The style of music known as Rock and Roll has historically been one of the driving forces in uniting people. People of many different backgrounds love rock & roll. In fact, it may have helped the move toward equality and desegregation during the Civil Rights Movement, because both black and white people liked the music. The genre itself is made up of music with historically African and Western roots, and opened a lot of doorways for both races to learn and enjoy the musical culture.
In the same way that the music worked to bridge gaps in society, the influence of rock & roll went on to affect style and fashion. The look of leather clothing, graphic-printed t-shirts, ripped jeans, and big boots combined with unusual or wild hairstyles and unique jewelry started an unstoppable trend that is still mixed and matched today. The era of punk music brought the illustrious safety pin. At first, the safety pin was used for its intended purpose—holding together ripped clothing, because the initiators of the punk movement were members of the poor working class in the UK and couldn’t afford new clothes. Brought together by the ideals of freedom and anti-establishment, punks began creating music and art to express their anger. The punk movement quickly gained a following, fueled by anger at the class warfare going on against the working class. Followers saw the use of the safety pin and thought it was a fashion statement, so they began purposely ripping their clothing and pinning it back together. Safety pins became a staple item in the punk outfit and were used for jewelry, including earrings; they were linked together to make chains and more. With the use of safety pins came more body piercing because ears and eyebrows were easy to pierce with the pins and they could be closed so that the “jewelry” would stay in.
After the punk movement of the late 70s and 80s accelerated the wear of ripped clothes and piercings, the fashion industry began to pick up on these trends and started commercializing the punk and rock & roll looks. More punk and rock looks worked their way into the mainstream during the late 80s with artists such as Madonna and Cyndi Lauper wearing their hair in wild, teased and brightly colored styles. The “hair bands” of the 80s also kept up the rock & roll aesthetic with their long, wild hair, leather clothes, and boots. The Grunge rock era of the early 90s brought out more of the ripped jeans, paired with graphic-printed t-shirts and flannel shirts. Grunge rockers commonly wore Chuck Taylors or “Chucks” which are still widespread today. The trend of wearing brightly colored and decorated sneakers actually started in the late 70s and early 80s in the Hip Hop subculture and has flourished throughout many different fashion genres. These trends have never gone out of style and you will likely always see people wearing clothes and jewelry that are reminiscent of the rock/punk era. Emo kids, steam punks, hipsters, B-boys and B-girls, ravers, goths, gangsters, skaters, hippies and glam-rockers all have style influences based in rock and roll, and the list goes on. These styles have crossed racial, gender and class boundaries throughout recent history and continue to bring people together across these divisions.
Similarly, body jewelry trends have crossed culture to become a universal way of uniting people via fashion. Nose piercings and toe rings originated in the South Asian cultures and are now popular among many different subculture groups in the US and around the world. Lip rings, ear gauges (plugs) and other extreme body modification techniques were adapted from cultures in Africa and are now all the rage amongst urban and suburban youth. Although these styles didn’t become popular until fairly recently, the influence of rock and roll on our culture has worked to assimilate these trends into the mainstream of our society.
It doesn’t matter where you come from, these trends are everywhere and the influence of culture-melding is undeniable. When Neil Young said, in his song, "Hey, Hey, My, My," that “Rock and Roll will never die,” I believe he was predicting the future. It’s obvious that it’s here to stay.