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Q IS FOR QUEEN
BY: NANCY SERAFIN
COVER ART: JULIANNA LUKACS
Rock ‘n roll has always been intrinsically intertwined with fashion. Whether bringing the newest trends to centerstage, or reflecting on an era of change, rock ‘n roll has influenced decades of iconic fashion. The 1950s brought us Elvis Presley with slicked back hair, high-waisted trousers, and button ups. The Beatles defined the ‘60s with their long, shaggy hair and bellbottoms. The ‘70s became an era of glam rock with Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie setting the scene for the up and coming band, Queen. Queen ruled the rock-‘n-roll scene for most of the ‘70s and into the ‘80s; the “King” of Queen, Freddie Mercury, redefined both rock and fashion, giving new meaning to this era of glam rock.
Freddie Mercury dedicated his life to putting on a performance, and his clothing was nothing short of a theatrical masterpiece. Mercury confidently dressed in both men’s and women’s wear, breaking many of the confining gender barriers in fashion. He made colorful jackets, fancy hats, and heels commonplace in men’s fashion, thereby influencing a whole new generation’s sexuality. Each Queen concert featured Mercury’s famously androgynous looks, from full-body sequin jumpsuits to satin, flowy pieces and high-octane military jackets. Queen shows were more than just a concert, they were a fashion show; Mercury explains, “We’re more in the showbiz tradition than the rock ’n roll tradition.”
The 1980s saw a shift in Freddie Mercury’s style. Influenced by New York’s gay club scene, he grew his iconic mustache, cut his hair, and wore leather jackets and pants accompanied by studded belts; he brought these styles from the underground clubs to mainstream fashion. During a difficult time for the LGBTQ community, Mercury became an inspiration by dressing in drag on national television. Queen’s music video for their hit song, “I Want to Break Free,” shows each band member dressed as repressed housewives. The song and video are recognized as one of Queen’s greatest hits and have become an LGBTQ anthem. Mercury’s interpretation of gender norms and sexuality was ahead of its time, clearing the path for the next generation of artists. Per Dazzed Digital, “New faces in music like Young Thug and Mykki Blanco have expanded this concept, both outrightly cross-dressing and proclaiming a lack of care for definition of their gender.”
Queen’s impact on fashion and self-expression is clear, but they also made quite the impact on the music industry. The band’s record sales range from $170 to $300 million, which makes them one of the world’s best selling artists. The band’s logo, known as the Queen crest, was designed by Mercury himself. The crest combines all four band members’ zodiac signs, and the famous logo can be found adorned on vintage Queen t-shirts. The recent revival of band tees has kept rock ‘n roll’s presence in fashion as relevant as ever. At first, this piece of merchandise could be used to brag about attending a concert, but now the band-tee has evolved into a street style fashion statement. Much like Queen’s style, these t-shirts transcend gender barriers by maintaining a distinctive uni-sexuality. What used to be a niche market of die-hard rock ‘n roll fans is now a mainstream market, attracting people who have never even heard of some of the bands they wear on their shirts. A branded band t-shirt also offers opportunities for collectors and investors who anticipate the item will gain value over time. A 1980s band tee routinely sells on eBay for hundreds of dollars.
Whether you decide to wear a vintage Queen t-shirt, leather pants, a sequin top, or a colorful jacket, you are partaking in the fashion legacy of Freddie Mercury and Queen.