Irish Mae Llavore examines the use of formalwear in the rock and roll scene
Identity plays a major part in the presentation of an artist, with bands in the past decade reviving the suit and tie combination. It all began in the early 1960s where bands like The Beatles took formal attire to the stage, understable for the time, considering the association with suits as professional attire.
Presenting in suit and tie conveyed a sense of grace to the audience during this time and helps to illustrate the idea that what the audience is seeing is a high quality performance; the use of the suit almost connects the high art attire with a low art audience. This juxtaposition builds a relationship with the audience that illustrates the sheer authenticity and great quality of the music they are hearing on stage. It provides a back-bone and reassurance to the artist’s self-identity that they are credible, quality musicians; the use of suits is often found in high art musical performances, for example, jazz quartet shows and hall performances.
Applying this to rock and roll juxtaposes the idea that suits are for the ‘higher class.’ The muddying of ‘high art’ with ‘low art’ shows the musical capabilities of the band whilst simultaneously mocking high art culture. However, the adoption of wearing formal attire on stage or within band members can simply be for the band’s aesthetic or to support their album’s narrative. Taking a look at Arctic Monkeys’ 2013 album AM, the band’s style completely changed from their previous looks to a more rock and roll style, donning the classic suit and tie look. This change in style was also appropriate for AM’s sound and look. The aesthetic of the album is very masculine, and this new, suited style, personifies the sound of the band and album.
Meanwhile, The 1975 opt for suits as a statement. Their lyrics often discuss capitalism and politics, thus evoking a sense of mockery while performing during their 2019 tour for their album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. It’s an album that speaks on internet culture and the disillusionment of the people of our generation. On the other hand, with the release of their new album, Being Funny in a Foreign Language, the suit and tie getup is applied on stage to aid the album and set’s aesthetic and narrative, likewise with Artic Monkeys and their album AM. Not to mention, fans have also been dressing in the same attire as the band at their shows, in the midst of a recent viral trend within the community of The 1975 fans on TikTok and Twitter. They're being inspired to dress as who they look up to in a fun way.
Primarily, the suit’s revival in music across the last decade has been used as a way to establish an identity and relationship with the audience.