LEGENDARY CLASH STYLE | FROM PUNK ROCK ROUGH TO SARTORIAL SMOOTH

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Joe Strummer of The Clash, LA 1983.  (Photo by Ann Summa/Getty Images)

Joe Strummer of The Clash, LA 1983. (Photo by Ann Summa/Getty Images)

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I don’t know if there’s a band that has inspired me over the years in terms of style more than The Clash. The way they could effortlessly mix punk and street style with sartorial flair and make it look so effortless and cool was intoxicating.  The mix of tailored suits with suede creepers, Doc Marten boots (back when they were a symbol of rebellion, rather than conformity) funky accessories and headwear was pure art.

The Clash definitely pioneered rock & roll fashion during the 80s and kept things tasty when the rock and fashion world was getting, well, wierd.  The true master of style in the band,  in my humble opinion, was not Joe Strummer or Mick Jones– it was the cool cat bass player, Paul Simonon.

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The Clash, legends of music and 1980's rocker fashion. Photo by Rex USA ( 88672C )

The Clash, legends of music and 1980's rocker fashion. Photo by Rex USA ( 88672C )

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Simonon provided the film star glamour to an otherwise motley bunch of home-made haircuts and bad dental work: it was he who developed the band’s early paint-splattered Pollock-inspired look and whose fascination with guns and outlaw culture led to their mid-period black military look — all straps, angular zips and reinforced gussets. Riot gear. Street-fighting togs. And, later, with London Calling and beyond again it was Simonon who looked effortlessly natural in their Golden Age Hollywood suits, hats and overcoats. In the words of Mick Jones, “He was just there, looking fantastic…the bastard.”

–from 3am Magazine

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Super-smooth Paul Simonon of The Clash.The Clash

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“It’s all about poise. If you don’t have poise – definition: ‘balance; a dignified and self-assured manner’ — in rock ‘n’ roll, you’re nothing. Paul Simonon had it in abundance.  And still does.  Look at any footage of The Clash and you’re struck by the aesthetic perfection of their bassist; the way in which he just hung there, cool but coiled, aloof but ready.  Joe Strummer had the politico credentials and Mick Jones had the Keith Richards flash and swagger and natural musical ability, but Simonon had poise.”

–from 3am Magazine

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Photo by Photoreporters Inc. / Rex USA ( 88672I )

Photo by Photoreporters Inc. / Rex USA ( 88672I )

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Anarchy or no Anarchy– Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and the rest of The Clash all had a burning passion for fashion.  Their look, style and attitude was carefully crafted, even controlled, by the fellow bandmates and particularly by their manager Bernard Rhodes–  to great effect.

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Super-smooth Paul Simonon of The clash, 1980.  © Faux Catherine/Dalle APRF/CONTRAST

Super-smooth Paul Simonon of The clash, 1980. © Faux Catherine/Dalle APRF/CONTRAST

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“Paul Simonon–well, he’d have to be the driveshaft, because it was his aesthetic sense, his knowledge of painting, his use of sculpture (especially the slabs of Carreran marble that characterized his bass playing) and pliocene sensuality–that visualized the band’s look and touch.”

– Lenny Kaye, Americlash, Fall 1991

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Joe Strummer and The Clash performing in concert, June 1983 outside of Los  Angeles.  (Photo by Ann Summa/Getty Images)

Joe Strummer and The Clash performing in concert, June 1983 outside of Los Angeles. (Photo by Ann Summa/Getty Images)

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“The Clash, you see, were the only punk band with groove, the first to realise that if you got people to move their arse then their minds would follow, embracing dub, funk, rocksteady and hip-hop long before any other rock band. They worked with Lee Scratch Perry, inspired Bob Marley to write Punky Reggae Party, and became one of the best loved and most influential bands of their era in the process.”

Scott Rowley

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Joe Strummer of The Clash, circa 1981.  (Photo by Lisa Haun/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Joe Strummer of The Clash, circa 1981. (Photo by Lisa Haun/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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Joe Strummer and Mick Jones shared most of the writing duties—”Joe would give me the words and I would make a song out of them”, Jones later said. Sometimes they would meet in the office over their Camden rehearsal studio to collaborate directly. According to Strummer, Bernie Rhodes would say– “An issue, an issue. Don’t write about love, write about what’s affecting you, what’s important.” On August 13th, 1976, The Clash—sporting an impressive, paint-spattered “Jackson Pollock” look—played before a small, invitation-only audience in their Camden studio. Among those in attendance was Sounds critic Giovanni Dadamo. His review described the band as a “runaway train…so powerful, they’re the first new group to come along who can really scare the Sex Pistols sh*tless.”

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The Clash,  photo by ZEITLHOFER / Rex USA ( 88672D )

Another great shot of Paul Simonon of The Clash, photo by ZEITLHOFER / Rex USA ( 88672D )

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“Paul Simonon plays bass, smiles a lot, lopes around like a grossly underfed gorilla on a vitamin B and methedrine cure for malnutrition and catches the fancy of more women than the rest of the band put together – Patti Smith, for example.”

–Pete Silverton, The Clash: Greatness From Garageland

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Mick Jones, Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon of The Clash

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Joe Strumer, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash

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25 thoughts on “LEGENDARY CLASH STYLE | FROM PUNK ROCK ROUGH TO SARTORIAL SMOOTH

  1. Pingback: Classic Clash Style | Rock ‘n’ Roll, Style & Soul « Black Watch

  2. excellent – the clash are the most important band, ever. hugely misunderstood & underrated, very happy to see them being appreciated here.

  3. Over the last 7 years or so, we’ve been seeing more and more posts, books, articles and documentaries about or referencing/deifying The Clash or Joe.

    For a while I was afraid of getting worn down by the sheer overload and become sickened by the rush of hipster cred that was coming out of the woodwork with all the guys who suddenly ‘always loved’ The Clash. But I’m finding that I’m not. Not at all. Not even by the hipster $200 T-shirts indirectly referencing the band and band imagery – made by guys who were probably listening to anything BUT The Clash.

    Because this band deserves all of the attention and more.

    I think more and more people love The Clash today because the world is realizing that through it all, they stood by everything that happened for good and bad, and did what they did musically and otherwise – without an ounce of self-pity or looking back with anything but respect for their work. And although their end, Topper’s addiction and Joe’s wilderness years and premature death were sad, they never treated it like tragedy (unlike many bands and rock stars who lived their lives like it was a movie for all to see) and walked away tall and proud like heroes.

    Thanks for all the great images and post.

  4. Pingback: The Clash Blog | You better leave town if you only wanna knock us | The Clash Blog For Fans | The Clash Fan Blog

  5. The Clash will always be my favorite band and is the one thing (along with the vowel at the end of my name) that will keep me separate from the rest of the PRL flock. Simonon is great but remember this: Without Joe or Mick, all the songs would sound like the Guns of Brixton and thats just too much melodic talking for my taste.

    Bermuda kicks ass. Its 4 and I’m drunk and sunburned…lets catch up when I get back.

    AKC

    • Thanks! Work has been very busy and exciting. Things are moving faster we all could have imagined, it’s pretty cool.

      Drop me a line and let me know what’s knew with you.

      Best,

      JP

  6. Just found your blog a month ago and still working through the past posts…

    I have to agree with your thoughts here- for more insight check out the rockumentary Rude Boy for the best live footage of any band ever, as well as the fashion…. Paul’s girlfriend may have played a bigger role than any of the guys in the development of their look.

  7. Belated appreciation is better than none; you can’t believe now how much slagging the Clash got in the day, for all sorts of reasons, from seemingly all quarters. For an example, read the seminal punk rock book, ‘The Boy Looked at Johnny’, which lionizes the Pistols (RIP Malcolm, by the way – a genius) and amphetamines, but hates on the Clash. I mean, Joe Strummer was considered a sellout because he got his teeth fixed when the band made a little money!
    I remember buying Sandinista when it came out, and the hipster record store clerk warning it was full of ‘filler’, with ‘a few good songs’. Such narrow-mindedness was sadly the norm around punk; the credo was ‘louder faster shorter’, but the Clash explored all manner of strangeness; dub, afro beat, poetry, waltz, etc. All that ‘filler’ is sheer inspiration and totally groundbreaking, I was stunned by the record then, and it’s still my #1 favorite, period.

  8. Pingback: THE FILTH & THE FASHION | VIVIENNE WESTWOOD’S ’70s SEX RAG REVOLUTION « The Selvedge Yard

  9. Pingback: POISON IVY OF THE CRAMPS | PSYCHOBILLY GUITAR GODDESS « The Selvedge Yard

  10. very nice article, i’ve discovered your site/blog/ recently and have been exploring it since – you’re doing a wonderful job. some of the things i already knew but loved recollecting, some of them are new discoveries for me. so, thanks!

    alex

  11. Pingback: TSY STLE HALL OF FAME PAUL SIMONON | HOW TO CLASH ART, MUSIC AND STYLE « The Selvedge Yard

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