I love uniforms–doesn’t matter if we’re talkin’ school, work, or sports! Go ahead, ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you that not only have I saved every uniform from every fast food place where I’ve worked, but at the beginning of every sports season I can tell you what stripe, outline, or font has been changed on a team’s uniform (and, yes, I think Uni Watch is one brilliant idea for a blog).
I believe that wearing a uniform–which some may argue takes away from individual creative expression–promotes unity. Win as a team, lose as a team. All for one, one for all, right?
And it’s not just postal workers, sports teams, and Catholic schoolgirls having all the fun. Uniforms have been used in music for many, many years–everyone from The Supremes to The Beatles to The Jackson 5 (even the Brady Bunch) have dawned them. Coldplay is a recent example of a musical act showing solidarity through wearing similarly stitched threads. Though I don’t necessarily care for their Wiggles-meets-marching-band uniforms, I do appreciate their effort.
Nine Inch Nails, as you probably know, also have a strict dress code. That’s why I thought it was hilarious last year, when they recruited former Beck bassist, Jason Mendel Johnsen, into their ranks. The usually flamboyantly dressed JMJ had to succumb to NIN’s serious black-and-grey road uniform. Career-wise he may be better off with Trent Reznor’s squad, but fashion-wise, it seems like he’d fit in more with cover-song kings, Me First And The Gimme Gimmes, who make a regular practice out of wearing brightly colored Hawaiian shirts on stage.
Today, we will take a good look at the all-time best uniforms in music. Just to be clear, a band can only qualify for the list, if all members participate. Andre 3000 and Karen O have sported some spectacular threads over the last few years, but the rest of their group–and maybe for good reason–haven’t mimicked their style (I don’t know if the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Nick Zinner, would look good in an electric blue leotard?).
For fans of symmetry, balance, color codes, and playing dress-up, I give you music’s greatest on-stage uniforms ever:
Honorable Mention, Slipknot
Love ’em or hate ’em, you got to give Sklipknot some credit. It’s not easy performing in jumpsuits and masks–especially in sweatbox clubs or at outdoor summer concerts, when the temperature can easily reach triple digits.
The least accomplished band on this list, but who can forget their black-and-gold, bumble bee stage attire? Being from Pittsburgh, I do admire their choice in colors, but what I really respect from this early 80’s metal band, is their courage to wear outfits that made them look like professional wrestlers wrapped in caution tape.
9. Alkaline Trio
Wearing black suits is nothing new to music, but Alkaline Trio deserve a special place on this countdown, because they were wearing suits and ties when the rest of their Warped Tour peers were wearing skateboard t-shrits and oversized shorts. In the mid-2000’s, countless bands–including Green Day and My Chemical Romance–adopted Alkaline Trio’s black-and-red dress code.
How much money do you think the Starter Clothing Company made from the popularity of N.W.A.? Eazy, Cube, and Dre (and I can’t forget about Yella and Ren) represented their hometown west coast by wearing Raiders caps and Starter Jackets. Around the same time, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings changed their color scheme from purple-and-yellow to black-and-silver, which (conveniently) made it a perfect accoutrement to N.W.A.’s uniform.
Devo’s onstage attire has become so iconic it’s even available as a yearly Halloween costume at Party stores across the country. Their headwear, the energy dome, is also one of the coolest souvenirs to own in music. (Don’t think of Devo as just an 80’s novelty act either, they performed at SXSW 2009 and are scheduled to release a brand new album later this year.)
6. The Beastie Boys
Whether it be in tracksuits, jumpsuits, silk-suits or lab coats, it’s no secret that the Beastie Boys like to play dress up. Years ago, old school rapper, Kool Moe Dee, gave the Beastie Boys a grade of A for sticking to themes–I concur.
5. The Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Chili Peppers have one of the most famous–and simplest–uniforms in rock and roll history: the sock. Besides wearing hosiery on their ding-dongs, The Red Hot Chili Peppers have also worn light bulbs on their heads, and have made classic, their simple shirts-off style.
4. The Ramones
Before The Ramones, a group of guys wearing tight jeans and leather jackets might be mistaken for a motorcycle gang. After The Ramones–well–a group of guys wearing tight jeans and leather jackets were either mistaken for The Ramones or a group of New York City punks on their way to see them.
Stetson hats, black jackets, and adidas sneakers. Wear this combination today, and I guarantee someone will start singing a Run-DMC song.
2. The White Stripes
No matter how popular they got, or how critically acclaimed their albums became in the early 00’s, The White Stripes never broke from their red-and-white dress code–not on stage, not on their album cover, not in photo shoots. Like many sports team, Jack and Meg have recently included the color black into their stage get-ups (don’t know if this is to strike fear into their opponents, or if black is better at concealing sweaty armpits?).
The ultimate in rock and roll stage uniforms. KISS’ silver-and-black stage attire–with accompanying black-and-white face paint–is the most iconic look in music history (speaking in terms of bands). Some die-hard sports fans may even concede that the silver-and-black of KISS is more recognizable than the silver-and-black uniforms of the legendary Oakland Raiders football team.