Does anybody remember decadence in rock n’ roll? If you don’t, then good for you. Mixing rock n’ roll with drugs & poontang isn’t the unspoken requisite it used to be, and because of that, fewer ‘rock stars’ dress accordingly (badly) anymore. Regardless, there are still some out there rich enough to look like idiots. So, combining past with present, we’ve compiled a list of 15 of the worst outfits ever worn by rock stars. And by ‘stars’, we basically mean ‘you might’ve heard of them’.
15. David Lee Roth…in assless chaps
As the legendary lead singer for Van Halen, Diamond Dave made his bones in the mid-80s, which means all the flamboyant womanizing and coke-snorting can be halfway forgiven. But alas, assless chaps are timelessly lame.
14. Rick James is super-freaky in leather
If not for Dave Chappelle, Rick James might’ve died leaving a legacy fit for a washed-up drug addict. He didn’t, of course, but some things you just can’t hide. The James you see above is tragically caught in between the slow decline of disco-funk and the rise of hip hop – a sort of stylish purgatory for the era.
13. David Bowie – ‘Thin White Duke’ phase
A stage persona he based on a character he played in the movie The Man Who Fell To Earth, The Thin White Duke was David Bowie’s emotionless, ill-conceived mid-70s transition from Ziggy Stardust. It was an icy, emaciating phase of Bowie’s stage-life fueled in no small part to massive amounts of cocaine.
12. Color Me Badd in suits
If you wanted to be an R&B boy band back when New Kids On The Block still dominated the airwaves, picking an appropriate wardrobe probably would’ve been something of a crap-shoot. Somehow, Color Me Badd decided on baggy, adolescent suit jackets & trousers that would’ve made MC Hammer proud.
11. Jobriath – Trying to be David Bowie…and failing
Checking in at # 1 on Something Awful’s list of Worst Rock Stars Ever, Jobriath was supposed to be America’s answer to David Bowie, but his fusion of glam-rock and sultry folk involved looking like a Cirque du Soleil Peter Pan on crank. The fact that you’ve probably never heard of him is just one of the minor tragedies surrounding the legacy of one of the first openly gay American rock singers.
10. Nelson’s acid washed jeans & leather initiate hair metal’s decline
Being in the Guinness Book of World Records as part of the only family to reach #1 record status for three successive generations couldn’t save Nelson from being the most prominent bi-product of the early 90′s airbrushed, sugary rock aesthetic that defined most other bands of their generation.
9. Axl Rose – 2006 MTV Video Music Awards
Aging Gen Xers waited 15 years for AxlRose to make his long-awaited return to the rock forefront, and he showed up looking like a low-brow rap-metal emcee who couldn’t decide whether he wanted to be rap, metal, or retarded.
8. John Lennon’s Jesus Suit
John Lennon in this picture is at the zenith of his pretentious messiah-phase, complete with Jesus hair, Jesus beard, and that white suit he unforgettably coordinated with wife Yoko Ohno. You can thank the white suit for giving birth to the trend of rock stars thinking being political is a part of their job.
7. Elton John is Donald Duck
Sir Elton John is fruity enough in his sartorial choices to have his own separate list, but if you had to pick just one outfit, just one ensemble so inexplicable, so cartoonishly nonsensical, it would have to be the Donald Duck. Meant as a private joke to himself the day he wore it for a concert in Central Park, John still keeps the thing in his closet.
6. Wendy O. Williams in not a whole lot
Dubbed ‘The Queen of Shock Rock’, Wendy O. Williams made a living mercilessly waving around chainsaws and blowing stuff up with no clothes on. Williams’ ‘outfit’ is really more like ‘lack thereof’ – like a post-apocalyptic stripper who sniffs paint and does battle with Mel Gibson in The Road Warrior.
5. Devo popularizes New Wave…then kills it with flower pot hats
Again, it’s hard to fault Devo for simply doing what New Wave acts were supposed to do in the early 80s, which was kitschify everything until it was an ironic parody of itself.
4. Twisted Sister
No worst-dressed list would be complete without 80s Twisted Sister. When your band name is Twisted Sister, what choice do you really have except to dress up like priapic drag queens from The Road Warrior? Is it just a coincidence that Mel Gibson keeps popping up on this list?
3. Boy George
Boy George was a pioneer of androgynous stage presence, and then he up and dipped that same stage presence in a multi-colored barrel of acid until he could’ve passed as his own private Japanese subculture.
2. Marilyn Manson – The Dope Show
A rock star’s get-up is the continuation of his/her personality, so naturally anything Marilyn Manson wears is bound to be some pretty sick stuff. He reached his own bottom (or top, probably, in his opinion) with the one-piece alien track suit he wore for his 1998 music video.
Gimmick-rock has not been nor probably ever will be weirder than Finnish rockers Lordi, who count KISS as their inspiration for their monster costumes and on-stage pyrotechnics. At least GWAR has an excuse – they’re psychotic, and know so. Lordi, however, don’t try as hard to live up to their insane regalia with their music or antics, making them #1 on this list.
Think we missed somebody? It’s only a list of 15 in the long, weird, bitchin’ history of rock star fashion, so feel free to comment on our omissions.