Punk, metal, emo, and hip-hop clothing can be instantly recognized on any high street. Urban fashion and music have always been inextricably linked. There are many reasons why this may be the case- it could be as simple as what’s considered up-to-date in clothing being worn by the most popular music stars, from Beethoven to Aretha Franklin to Woodie Guthrie to Michael Jackson to Jay-z.
It could be that the individual tastes of particular musicians have a disproportionate impact on the fashions of the day. A relatively small number of celebrities have a lot of clouts, after all. In all likelihood, it’s a combination of both and more. Each generation has its own unique taste in music (although it is true that trends like Punk and New Wave still have their supporters today even though they peaked decades ago) and its own urban fashion. It’s hard to say which comes first, the clothes or the music.
Perhaps the unifying element is the ideas behind the music. Most people would argue that the most important element of any musical style is the kind of concept it represents- it way it discusses and dissects the world. Those concepts may be something easy to recognize but difficult to put into words- disaffection, isolation, excitement at discovering something new, and of course love.
Any teenager can listen to a particular band. One of the reasons that music has always been so popular with teenagers is that the teenage years are the most difficult, the time when we find expressing what we think and feel most challenging. It’s easy to identify with a particular musical style that articulates our outlook.
Few teenagers have the musical talent and skill to make a contribution to their musical style through performance. However, they can always express their allegiances through fashion. Take hip-hop clothing for example- you don’t have to be Eminem to wear it, but by doing that you can make a clear and eloquent statement that expressed who you are.