Axl Rose is the quintessential rock star of my lifetime. Sure, the archetype existed before he came along and lives on in others after him, but there’s just something about the 1980s extravagance and cult-like fervor in which Rose rose to popularity that defines, in my mind, rock and roll at its pinnacle of pageantry, overindulgence, hero-worship, and reckless abandon. Drugs were rife, black leather abounded, and hair had never been so over-inflated. And, say what you want about the glam rock/hair metal scene in general or about the music of Guns ‘N’ Roses itself, love it or hate it, absolutely no one sang with as much immediacy and urgency in their voice as did young Axl.
But we’re not here to debate the musical merits of Axl and his friends; what we’re interested in at this moment in time is what sets Axl Rose apart as an icon of style. The GNR frontman’s abundant charisma, heartthrob looks, devil-may-care attitude, and venerated rock star status afforded him ample license to defy norms and leave his own unique mark on the face of fashion forevermore.
Let’s break down the look…
Hair has long been an important aspect of the rockstar image — never more so than during the very music scene nicknamed for its iconic hair. Axl, on occasion, rocked his ginger locks in the glammed out “hair metal” fashion of the day, though he was more typically seen sporting his signature, straight, feathery style.
We can’t talk rockstar style without talking leather — especially black leather. Axl’s look is dripping with black leather: leather pants, leather jackets, leather vests, leather chaps, leather gloves, leather boots, leather hats… even a leather kilt.
A rockstar’s got to have a kickin’ pair of rock boots.
‘Cause it’s cool — especially with the fingers cut off.
An Axl headgear staple.
For a little extra flair, tie a scarf around your hair… or neck, or belt.
Hats & Sunglasses
In addition to the famous captain hats he wore, Axl’s hat game included the backwards trucker cap/bandana combination, a random golf hat, and a leather fedora. And he always seemed to have a sick pair of aviator sunglasses handy.
Points for bold. Points for unexpected. Double points for anything eyebrow-raising and androgynous.
Acid washed, ripped up, plastered with patches and buttons — anything but basic.
A rock star has to know how to layer it on. Bring on the necklaces, pile on the bracelets, and load up on the rings. Then keep going.
Axl wasn’t scurred to try some wacky things where his look was concerned. Sometimes that included printed leggings…
…sometimes he unapologetically rocked a short short…
…sometimes, randomly, his patriotism was on full display…
…sometimes occasion even called for a kilt…
…and sometimes he even made a little mesh or a bare midriff seem rock and roll. But there was often a lot of skin and a flagrant disregard for gender norms whenever possible.
What’s fascinating about Axl is how, in his own bold and unabashed way, he laid claim to his style rights; he consistently deviated from widely accepted norms of masculinity, and it didn’t matter. Women loved him. Men idolized him and wanted to be him. Axl took many style liberties. So, the question is, do we love him despite all the deviance or do we love him for it?
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