I loooooooooooove this question, Geoff. There's a huge overlap between music and style. For a lot of artists, the act is just as much about looking cool as it is playing well. So it's no surprise that in the earliest days, probably 50% of our employee base was made up of musicians... no joke. Back then, it made a great side hustle – you could work in the store during the day, play music at night, and get a little discount on Levi's jeans to wear for both. And of course, we always, always, always had records playing in the store, which may have been part of the reason those guys came by in the first place. I've been in this business full-time for a long time, but I've probably spent more time in record stores than in clothing stores... for me, a trip to Tower Records was as much about looking through the albums for inspiration as it was with leaving with something new to listen to. Fifty years of flipping through records was pretty formative, and continues to be a major source of visual inspiration. (Sadly, the inside of my brain looks like discogs.com.)
Long story short, music is big around here. It's hard to narrow it down to 5. But here we go.
1. Late-50s-mid-60s Miles Davis – as you mentioned, but bears repeating. His style evolved over the years, but this is my favorite. His look at Newport 1958 is an iconic one. Put on a seersucker jacket, a band collar shirt, a pair of sunglasses, add a trumpet... you are Miles Davis. He also rocked the neckerchief with an oxford shirt like no one else. To me, that was his peak. (He started doing the glam thing after that, once Betty Mabry came along — I think she got rid of his suits.)
2. Early-70s David Bowie – so, okay, most of his looks were on another level. But even he had a couple of moments you could emulate without looking like you were in costume. Discovering Hunky Dory was a turning point for me... it is not an exaggeration to say it changed the way I saw the world. Visually, musically, socially, everything. I was in seventh grade. This would have been 1973. (The album came out in 1971 but Mississippi always was a little late to the game.) His look on the back of the album - Qiana shirt, baggy flared pants, patent leather boots – was my blueprint, and my older sisters helped me source almost that exact outfit. I actually wore it to a party at some private school girl's house. I didn't get into any fights so I think it must have gone over pretty well...? Anyway, Bowie was a guy who clearly thought about his clothes. And while you're not going to roll up to the grocery store in a full-on Liberty of London Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit... you could roll up to the grocery store in a Liberty of London sport shirt. A small nod.
3. Townes Van Zandt – the original ranch preppie. And the king of understatement... in every way, his music, too. A denim shirt, stone jeans or khaki pants, and a pair of ropers. I think I've been wearing some form of this outfit for my entire life. He might throw on a hat, or maybe an embroidered western shirt — and his long hair and cigarette count as accessories — but generally speaking, that was as torqued-up as he got. I'm not sure he had a bad moment... he knew his look and he stuck to it.
4. Johnny Cash – the Man in Black. Of course, black is almost synonymous with rock 'n' roll, but it was kind of an anomaly on the country music scene, where most of the rest of the players were in rhinestones and big belt buckles. Growing up ,I didn't think country was particularly cool, but he did his own thing, and in retrospect, I really appreciate his commitment to a theme. There are several explanations for his Man in Black thing – black clothes were easy to match to the rest of the band, they didn't get as dirty, they represented, in his words, "the poor and the beaten down...in the hopeless, hungry side of town." Whether it's a political statement or just a color you like, we started running a black suit about five years ago for the guys who want to take it to that place, too.
5. Solo career Bryan Ferry – best for last. He's been on the Atlanta moodboard since Day 1. I love how he performs in a suit and tie, even now. His early years with Roxy Music were very costumey and of the moment (like a sillier, tamped-down Bowie) but when he went solo, he kind of shifted to the "sexy, mature Englishman" vibe even before he could be described as 'mature.' I think he's 74 now. He's still got it. Ann and I saw him about ten years ago at an outdoor venue during a cold snap in October. He performed in a Chesterfield coat and silk scarf, with Robert Palmer-style girls dancing behind him. Fantastic. We saw him again last summer and went straight from the office to the show... I think Bryan and I may have been the only ones there wearing a tie. If you, too, want that "sophisticated lounge lizard" vibe... this pinstripe suit is a good start. Add a white shirt, a tie, and skip your haircut.
I have to say, while all these guys looked great... I don't think I would find any of them quite as remarkable, style-wise, if they didn't make music that resonates with me so deeply. It's music first, clothes second. Maybe that surprises you. Thanks for the question, Geoff — I always love an excuse to dive deep on Youtube.