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10 Musicians and the Fashion Trends They Made Popular

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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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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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© Nintendo
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.