Aug 072011


As far as my research has taken me, no rocker has looked convincingly cool while sporting overalls. As hard as Eric Clapton tries he still looks like a weary truck driver after an 18-hour shift. Perhaps it’s the smack and not the clothes. You’d think with all those buttons and clasps, the average guitarist would be afraid of scratching the back of his SG or Strat. But beyond damaging your equipment, one’s maturity is also taking a hit. This is a rock and roll stage not Romper Room. The video below featuring the long and forgotten brothers Tom and David Farmer (yes Farmer) of the band Blackfoot Sue are totally missing the esthetic of the glam rock sound they are aping. The visuals are jarring.

Of course, I have not discounted the ’80s. What with Dexy’s Midnight Runners and their Too-Rye-Ay-ing up and down a desolate street looking like they haven’t showered in days for the “Come On Eileen” video. I’ll give them a pass since it appears this was just a phase. Plus the music sort of matches the look.

So does that mean, the “overall Look” is acceptable only when a fiddle and banjo are within reach?

Jul 192011

Et tu, Eddie?

Has any rocker ever made music of merit wearing a sleeveless shirt? Not while making music bare-chested or wearing a tank top, not bare-chested under a vest, but specifically making music while wearing a sleeveless shirt.

If you’ve clicked these opening links you’ll see that U2 drummer Larry Mullen has been known to wear the sleeveless shirt. I’ll grant that an argument can be made that U2 made some music of merit while Mullen donned such a gun-bearing fashion atrocity, but he’s a drummer. In past style pieces on Rock Town Hall, drummers have gotten a pass for all sorts of questionable fashion choices, including performing in barefeet and wearing shorts. We make some allowances for rock’s driving forces based on matters of comfort. For the purposes of this survey, we’ll give sleeveless drummers a pass. Beside, I want no part of George Hurley.

Granted, as a guy who’s never expressed his vanity through his forearms (as if I could), the whole sleeveless shirt thing mystifies me. It’s to be expected that the poster boy of Rock Town Hall’s Unfulfilled Fashion Ideas series, Alan Vega, would go sleeveless, but the style would spread to some of the coolest of the cool. How much comfort does a man need to be a rock legend? How much do we really need to know about him? Sure, sometimes even the President of the United States has to stand naked, but did Bob Dylan really need to play sleeveless?

Sleeveless shirt, leather pants, two pairs of shorts...Jerry wins this battle of Best Stage Look!

I don’t know when the sleeveless shirt craze took over, but do a search on a number of rock artists with the date “1985” following their name and I’d bet you can come up with as many shots of them sleeveless as I just did with Dylan. (BTW, I didn’t realize he was into the Bare-Chested Vest Look as early as the mid-’70s, for that Renaldo and Clare movie.) You don’t believe me? Try these:

Strummer, for all his late-period Clash fashion faux pas shouldn’t surprise me, but seeing him in sleeveless shirts still hurts. Make it stop already!

Even a search on Rock Town Hall’s patron saint of mediocrity, “Bob Seger 1985,” turns up this. I pray that’s a bare-chested hippie vest shot and not what it seems.

Continue reading »

Jul 072011

"Go ahead, try to mock my sense of fashion!"

As Townsman junkintheyard hinted at in response to a recent piece by E. Pluribus Gergely and RTH Labs on the profound weakness of any man wearing an earring, Jimi Hendrix may have been immune to not only the debillitating effects of the earring but a host of questionable rock fashion choices.

Think about it. Hendrix may be the only rocker to get a pass for wearing a headband. It’s debatable whether fringe was ever cool, but no one calls bullshit on Hendrix for wearing it. You wanna cut up on bare-chested rockers wearing vests? Leave Jimi out of it. The kimono? Kimono Jimi’s house! I have not yet located a photo, but I bet Hendrix in a pancho would settle all debates over the potential coolness of that item of clothing.

Rock dudes bedazzled in jewelry? Jimi made it work. Floppy hats posed no hazards for the man. I bet the inside of that bad boy had been soaked in acid!

A Stars and Stripes jumpsuit for anyone not named Evel? Not even Elvis could pull that one off.

Sure, Jimi was black, but not even black guys are assured of pulling off the dashiki.

In terms of avoiding fashion faux pas Jimi had the good fortune to die young, and to die before the 1970s got underway. Jimi had already eclipsed the new decade’s attempts at achieving a larger-than-life Rock God persona. Similarly, Sly Stone, Miles Davis, and then Funkadelic would spend the decade chasing the man’s Psychedelic Pimp Look. Might he have flirted with asexual space-age glam fashions? Probably, and he probably would have picked up some cool backing singers along the way. Would Jimi have surprised us and opted for the down-to-earth denim ensemble of a singer-songwriter? Would he eventually identify himself with the punks and new wavers who owed something to him? Eventually Jimi would have been confronted with the satin siren call of disco. Although trecherous, somehow I think he would have made it work.

As a Rock Dandy who likely would have stayed that path, Jimi would have strutted a treacherous path as the decade came to a close and led into the 1980s. The long-term prospects of a Rock Dandy are fraught with pitfalls. For instance, black or white there’s only so much that can be done with long hair on a dude before he looks like he should be excitedly checking underneath his seat in the audience for a taping of Oprah. Could Jimi have found a way around Miles’ eventual downfall?

Nowhere to run, baby, nowhere to hide… Continue reading »

Jul 072011

The following piece was submitted by Townsman E. Pluribus Gergely with funding and research support provided by RTH Labs.

Hi Oats,

I’m writing to apologize for not writing a single response to your recent Husker Du Main Stage posting. It was beautifully executed. That said, Husker Du never did a thing for me. Despite the fact that I’ve never heard a single thing they’ve ever done, I just know they have to be bad based on the fact that they’re from Minneapolis, Minnesota and their look is not to my liking. Anybody that collectively looks like that has to suck.

Speaking of Look, I stumbled across something a few days ago that made my hair stand on end. On the evening of July 4th, me, the ball and chain, and the brats headed over to our friends’ house to check out the neighborhood fireworks from their porch. Fireworks never did anything for me nor did they ever do a damn thing for my buddy, so we went inside his house and watched TV while the women gossiped and kept an eye on the brats. Whilst getting tanked, we stumbled upon  Festival, a documentary of the ’64-’65 Newport Folk Festivals, on the Ovation channel (gotta love cable!). Lo and behold, there’s Donovan. Right, Donovan, no big deal. But as the camera drew closer, it was readily apparent that he was wearing an earring.

Not good.

Continue reading »

Apr 292011

Who among the following New Wave–era skinny tie wearers were Skinny Tie Poseurs and who were the Real Deal, Stylish Hepcats?

Real Deal, Stylish Hepcat or Opportunist?

If you don’t recall or are too young to have lived through it, the New Wave era of the late-1970s was when skinny ties were first brought back into hipster vogue by a generation of forward-thinking, backward-dressing musicians who weren’t comfortable with the wide ties of the late-1960s through mid-1970s. While The Clash sang about phony Beatlemania having beaten the dust, a number of their music-scene peers were embracing the skinny ties and suits that Brian Epstein and his tailor pushed as de rigueur among original British Invasion bands.

Goin' skinny!

It’s funny, to me, that The Beatles’ skinny tie beginnings carried so much stylistic clout because they were not skinny tie purists. Through the 1960s they would ride the vanguard of rock tie fashion: from skinny to bow to wide ties and eventually the cravat. Not that it really matters to this discussion, but as a boy I modeled my fashion sense along with each new development in the Fab Four’s Look, which explains why I’ve never moved past a deep preference for wide ties let alone developed much of a Look beyond what the band left me following their breakup. Continue reading »

Apr 192011


It’s finally starting to warm up, so I should have no business thinking about scarves for the next few months, but Robbie Robertson is showing up in the rock press to promote his new, certainly terrible album, and I’m finding myself thinking about the promise held by the silk scarf he wore in The Last Waltz.

I can’t stand wearing a scarf, even in freezing cold weather. They make my neck sweat and itch. I can’t get them to stay on my neck and shoulders. Within a few minutes of trying to wear a scarf I’m bugged that I can’t zip or button up my coat properly, and next thing I know one end of the scarf has slipped down and is practically dragging on the ground.

When it’s really cold out my wife tells me I should wear a scarf. When I was a kid my Mom used to tell me to wear a scarf, too. I don’t get that cold, especially around my neck. Most fashionable accessories we cover in our ongoing series on Rock’s Unfulfilled Fashion Ideas are not regularly recommended by both wives and mothers, but the Rock ‘n Roll Scarf had the dashing mastermind behind The Band as an advocate. Continue reading »


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