Fashion Men's Fashion

The Strokes, Somehow, Look Cooler Than Ever

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Watching The Strokes this weekend on Saturday Night Live, where they marked their fourth appearance but first in nine years, was like time traveling, only without the mawkish nostalgia. The Manhattan rich boys with fancy European names that made them sound more like hair salons on 57th Street than rock stars—Julian Casablancas, Fab Moretti, Nikolai Fraiture, Nick Valensi, and Albert Hammond Jr.—looked as cool as they ever did, in all the same ways: wearing leather and denim, their hair expensively unkempt. There was Nikolai in a collarless acid wash denim kimono coat and bolo tie; Albert in an orange Western shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons; Fab in a pullover the color of a pumpkin shag carpet; and Nick in an oversized denim jacket. Casablancas maybe even looked better than ever, in a chocolate leather suit and an oversized scuzzy trench coat that could have come from a nearby army-navy surplus store—or from Celine. They could have worn any of these looks in a music video or concert circa 2002, but they didn’t look like Cobrasnake co-stars or dudes still posting #tbts about Arlene’s Grocery.

When The Strokes first appeared at the very beginning of this century (!), they were a rebuke to the baroquely packaged boy band frenzy of the previous several years, heralding the return of guitars and behaving (at least a little) badly But by that point, the marketing of music stars had so overtaken the industry that, like the Backstreet Boys before them, their success brought a wave of imitators, writing and strumming out brilliantly dumb-as-dirt songs. And while their music holds up, their most lasting impact was arguably on fashion: The Strokes, and all the “The” bands that followed them, dressed like The Ramones, gritty if a bit glossier. They wore a uniform—leather jackets whose collars brushed against shaggy hair, denim workwear, t-shirts, and skinny jeans (which couldn’t be found in your nearest mall until a year or two later). If designers like Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane were already pushing a ’70s revival on the runway, the Strokes and their peers were what the fashion industry needed to make those clothes marketable. After The Strokes took over the radio and MTV, their look quickly solidified into a uniform for hipsters and the hipster-curious. In due time, that uniform was, of course, swiftly parroted (and not even repackaged, just parroted!) by retailers like American Apparel and Urban Outfitters.

Image may contain Human Person Musical Instrument Guitar Leisure Activities Musician Stage Crowd and Music Band
The Strokes on Saturday Night Live, October 31, 2020.NBC / Getty Images

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