Heavy metal fashion

Judas Priest, in typical heavy metal stage attire, performing at the VH1 Rock Honors on May 25, 2006.

Heavy metal fashion is the style of dress, body modification, make-up, hairstyle, and so on, taken on by fans of heavy metal, or, as they are often called, metalheads or headbangers. While the style has changed from the 1970s to the 2010s, certain key elements have remained constant, such as black clothes, long hair and leather jackets. In the 1980s, some bands began wearing spandex. Other attire includes denim or leather vests or jackets with band patches and logos, t-shirts with band names, and spiked wristbands.


The clothing associated with heavy metal has its roots in the biker,[1] rocker, and leather subcultures. Heavy metal fashion includes elements such as leather jackets; combat boots, studded belts, hi-top basketball shoes (more common with old school thrash metalheads); blue or black jeans, camouflage pants and shorts, and denim jackets or kutte vests, often adorned with badges, pins and patches. As with the bikers, there is a fascination with Germanic imagery, such as the Iron Cross.[2][3]

Distinct aspects of heavy metal fashion can be credited to various bands, but the band that takes the most credit for revolutionizing the look was Judas Priest, primarily with its singer, Rob Halford.[1] Halford wore a leather costume on stage as early as 1978 to coincide with the promotion for the Killing Machine (Hell Bent for Leather in the USA) album. In a 1998 interview, Halford described the leather subculture as the inspiration for this look.[4] Halford may have been the one to popularize leather but K.K. Downing wanted a look that suited the music they were creating. Downing started wearing studded leather outfits on stage. Soon, the rest of the band followed. An example of this can be seen from live concert recordings from 1978. Downing is the only one on stage appearing with black studded leather jacket.

It was not long before other bands appropriated the leather look; Iron Maiden's original singer Paul Di'Anno began wearing leather jackets and studded bracelets,[5][6] Motörhead innovated with bullet belts, and Saxon introduced spandex. This fashion was particularly popular with followers of the New wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) movement in the early 1980s, and sparked a revival for metal in this era.

The studded leather look was extended in subsequent variations, to the wearing of combat boots, studded belts and bracelets, bullet belts, spiked gauntlets, etc. The codpiece, however, appears to have been less popular among the general public.

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