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10 Musicians and the Fashion Trends They Made Popular

May 28, 2014
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Although many hit-makers these days seem to enjoy the services of not just a single stylist, but an entire imaging department, there have been many rock 'n' rollers, soul singers, blues guitarists, rappers, and even pop stars who made it big while maintaining a strong sense of self and impeccable style. Below are 11 such musicians and the fashion styles they inspired.

1. Kurt Cobain // Jeans, flannel, thrift store sweaters

Most trends don't start consciously, because real trendsetters (especially musicians) don't set out to start trends. They just want to be themselves and make music. Cobain was no different. His short yet epic ride in the cultural sun, however, changed music and fashion forever, opening up a whole new corner of the wardrobe closet to the American male. Kurt probably just put on whatever was comfortable and closest to the bed he rolled out of each morning, but his clothing instincts were like his chord progressions—untouchable. Cobain solidified the modern grunge style, Paul Bunyan meets thrift store chic. No one before and no one since has made jeans, flannel, and cardigan sweaters look so effortlessly, disaffectedly cool.

2. Bob Marley // M-65 jackets, adidas

Until Bob Marley, casual military garb was the purview of dictators and revolutionaries. But the most famous Rasta of all time turned the M-65 jacket on its head, employing its deep front pockets for weed storage, not ammunition, and making it the choice jacket for a generation of pacifist stoners. And just as he humbly spread the good word of brotherly love, Bob unassumingly bolstered the Adidas brand, nonchalantly sporting a half dozen of their sneaker models over the course of his career and making track suits stylish well before Run DMC.

3. Eazy-E // snapbacks

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All of the three original members of N.W.A., including gangster rap stalwarts Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, had serious swag, but no one brought it all together quite like unofficial frontman Eazy-E. His mostly black wardrobe, featuring jeans, Adidas, and athletic wear, was West Coast streetwear refined, a classic, simple counter to his outrageous and often crude lyrics. But what made the look pop was Eazy's giant gold chain and crisp snapback L.A. Kings/Raiders caps. The influence of Eazy-E's snapback skills can be seen up and down today's hip hop charts.

4. Andre 3000 // retro-prep

Perhaps Andre's biggest contribution to fashion was his ability to push boundaries and get a little weird without losing his street cred. But when he was sporting absurdist art pieces or neon overalls, Andre was classic country club gentleman with a touch of color and flair—able to channel vintage prep through a hip hop lens. At a time when other Southern hip hop stars were flashing grills and rocking headbands, Andre was sporting bow ties and suspenders. His fashion footprint can be seen left in the forward-thinking wardrobes of today's hip hop stars like Pharrell, Kid Cudi, Kanye, and others.

5. The Beatles // mop-top

The most iconic pop-rockers of all time inspired many trends: collarless suits, the outlandish psychedelic peacock style of their Sgt. Pepper days, Lennon's round wire-frame glasses. But their most famous contribution was the mop-top, those four floppy boyish hairdos—long swooping bangs, hair-covered ears, and shaggy all over. Today, it's a run-of-the-mill middle school cut, but in 1964, it was revolutionary.

6. Diana Ross // big bling 

Before Rihanna implored her peers to "shine bright like a diamond," the lead singer of the Supremes was beaming brighter than a pulsar. Always big but never gaudy, Diana Ross was one part elegance, one part shine. Big hair, big diamonds, and plenty of sparkle.

7. Madonna // messy chic

Madonna's storied career is a case study in consistency—in terms of quality music, that is. Her sense of style, on the other hand, is a schizophrenic roller coaster ride through a Hollywood costume closet. That's not an insult; it's just to say Madonna switched things up a lot. Amidst the madness, though, there were definite highlights—conical bras, wedding dresses, kimonos, to name a few. Even though Madonna rocked dozens of sexy and iconic looks, her most mimicked was her go-to early '80s music video outfit: lots of and lots of religious low hanging necklaces, oversized hair bows, and lace gloves.

8. Elvis Costello // coke-bottle glasses

Before tightly tailored suits and V-necks went mainstream and hoards of fashionable millennials rendered the word "hipster" meaningless, there were some authentic hipsters. But even before that, there was Elvis Costello. His aim was true, and so was his style, marrying blazers, skinny jeans, and big glasses before anybody knew it was a winning combination.

9. Stevie Nicks // gothic romance

Nicks' run with Fleetwood Mac was full of hits; it was also full of flowing chiffon, lace, velvet, and platform boots. With her seductive voice, handkerchief skirts, and wild mane, Nicks was the full package—the siren of the seventies.

10. Joan Jett // Leather

Suzi Quatro was the first woman to make leather stagewear fashionable, but it was Joan's success on the U.S. charts and frequent MTV appearances that popularized the look. Whether it was a leather jacket, leather pants, a pair of leather boots, or just a belt, the godmother of punk rock proved being a bombshell and bad-to-the-bone weren't mutually exclusive.

All images courtesy of Getty Images unless otherwise noted. 

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This Week's Best Amazon Deals You Can Still Get
April 30, 2017
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As a recurring feature, we share some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. These items were the ones that were the most popular with our readers this week, and they’re still available.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers (including Amazon) and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

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Sandwich Cutter Taidea Best Adorable Animals Pocket Bread Cutter, Hand Tools Sandwich Kit for $9.99 (list price $39.99)

Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill for $34.99 (list price $44.99)

Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W for $99.99 

Plater Fast Defrosting Tray - Defrost Meat or Frozen Food Quickly Without Electricity, Microwave, Hot Water or Any Other Tools for $18.90 (list price $32.90)

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Lifewit Height Adjustable Pan Pot Organizer Rack, 5-Tier Kitchenware Cookware Holder for $24.99 (list price $49.99)

Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid Food Storage Container, BPA-Free Plastic, 6-Piece Set for $6.18

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Fat Ninja Extra Large Roll Up Dish Drying Rack (19.8 x 14in) Over the Sink Stainless Steel Tier Drainer including Set of 2 Microfiber Kitchen Towels for $16.77 (list price $28.99)

Rubbermaid 17.3 Cup FreshWorks Produce Saver Food Storage Container, Large, Green for $11.24 (list price $16.99)

ISSIKI JAPAN Professional 8 Inch Chef's Knife, High Carbon Stainless Steel, Sharp Cutlery, Ergonomic Handlefor $29.99 (list price $125.00)

OXO Good Grips Nylon Potato Masher for Non-Stick Cookware for $6.99 (list price $9.59)

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Bellemain Stainless Steel Measuring Cup Set, 6 Piece for $18.95 (list price $24.95)

Cuisinart CIL22-30HR CastLite Non-Stick Cast Iron Fry Pan with Helper, 12-Inch, Red for $49.95 (list price $62.29)

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Prepworks by Progressive Berry Keeper for $7.99 (list price $9.49)

Prepworks by Progressive Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Keeper - 1.9 Quart for $9.96 (list price $11.99)

Oster TSSTTRJBG1 Jelly Bean 2-Slice Toaster, Grey for $29.99 (list price $34.99)

Prepworks by Progressive Lettuce Keeper - 4.7 Quart for $11.99 (list price $12.99)

Norpro Stainless Steel Commercial Potato Ricer for $27.84 (list price $43.99)

Stainless Steel Kitchen Funnel with Removable Strainer/Filter for Essential/Cooking Oils, Flask Funnel for Transferring of Liquid, Fluid, Dry Ingredients & Powder, 5- Inch,Silver - HOXHA for $9.98 (list price $23.68)

POPCO Silicone Microwave Popcorn Popper with Handles for $9.99 (list price $34.99)

VonShef 7- Egg Electric Cooker Stainless Steel with Poacher & Steamer Attachment for $19.94 (list price $34.99)

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DRAGONN Zester Grater Sharp Stainless Steel Blade with Black Handle, Safety Cover and Rubber Footings for $9.95 (list price $19.95)

Accuweight Digital Multifunction Food Meat Scale with LCD Display Perfect for Baking Kitchen Cooking, 11lb Capacity by 0.1oz, Tempered Glass surface, Black for $9.49 (list price $49.99)

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Banana Hook - Ripen Bananas Naturally with Under Cabinet Banana Hanger / Banana Holder. Self-stick and Adheres Under Cabinets. for $6.00 (list price $11.99)

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InnoGear IG-100ml-OD Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser for $29.28 (list price $35.43)

VonShef 8 Piece Set 4 x Placemats, 4 x Coasters, Natural Slate for $17.95 (list price $49.99)

Adjustable Heavy Duty Bed Sheet Grippers Holders Cover Suspenders (Set of 4) for $8.99 (list price $11.99)

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Gardinesca Beard Oil for $12.99 (list price $31.99)

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Arabica Coffee Scrub 15 oz, Anjou Body Scrub with Honey, Sea Salt, VB, VE for $8.99 (list price $35.99)

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Gillette Series 3X Action Shave Gel, Sensitive, 7 Ounce (Pack of 6) for $12.48 (list price $23.94)

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Tweezerman LTD Stainless Steel Mini Slant Tweezer (Colors May Vary) for $9.19 (list price $14.00)

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Kate Spade New York "Let's Do Lunch" Business Card Holder for $19.00 (list price $20.00)

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ALEX Toys DIY Wear So Many Headbands, 10 headbands for $13.54 (list price $29.50)

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When the FBI Went After Mad Magazine
April 29, 2017
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Warner Bros., IStock

In a memo dated November 30, 1957, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation identified as “A. Jones” raised an issue of critical importance: "Several complaints to the Bureau have been made concerning the 'Mad' comic book [sic], which at one time presented the horror of war to readers."

Attached to the document were pages taken from a recent issue of Mad that featured a tongue-in-cheek game about draft dodging. Players who earned such status were advised to write to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and request a membership card certifying themselves as a “full-fledged draft dodger.” At least three readers, the agent reported, did exactly that.

Mad, of course, was the wildly popular satirical magazine that was reaching upwards of a million readers every other month. Published by William Gaines, who had already gotten into some trouble with Congress when he was called to testify about his gruesome horror comics in 1954, Mad lampooned everyone and everything. But in name-checking the notoriously humorless Hoover, Gaines had invited the wrong kind of attention.

The memo got several facts incorrect: Mad had switched from a comic book to a magazine format in 1955, and it was Gaines’ E.C. Comics that had “presented the horror of war” in other titles. Despite getting these crucial pieces of information wrong, Jones didn’t hesitate to editorialize: "It is also of interest to note that…it is rather unfunny.”

The agent recommended the Bureau’s New York offices “make contact” with Mad’s headquarters to “advise them of our displeasure” and to make sure “that there be no repetition of such misuse of the Director’s name.”

Less than a week later, the Feds entered the hallowed hallways patrolled by Alfred E. Neuman. Their New York office would later report to Hoover directly that they had met with John Putnam, the magazine’s art director. (Conveniently, Gaines was not in that day.) Putnam told the agents he regretted the magazine using Hoover’s name and that nothing malicious was intended:

Putnam said that the use of the membership card and the name and address of the Director at the end of the game was referred to in their business as a 'gag' or 'kicker' in the same way that a comedian like Bob Hope or Milton Berle might use it.

Putnam swore that Mad would never again take Hoover’s name in vain; Gaines sent off a letter of sincere apology to the Director.

The Smoking Gun

Just two years later, in January 1960, Agent A. Jones was forced to file a second notice about the shenanigans at Mad. A recent issue had made not one, but two derogatory mentions of Hoover, including one in which he is blatantly and disrespectfully portrayed as being associated with a vacuum cleaner, “The Honorable J. Edgar Electrolux”:  

Obviously, Gaines was insincere in this promise…and has again placed the Director in a position of ridicule…it is felt we should contact Gaines…and firmly and severely admonish them concerning our displeasure…

It was by now clear Mad was not only polluting young minds, but that Gaines had absolutely no regard for the honorable Hoover’s position.

In June 1961, the FBI’s worst fears had been realized. Detailing an investigation into a Seattle-area extortion attempt led to the following:

Investigation … resulted in gaining admissions from the victim’s 12-year-old son and an 11-year-old companion that they had gotten the idea of preparing an extortion letter after reading the June issue of 'Mad' magazine.   

Working in concert with the Buffalo field office, the FBI determined another letter had been sent by a young boy demanding money in the style of a recent issue’s extortion advice. And there was a third under review that was sent to the agent of some professional wrestlers.

Mad was quickly becoming the scourge of the federal government. The FBI suggested the magazine be brought to the attention of the Attorney General for “instructing [readers] to deliberately violate the Federal Law.” They tried reaching out to Gaines, who was on vacation. (Time and again, Gaines simply not being in the office when called upon seemed to confound the FBI.)

Agent A. Jones, having exhausted all attempts to reason with these irresponsible anarchists, filed one last memo:

Despite assurances, they have continued to publish slurring remarks about the Bureau. In view of this situation, it was deemed useless to protest all such irresponsible remarks to a magazine of this poor judgment and capriciousness … we will have to wait and see if our action will result in increased discretion by this publication.

Poor A. Jones was unable to put an end to Mad’s reign of terror. But the magazine redeemed itself somewhat. In the 1970s, when the Bureau was trying to suppress the influence of the Ku Klux Klan, an agent suggested they copy and distribute a sticker from the magazine that read, “Support Mental Illness—Join the Klan!”

Hoover said no.

Additional Sources:
The Smoking Gun.

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