to a hockey jersey and ripped jeans. A few things do remain true across all genres and instruments: I have the same affinity as ZZ Ward for black and white, although skinny jeans seem more comfortable than leather pants. Like any good rock musician, I would foolishly come onstage with a leather jacket that gets ditched three songs in when I realize just how warm the venue is. Finally, sneakers that I can wear forever are a must: Adidas Gazelles or Vans Authentic Lites. I've damaged my body enough at shows; the last thing I need is to snap an ankle.