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Dressed to the Nines: Cool Fashions in Jazz

Updated on January 3, 2010

Varied Styles & Taste in Fashions

Multi-instrumentalist,Bennie Maupin formerly with Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis
Multi-instrumentalist,Bennie Maupin formerly with Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis
dressed to the "Nines", Saxophonist, Dale Fielder, Angel City Quartet
dressed to the "Nines", Saxophonist, Dale Fielder, Angel City Quartet
classic Jazz vocalist, Bill Henderson " Senor Blues" at San Jose Jazz Festival
classic Jazz vocalist, Bill Henderson " Senor Blues" at San Jose Jazz Festival
Jazz Legend Jackie McLean on a 1960s Blue Note Session
Jazz Legend Jackie McLean on a 1960s Blue Note Session
Young Hipster playing in New York
Young Hipster playing in New York

Dress to Impress??

One of the clear facts about the jazz musician, they took their music seriously. But they also thought,how they looked, serious too.Miles Davis was widely known for his rather Brooks Brothers style on the bandstand.The MJQ(Modern Jazz Quartet) even wore tuxedos in classy halls and theaters. my experience and research revealed, this was something instilled into the musician from their very early days when invited to perform a recital. The parents would dressed them up in their Sunday best. However, the average jazz musician had at least one suit, and a dozen or so,white shirts, since it was easy to get laundry service on the road cheap for shirts. Every artist had to wear his own "pocket" or wallet power.Dizzy Gillespie was a Bebop phenom, along with Charlie Parker revolutionized the jazz music scene in the early 40s. Many of the fans adopted the "Tam" and horn-rimed glasses,or sunglasses worn by Dizzy.

By the 50s, which brought in the Cool Jazz period, championed by, again, Miles Davis. He often rolled around New York in expensive clothes, cars and women.Mile Davis was the highest paid jazz musician at the time by the middle of the 1950s. Even the great Miles Davis with all his money and fame couldn't avoid racial hatred. one incident happened at a jazz spot in New York. Miles Davis was assaulted by a drunken policeman, while standing outside the very club he was performing at. Davis was out front,smoking a cigarette when the officer tried to make him vacate the scene, even though he told him his name was on the billboard outside. His fancy clothes on a wealthy black man often riled up jealousy and racist attitudes in the police.

As the 60s rolled in , racia and civil rights issues became the top priority among most blacks , including the jazz musicians as well. Rock music was taking over the young and leaving a lot of the well dressed musicians and fans out in the cold. Dress codes were dropped just to get "Butts" in the seats, Clubs closed. Many musicians went into an underground mode, and some moved to Europe, where jazz was still much in demand., but there wasn't a lot of clubs, and not everybody could just pick up and move to Europe. None other than Miles Davis, the one who could always recover, made some decisions to change band members and "his whole sound to electric. along with this change, he had to change his clothes to match the music he was brewing now. Gone were the ascots, three piece suits,alpaca golf sweaters. Now Miles could be seen around town with bell bottoms, expensive hand made boots, silk collarless shirts with animal skin vests, leather floppy hats and large Italian sunglasses. He now was playing at festivals with rock legends ,all the while picking up a new generation of players, fans and fashion statements. see Miles Davis titles, Jack Johnson,Live Evil, Bitches Brew,Big Fun, etc.


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    • slmorgan profile image


      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Wonderful hub! I listen to Miles while I write. Take a look at my newest poem "Best of Her Blues". I think you will appreciate it.

    • Dink96 profile image


      8 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      I think Miles' ears must be burning b/c he's generated a lot of discussion this weekend with a lot of people! I remember seeing Miles in the 80's and he was the absolute vanguard of fashion. And despite his rep, I found him to be fairly engaged with the audience. A memory I will long treasure. One of my all-time favorites.

      I also liked the story where he was pulled over in his Maserati (could hv the wrong car) b/c the cops thought he had stolen it! Thank goodness times are changing and thanks for the memories.


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