There’s the way we dress, sure, but then there’s style. You know, that certain something that can make somebody stand out, make other people stop in the street to stare, or — if you’re one of the Brooklyn-based musicians below — really make a difference. Here, we round up seven of the borough’s most singular icons of style, and how they’re using the way that they look to say something big about themselves, their music, and the world around them.
1. St. Vincent.
Annie Clark’s look evolves as steadily as her sound. She consciously (and continually) reinvents her style to both reflect and reinforce the thematic undertones of her songs. Her fourth album, St. Vincent, finds her drawing influence from an once-maligned, newly-popular-again style of pop-art-influenced design out of ’80s-era Memphis. It’s about “distilling things down to their most elemental shape and recontextualizing them so that they look or feel different,” Clark explained to Billboard in an interview earlier this year — an approach that also, clearly, applies to her music.
Fashionable Highlight: Being dubbed “An Original” by Vanity Fair‘s 2014 International Best Dressed List.
2. Kirstin Welchez of Dum Dum Girls. There was a long time when nobody knew what or who “Dum Dum Girls” was. The mysterious musical moniker appeared on a few singles released by then-unknown record label Captured Tracks, but came unattached to any hint of a real person (let alone a photograph). As the band’s popularity grew, thanks in large part to Welchez’s powerhouse vocals and serious songwriting chops, the woman behind the tunes slowly edged into the spotlight — revealing a look that was just as signature as her sound. Dark colors, lots of leather, gothic cum vintage, set off by (almost always) by a characteristic park of black, striped tights. Welchez’s carefully architected look — which extends to her band members, press shots, and music videos — stems from her strong belief that aesthetic is art. She grew up admiring the uniform look of classic bands like The Ramones, and sees music as an opportunity to experiment with identity and roleplaying.
Fashionable Highlight: Mesh-and-pasties at Coachella this summer.
3. Serge Pinky of German Measles and Beachniks (pictured above, far left). Pinky has such an incredible sweater collection that he once inspired a Tumblr. Basically, no other musician making sounds out of guitars in Brooklyn pulls off such flagrantly patterned style with such casual aplomb. In fact, Pinky both invented and retains sole ownership over the look “casual aplomb.”
4. Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females. When Screaming Females first hit the scene, there were two things that almost all coverage of them noted (and doted) on: one, Paternoster’s absolutely mind-melting guitar skills and two, the high-collared, nearly-Amish looking dresses she routinely donned on stage. Although Paternoster declines the role of “fashion icon,” explaining that her look dates back to her positive experience with uniforms in high school, there’s still something inspiringly A+ about watching her unabashedly shred on a guitar while decked out in full-body maroon velvet.
Fashionable Highlight: Performing in classical high-collar with Garbage on Record Store Day.
5. Le1f. Since debuting the (very danceable) single “Wut”, see above, the way Le1f sounds has been nearly impossible to separate from the way that he looks. His meteoric rise has spanned both musical and fashion worlds, with hardly an interview going by that doesn’t grill him on his fashion sense. His appearance has also ignited a firestorm of dialogue around gay men and rap culture, with his unabashedly out-there style serving as an introductory talking point to bigger questions of the genre’s history with homophobia.
Fashionable Highlight: “Soda,” but behind-the-scenes.
6. Caroline Polachek as Ramona Lisa. Chairlift frontwoman by day, costumed electro-vigilante by night — Polachek spent the past year giving a series of very under-the-radar performances as her solo act, Ramona Lisa, capitalizing on her ethereal vocal skills and looped, dreamy sounding music with a look to match. (Namely, the pair of eyes she paints on her cheeks.) Like Welchez, Polachek sees music as a — sometimes literal — stage to experiment with character making. “Ramona is a character that sprang from the songs I made. She belongs to a different world,” she told Fader this past spring. “What makes Ramona’s world specific is a sort of femininity that I’ve never gotten into before.”
Fashionable Highlight: Her bleached halo hair.
7. Dev Hynes. When you have as many eyes on you as Hynes does every day (60K Instagram followers and counting), it can be intimidating — or, you know, an opportunity. Much of Hynes work as Blood Orange has been inspired by New York City’s ’80s ball culture, with music videos and album covers alike being dedicated to the elaborate costuming and fluid sexual politics of the era, so seeing style as a proxy to progressive social movements is nothing new for him — but it’s still inspiring to see him leverage the extreme focus on his personal style as a way to engage with some of the most critically pressing issues of our generation.
Fashionable Highlight: See above.