1980s: The MTV Era

In 1981, MTV (Music Television), a cable station, broadcast the first music video, introducing the U.S. public to visually portrayed music. Appropriately, the first video shown was The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Unlike radio stations, MTV did not limit the music videos to a certain style or genre. This open-programming format exposed a vast audience to a broad range of musical styles, and in this manner, music influenced dress in ways it had not been able to in the past. Fans could now see the musicians, and emulation of the bands’ appearance and dress became common.

The show, Yo! MTV Raps, debuted in 1988, and was hosted by Fab 5 Freddy. The show gave Rap/Hip Hop the cred many fans thought it deserved and helped jettison the genre, along with accompanying clothing and accessory lines, into billion-dollar industries. The weekday version of the show premiered in 1989 and featured Doctor Dr (not to be confused with Dr. Dre from NWA) and Ed Lover.

Also during the ‘80s, Madonna became a fashion icon for women by introducing several successful styles through her music videos and concert performances. She introduced corsets and other lingerie as outer garments; leggings under skirts with high-heeled shoes; and crucifixes and rosaries as jewelry. Later she became associated with the Designer Jean Paul Gaultier who designed Madonna’s infamous Cone Bra for her Blonde Ambition tour.

Other famous MTV’ers were New Wave/Alternative music artists such as Boy George and his group Culture Club, Duran Duran, and A Flock of Seagulls. Rappers LL Cool J and Run DMC appeared on MTV regularly as did the “Hair Bands” Motley Crew, Ratt, and Whitesnake. Metal Bands ranging from Van Halen and Aerosmith to Metallica were also guests, with the latter considered more “hard core” for the times. All of these artists were major influencers for the dress of their fans.

1980s: The MTV Era