Here's How Shoegaze Musicians Gave Birth To Grunge Aesthetics
What Is Shoegaze Fashion?

A dress code of baggy clothes and oversized parkas pioneered by niche musicians

Slowdive‘s first album in almost six years, Everything Is Alive, arrived worldwide via Dead Oceans, an independent record label, today on August 1, 2023. For shoegaze loyalists— a musical genre that could be best understood as a precursor to dream pop—the name Slowdive hardly needs any introduction. Their discography might be a tad scanty for a band whose first album came over three decades ago, but even in the period of dormancy between 1995 to 2016, the band never lost its allure and stood as an entry point for the new followers. Souvlaki, their second studio album, alongside Loveless by My Bloody Valentine, is unanimously considered the apotheosis of this whimsical genre.

 

There’s already a lot written about everything from the origin of shoegaze to its sonic qualities, the cyclic rise and fall. Here we will focus on the fashion statement of shoegazers through the lens of some of the very popular bands that fall under this realm.

 

Originating in the United Kingdom during the 80s, shoegaze bore some semblance to the punk movement, but carved its own distinct identity. The aggression and raw energy that we commonly associate with punk music were dropped in favour of slow, dreamy, and distorted sound. The non-conformity remained intact, and it often came through in the sartorial sense of the shoegazers. Similar to grunge, shoegaze always prioritised comfort over anything else. Tapered jeans, flannel shirts, and messy hair became a symbol of their “no-fucks-given” attitude, truly channeling their nonchalant vibe.

 

While My Bloody Valentine’s sound has definitely evolved over time, its sartorial sense is still rooted in the good old days of the 80s. Kevin Shields is fond of layering, and his middle-parted hair has been a constant since his younger days. Colm Ó Cíosóig, their drummer, stands out with a brown, textured plaid, while the second guitarist Bilinda Butcher and bassist Debbie Googe are keeping it simple with plain, black shirts.

 

My Bloody Valentine. PR photograph: Paul Rider. PR_My_Bloody_Valentine-pc-Paul-Rider-4-300dpi

 

Colm, here, is seen in his favourite Spaceman 3 tee that he often wore during press releases and live performances. Kevin layers the basic blue tee with black parkas. Why, oh why, Kevin! On the other hand, Debbie flaunts her Charlie’s Angel merchandise, while Bilinda steals the show with a colourful top and a knitted sweater.

 

 

If Kevin Shields’ park caught your eye, wait till you see Slowdive members posing in their parkas. Perhaps that’s what the beaming smile of human faces washed off with waves of sadness looks like. If there’s a word that describes the essence of Slowdive—from music to their clothes—it’s sombre. Everything about them screams existential terror. 

 

 

Slowdive guitarist Christian Savill, however, loves to break the monotony of black by donning his denim jackets. Neil Halstead joins Savill by wearing a funky cap emblazoned with big letters in front, while the bassist Nick Chaplin’s shirt has some avant-garde print on the front. 

 

 

While Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine surely popularised the shoegaze, it was The Jesus and Mary Chain that claims to be the pioneers of this sound, with their 1985 album Psychocandy. The Reid brothers, Jim and William, remain the only constant ever since its inception. Look at their hair, warm and fuzzy and messy, just like their guitarwork on Psychocandy. William Reid’s hair is eerily similar to that of The Cure’s Robert Smith. 

 

 

The first wave of the shoegaze didn’t last beyond a decade, losing its status to commercially successful grunge movements that had the world under its spell during the 90s. However, there has been an exponential rise in shoegaze artists across the world, especially since the pandemic, though their sounds are more refined and poppy than the early pioneers. 

 

Beach House, a musical duo from Baltimore, has achieved immense critical success in the last few years, with their dream pop sound easily embraced by the shoegaze fans. Their music might differ but their sartorial experimentation, or the lack of it, is an ode to the 80s era of shoegaze. Check out the baggy denim of Victoria Legrand, the lead singer and multi-instrumentalist, and the plain black tee of Alex Scally.

 

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