7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something

Sometimes an iconic trademark came about less by design and more by necessity.
7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something

If you expect to make the big time in the music biz, the only absolute requirement is raw musical talent. Haha, no -- that can totally be faked. What you really need, however, is a gimmick. Flavor Flav has his huge clocks, John Lennon had his trademark spectacles, each member of Nickelback is actually two shaved monkeys standing on top of each other in wigs and torn jeans, and so on.

But while we tend to think of these things as carefully crafted pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that is a superstar's public image, the fact of the matter is that sometimes an iconic trademark came about less by design and more by necessity. For example ...

Slash's Top Hat And Hair Is To Ward Off Stage Fright

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Michael Loccisano/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Slash's style hasn't really changed much in the last 30 years, because why the fuck would you change perfection? Just one look at the leather pants, curtain of curly hair, sunglasses, top hat, and positively perilous cigarette, and you know you're about to have your eardrums punctured and made sweet, sweet love to by a vintage Les Paul.

But have you ever noticed how Slash's signature look comes with the added benefit of completely covering his face? Hell, for the first three years of Guns N' Roses' existence, no one was really sure if Slash was human or some kind of sentient Chia Pet.

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George De Sota/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You water it with heroin to make it grow.

And It's Actually Because:

Even though he grew up around famous people (his mother was a costume designer), Slash was surprisingly anxious about appearing in front of a crowd. That's obviously a pretty monumental hurdle for anyone who aspires to have "Rock God" printed on his business cards, so Slash needed a way to get past this crippling anxiety. And that's where the top hat comes in.

The reason you rarely see Slash without the hat is because it's his way of blocking out his stage fright. Whenever you see him onstage with the hat down low and his bushy coiffure covering the part of his face that the hat can't manage, odds are he's not doing it to look cool -- he's doing it so he doesn't have to see you. (Yes, you specifically.)

Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

"For all I know, you're Axl. So, just in case, fuck you."

It wasn't always the top hat. Slash sampled other styles early in his career before finding -- and stealing -- the top hat one fateful night in 1985. His "hide beneath the hat" method probably also came in handy for not having to see his mom naked with David Bowie again.

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something

Who knew that Paradise City and Suffragette City had the same mayor?

And speaking of David Bowie's body parts ...

David Bowie's Crazy Eyes Are The Result Of A Punch To The Face

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
Patrick Riviere/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

David Bowie has never stuck to one particular style for very long. One day he's a glam rocker, the next he's in a suit and tie, occasionally he's something called a "Ziggy Stardust," and still other times he's giving your childhood self pants-induced nightmares. But throughout each and every image transmogrification, there's one thing that remains (somewhat disturbingly) constant: those crazy-ass eyes.

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
Columbia Records

One burns through your skull while the other inappropriately diddles your mom.

Commonly confused with heterochromia (a condition in which a person's eyes are two different colors), Bowie's eyes are actually both the very same mesmerizing shade of blue. They only appear different because one of his pupils is perpetually stuck in "No, officer, I haven't been smoking anything. Why do you ask?" mode.

And It's Actually Because:

It's very much unintentional, and it's all because of a girl ... well, and because Bowie is a bit of a dick.

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
Tri-Star Pictures

Actually, way more than a bit.

See, while Bowie was hanging out with his friends George Underwood and Peter Frampton (yes, that Peter Frampton) back in high school, George scored a date with a girl that Bowie himself fancied. Taking an "all's fair in love and war" approach to the matter, Bowie told George that the girl was totally planning to stand him up. Every ounce of this story was bullshit, and it resulted in George being the one doing the standing up while the girl spent the entire evening tapping her foot and repeatedly glancing at her watch.

Feeling like a complete tool upon finding out, George went to confront Bowie, only to find him bragging about stealing George's girl. George hauled off and delivered a haymaker that would make Muhammad Ali nod in quiet admiration, granting Bowie a personal tour of the emergency room along with a permanently paralyzed left pupil.

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

The Laughing Gnome laughs only at him.

Things ended well enough, however: George and Bowie made up, and Bowie considers the look a blessing in disguise. George even went on to design some of Bowie's most iconic album covers, possibly because Bowie's gimpy eye couldn't focus well enough for him to do it himself.

Michael Jackson's Glove Was To Hide His Skin Condition

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
Anwar Hussein/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Michael Jackson wasn't exactly a stranger to doing off-the-wall shit. Hell, let's face it -- he's on the leaderboard for most off-the-wall shit done in a single lifetime. Michael brought a monkey as his date to the Grammys. He dangled his child over a fifth-story balcony. And that's just the stuff they happened to catch on camera, if you know what we mean.

If you trace Michael's fountain of everlasting weirdness back to its source, it all started with one ultra-famous fashion accessory: the glove.

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Because the glove is the weirdest thing going on in this photo.

And It's Actually Because:

Remember when Jackson famously transformed from black to white (if not, it don't matter), and the tabloid-buying masses thought he dyed himself that color because he wanted to look like Diana Ross? Well, he did undergo treatments to lighten his skin, but that was because he suffered from vitiligo, a disease that causes the skin to lose its pigmentation in splotches. The treatments were an attempt to even out his overall skin tone.

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
Beth A. Keiser/AFP/Getty Images

Coincidentally, making him the exact same color as the glove
from the Hamburger Helper box.

But he didn't do that right away. First, he tried to conceal it ... with a glove. According to actress Cicely Tyson, a close friend of Michael's who was present when the glove was designed, its main purpose was to cover up the white blotches that had developed on his right hand. And when you think about it, that makes a hell of a lot more sense than the Diana Ross theory, seeing as how vitiligo tends to start in the hands and lips. Though you do have to wonder if he ever considered, you know, two gloves.

The next thing you know, we'll discover that Michael once insisted on bringing a llama into a recording studio because their wool provides unprecedented acoustics or some shit. What if ... what if Michael was the sane one, and it's all the rest of us who are weird?

Hank Williams Jr.'s Mountain-Man Look Is Oddly Ironic

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
Tim Mosenfelder/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Even if you avoid modern country music like the ear-plague, you'll still know Hank Williams Jr. as the face of Monday Night Football. Well, the former face of Monday Night Football -- sweet promotional deals tend to vanish like Keith Urban's fancy accent when you compare the U.S. president to Hitler on national television.



Others know Hank as the son of legendary crooner Hank Williams and as an iconic singer in his own right, with over 70 million records sold (that is, more than Justin Bieber). His face is instantly recognizable, always framed by that flashy hat, a full beard, and sunglasses. He didn't always sport that rockabilly flair, though. Back when his musical style was the more subdued style of his old man, he dressed the part:

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Mercury Nashville

... and undressed the ladies with a single chord.

Holy shit, that doesn't even look like the same guy. He didn't just switch up his musical style; he full-on transformed into another person.

And It's Actually Because:

Although the new look did seem to coincide with his new musical style, that wasn't the impetus for the change. During a mountain climbing trip in the mid-'70s, Hank lost his footing and fell 500 feet, landing face-first on a boulder. The impact caused his face to, as People magazine put it, "split open down the middle, hairline to chin as if struck with an axe" or, as Cracked put it, "crack down the center, much like a butt crack, making his face like a butt." Also, holy shit, the man fell 500 feet and landed on his face.

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

He hears some wide receiver bragging about playing with a sprained ankle
and just laughs and laughs.

It took years of reconstructive surgery to repair the damage and, since something like that tends to leave a bit of scarring, Hank needed a way to distract from those scars. Thus, he adopted the (conveniently face-covering) look that has become his trademark. On second thought, we take back our smart-ass comment -- a man who can have his face split in half like a T-1000 and live to sing about it is the absolute last man we want to be calling a butt-face.


Chuck Berry's Duckwalk Was Because Of A Fashion Faux Pas

Michael Ochs Archives/Moviepix/Getty Images

Chuck Berry is considered by many to be "the father of rock 'n' roll." But he wasn't just the baby daddy of an entire musical genre -- he also pioneered its most iconic move this side of the double knee slide: the duckwalk.

Not familiar with the duckwalk? Yes you are. Here's Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page demonstrating the technique:

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
George De Sota/Redferns/Getty Images

While wearing his sister's pants, apparently.

AC/DC's Angus Young is also famously proficient in the waddling arts:

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something

While wearing no pants, apparently.

And just in case you're a complete musical dummy, here's Michael J. Fox doing it in Back To The Future:

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Universal Pictures

We've run out of things to say about pants.

Marty McFly is, of course, playing "Johnny B. Goode," one of Chuck Berry's biggest hits, while also paying homage by trotting out Chuck's slickest move. In fact, the walk is so recognizable that it's almost become the de facto rock guitar posture. Like, if you're not playing your solo as if you're a hunchback who has to pee really bad, then you're simply not doing it right.

And It's Actually Because:

The duckwalk originated as a silly thing Chuck did as a kid to make the grown-ups laugh. It certainly wasn't something he ever planned to trot out in front of a crowd once he became famous.

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Thankfully, that list also includes his ding-a-ling.

But then, at one New York City show early in his career, he had a problem: The front of his suit was all wrinkly. Since "Is there a dry cleaner in the house?" isn't exactly the kind of thing that gets the crowd all riled up when screamed into a mic, Chuck instead broke out his childhood hunch-skip as he played. The guitar covered up the embarrassing wrinkles, the crowd lost their collective shit, and Chuck "Rock Daddy" Berry gave birth to yet another genre staple.

Sinead O'Connor's Shaved Head Was A Sexual-Harassment Deterrent

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
Frank Micelotta/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In her heyday, Sinead O'Connor was almost as well known for her outspokenness as for her music. Whether she was ripping up a picture of the pope on SNL to call attention to child-abuse allegations, or being the only person to refuse a Grammy to spite the award's commercialism, it's pretty obvious that she gave precisely zero fucks what people thought about her.

Her signature shaved head was like the cherry atop her couldn't-give-a-fuck sundae.

She didn't even recycle those shreds.

And It's Actually Because:

In reality, the shaved head was more to serve as a distraction from everything below it.

See, the thing with the music industry is that once you get past the talent (singers, dancers, etc.), you run smack dab into a big-ass "Dong Required For Entry" sign. A study conducted as recently as 2010 shows that women make up less than 5 percent of engineers and producers. As such, the music industry of the late '80s and early '90s had a notorious reputation for taking advantage of women, with harassment being described as the accepted norm, and ultimately leading to multiple lawsuits against some of the world's biggest record labels.

Sinead was well aware of the industry's reputation and, despite her management's attempts to make her "pretty," she wasn't about to put herself in a position to get taken advantage of. So she pulled an "Edward Norton in 25th Hour" and got ugly as a way to protect herself from unwanted advances. She stopped at the skee-ball, although she later said that it'd "be better to have a bag on head, really."

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
Mike Coppola/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Though the sunglasses make her look like Paul Shaffer, so that helps.

Bono Wears Sunglasses Because He Has Glaucoma

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
Kevin Winter/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Freaking Bono, man. For a multimillionaire Grammy winner, dude just can't seem to catch a break. He spends a lifetime promoting humanitarian causes, and everyone thinks he's a douche. Gives away his album for free, and people get so mad they lose their goddamn minds. Gets so injured in the world's unlikeliest bicycle accident that he may never play guitar again, and comment sections Internet-wide rejoice. What the hell's a guy got to do for people to, if not like, then at least tolerate him?

7 Musicians Whose Trademark Looks Were Hiding Something
World Economic Forum

Good thing he has all those $1,000 bills with which to blot his tears.

Yeah, Bono hate seems to go way beyond disliking an artist's music, especially for someone who, by all objective standards, is a pretty decent guy. Is it the sunglasses? Wearing sunglasses indoors seems like a pretty douchey thing to do. It's probably the sunglasses.

And It's Actually Because:

If that's the case, the world can start feeling pretty shitty about itself right about now, because Bono has to wear those sunglasses. The man's been dealing with glaucoma for the last 20 years.

Among other unfun things, glaucoma causes a sufferer's eyes to become extremely susceptible to light and glare, and nonstop sunglasses-wearing is basically every doctor's prescription for the condition. Considering the fact that Bono's job is to stand in front of million-gigawatt stage lights -- not to mention that his off hours consist of dodging a constant barrage of paparazzi flashbulbs -- it's a wonder his doctor didn't prescribe dual pirate eye-patches instead.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

It might be the only way he ever finds what he's looking for.

So now we'll leave you to ponder this conundrum: If the world hates Bono because of Bono's sunglasses, and Bono's sunglasses are a necessity due to a crippling medical condition, who's the real douchebag -- Bono, or the world?

For more ridiculous artist backstories, check out 5 Artistic Geniuses Who Only Became Great After Selling Out and 6 Alternate Album Covers You Won't Believe Almost Happened.

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