Mötley Crüe's Role As Rock Fashion Icons & Their Houston Designer Connection
Photo by Scott Harrison.
"In the beginning,Good always overpowered the evils of all man's sins. But in time the nations grew weak, and our cities fell to slums. While evil stood strong in the dusts of hell, lurked the blackest of hates. For he whom they feared awaited them. Now many many lifetimes later, lay destroyed, beaten, beaten down, only the corpses of rebels, ashes of dreams, and blood stained streets. It has been written "Those who have the youth have the future", so come now, children of the beast. Be strong. And Shout at the Devil."
So begins the first track of Mötley Crüe's second album, Shout at the Devil, a spoken introduction that is marked by vivid imagery, just like the band who recorded it.
Back in 1983, they stood out from other bands of the era, both musically and visually. The early '80s was a time when a band's image was more important than ever before, and Mötley Crüe delivered the goods musically and visually. Inspired in part by the postapocalyptic look of films like The Road Warrior, the band wore stylized face paint and clothing that looked as if it was designed to be worn on a journey across a war-torn futuristic wasteland.
Mötley Crüe quickly rose to fame throughout the remainder of the '80s, becoming one of the most popular and successful hard rock bands of the decade, and one whose image changed numerous times. With the band touring together for what they claim will be the last time ever, now seems like a good time to look back on their 34-year run and examine some of the fashion and image changes the band went through during their spectacular career. For much of the past decade, Mötley Crüe has turned to a fashion designer originally from Houston named Tod Waters to create much of their stage wear. His company, Junker Designs, is based in Los Angeles, but Tod's roots are deeply invested in Houston, and his work with the band has had a large affect on their image in recent years.
In their earliest days, the band definitely stood out, but hadn't developed the image that they would soon be famous for. For the most part, they seemed to be wearing leather pants and jackets, with a few chains added for good measure. They looked cool, but hadn't yet cultivated the iconic image they would a couple of years later.
The album Shout At The Devil (1983) changed all that, with their previously mentioned postapocalyptic image fully in place. The band's huge teased hair, makeup and clothing that looked pieced together from leather, spikes and bits of armor definitely put Mötley Crüe on the style map.
In 1985, Theatre of Pain was released, and the band's look evolved into a glam style that was quickly becoming popular with other L.A. bands. Nikki Sixx in particular seemed drawn toward polka-dotted or striped spandex outfits, which mostly looked good on the guy — an amazing visual feat. Vince Neil wore a lot of white, particularly pants and vests, with long sashes draped off of him. Although the band adopted the hair metal style that was becoming popular, they managed to give it it a unique spin that made it their own.
The band toured relentlessly during the late '80s, developing a well-deserved reputation for legendary debauchery. They released a new album every two years, with Girls, Girls, Girls following Theatre of Pain in 1987, and Dr. Feelgood in 1989. Over that period, the band continued to change its visual image, turning toward a more street glam look that often relied heavily on tight-fitting leather clothing.
The '90s were a difficult decade for many hard rock and metal bands, especially the ones who had been closely associated with the LA hair metal scene. As grunge took over as the leading rock music trend, most of the bands from rock's previous era looked immediately outdated and uncool. A lot of those bands couldn't survive the change in style, and simply broke up or faded from the public eye, but Mötley Crüe continued on, releasing two albums during the decade — 1994's self-titled effort and 1997's Generation Swine. Vince Neil had left the band by then and had been replaced by John Corabi, who left the band during production of Generation Swine, when Neil rejoined. Even though those were tough years for Mötley Crüe, the band soldiered onward, adopting a more stripped-down image that fit better in a decade that largely rejected the elaborately costumed look rock stars had often used in the hair metal years.
In the mid-2000s, Mötley Crüe began working with Tod Waters, whose company, Junker Designs, had rapidly become the go-to place for many of rock and pop music's biggest stars looking for stage and street fashion. "We have been working with Mötley Crüe since the Carnival of Sins tour in 2006, and every tour after," says Waters about his involvement with the band.
Waters continued to work closely with members of the band during their recent run of concerts in Las Vegas. "During the Vegas shows, Vince had some wild ideas, and we experimented with foiling and lights to add shine to that costume (now on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas alongside Junker's costume display). "On the current tour, we tried the same techniques to create the dirty duty look Vince demanded."
Photo by Scott Harrison
Waters's work has contributed to the ongoing evolution of the band's image in recent years, with Junker's clothing playing a role in Mötley Crüe's iconic style. "I've made clothing for everyone in the band at one time or another, but especially for Vince and Nikki. They're both really involved in the process, and come in open to ideas, so we got to to try out a bunch of new and different materials on this tour. Vince Neil is wearing head-to-toe Junker, and Nikki is wearing these cool Junker armor shoulder pads we made for him."
Houston fans of the band will have the opportunity to see Waters's work firsthand this Saturday, when Mötley Crüe plays for their final time here. Junker Designs is also hosting the official Mötley Crüe after party at Dirt Bar, located at 1209 Caroline, which will give interested Houstonians an opportunity to see what makes the company so important to the world's rock elite.
Mötley Crüe has been one of the biggest rock bands ever to come out of Los Angeles, and their music and image have evolved many times over the past three and a half decades. From their early days of Mad Max-influenced fashion to their dominance during the hair metal years and beyond, the band has always had a strong visual flair. Tod Waters has continued in that tradition, and his designs will help Mötley Crüe go out in style and with a bang.
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