Collage of seven celebrity performance photographs. The background is black with two stars on each side.

Top 10 Iconic Music Performance Looks

The music business has certainly introduced numerous memorable looks, and we’ve taken on the challenge to count down the top ten most iconic! Did your favourites make the cut?
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When first assembling this list, my mind instantly went to more recent outfits music stars of the last decade wore on stage, or in music videos that had my friends gawking. That being said, I’ve decided to go for the more timeless looks over the most recent ones; the outfits below make the performer themselves recognizable by a simple glance of bold fabrics and embellishments and have held a further symbolic relevance than what lies at the surface. 

Who knows what outfits from this generation will claim the same superior status one day?

Prince – Purple Suit in 1984’s Music Video “Purple Rain”


Prince brought the colour purple to a new level of cool when his song “Purple Rain” debuted in 1984. The entire ensemble of a full purple suit, purple lighting, and purple lyrics still fill fans with endless nostalgia. “I only want to see you, Laughing in the purple rain”.

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Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls) – Union Jack dress at 1997 Brit Awards


The origins of this iconic dress came from Geri Halliwell’s fear that the black Gucci mini dress was ‘too boring.’ She decided that she wanted to ‘celebrate being British’ and had her sister stitch a Union Jack tea towel to it. The dress was later auctioned off in 1998 for a children’s cancer charity for the most expensive price for a piece of popstar clothing according to the Guinness Book of Records up to that date.

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Kiss – Performance Make-up and High-rise Platform Boots Identity


Despite rumors, the band Kiss did not dress this way to preserve their anonymity. Frontman Paul Stanley says they were influenced by other bands in the British music invasion, they wanted to find their own identity separate from The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. The make-up was used to bring out each band member’s personality to the rock and roll stage, and their outfits to match the craziness of their shows which included: fire breathing, levitating drum sets, and pyrotechnics.

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Madonna – Cone Bra during her 1990 “Blonde Ambition Tour”


This cone bra was the follow-up of her controversial lyrics tying catholic references to overt sexiness which had Pepsi drop their plans to use it in their commercial, despite already signing a $5 million contract. This outfit oozed old-fashion femininity with a tight bodice, her muscular build made it scream power and authority. An artist who was unafraid to be controversial and believed the best artforms are not loved by everyone, but stay true to the individual. The cone bra has been reimagined by several other recent artists, such as Katy Perry, who swapped the cones for whip cream cans or Lady Gaga who replaced them with flamethrowers.

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Elton John – October 1975 Dodgers Stadium Concert


At the height of his career, Elton John played at the Dodgers Stadium for two sold-out concerts. The Beatles were the last to perform there nine years prior. Elton John is well known for wearing outlandish sunglasses that make him instantly recognizable, but his bedazzled uniform is one for the records; Harry Styles even recreated the look in his 2018 Halloween costume


Beyoncé – 2016 Super Bowl


Beyoncé stole the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl wearing an outfit that paid homage to Michael Jackson’s outfit when he performed in 1993. This was her second time to take the Super Bowl stage, but this particular look made her appear as a sexy marching band leader with a military-vibe criss-cross over her chest, especially during her new song “Formation.” The amount of bling she sported was over 100 carats, from her multiple rings to bedazzled football stud earrings.  This outfit is particularly significant since it stood for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which was demonstrated through her black panther back-up dancers and their ‘X’ formation which represents Malcolm X, an African-American civil rights leader. 

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MC Hammer – 1990’s “Can’t Touch This” Music Video’s Hammer Pants


Hammer pants, frequently and incorrectly referred to as parachute pants were popularized in hip-hop culture mainly by MC Hammer’s use of them while performing on stage and in his music videos. Hammer stated his reasoning behind the garment in an interview with The New York Times in 2008 that “the looser the pants, the more accentuated your dancing becomes.” The pants became a fad of the time, just like snap bracelets, although recently a Ryan Gosling video was publicized in which he danced in a pair, Gosling believes that they had the potential to become worn much more in daily use.

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Britney Spears – 2001’s VMA Performance Outfit Holding Python Snake


Britney Spears has numerous iconic outfits herself that she has worn throughout her career. Her schoolgirl ensemble featured in “…Baby One More Time” remains a Halloween costume favourite worn annually by many of my peers. However, when she sang “I’m a Slave 4 U,” while dancing with a 20lb seven-foot Burmese python her name was officially put into the record books. She solidified snakes being sexy in the early 2000s, a trend that has continued with recent music acts, such as Taylor Swift. Spears stated in 2006 that she believed the idea was ‘dumb’ and would most definitely not repeat it in the future. The snake, called Banana, is according to her past handler Mike Hano, alive and over 100lbs, with no idea of her past mass stardom.

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Michael Jackson – 1983’s “Thriller” Music Video’s Red Jacket 


Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video set a new standard for music videos to achieve after the 14 minute “short film” was produced. Music videos prior to this acted more as commercials for the song played over the radio, however Michael Jackson dancing with zombies and wearing his iconic red jacket made his number one album triple in sales. The jacket became one of the hottest outer-wear fads in the mid-1980s and was heavily counterfeited and sold for hundreds of dollars. Today the actual jacket itself is owned by Lady Gaga who says that it is “the greatest piece of rock and roll memorabilia in history,” when she bought it for $1.8 million in 2011.

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Elvis Presley – Jumpsuit Identity, Particularly for Hawaii 1973 American Eagle Jumpsuit


Elvis Presley wore jumpsuits during a time when Los Vegas performers wore tuxedos, he felt that the traditional outfit was ‘too stuffy’ and kept ripping his pants due to his flashy dance moves. The jumpsuit allowed a larger range of movement with a flared leg, it also was the first higher publicized time that a man had a higher collar, a trend that women often used to elongate their graceful necks. Presley’s designer Bill Below stated that he was the only man who could be framed by a high collar due to his handsome face. His white jumpsuit worn when performing at a benefit concert broadcast globally is a particular favourite due to the American Eagle stitched onto the back, as a way of stating ‘America’ to the world. Bobbie Ann Mason describes Presley becoming a god figure when at the end of the concert he spread out the American Eagle cape fully stretching the studded eagle’s wings.

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