The Britpop Aesthetic
Happy Britpop Week everyone! Just a warning: I am very unqualified to write what I’m about to write but I’m going to give it a go because I’ve been learning about Britpop by tuning in this week along with all of you and WOW DO I LOVE IT! We’ve gotten to learn a lot that was going on with the Britpop music and culture but the one thing we miss out on with radio is seeing what was happening visually, the aesthetic if you will!
For context of what I’m about to share, I highly recommend reading Hank’s Britpop blog first which will give you an idea of what was happening historically in the Britpop era.
As I’ve been listening to the iconic Britpop albums, I’ve checked out a few of the iconic music videos and as a result been able to see the iconic styles of these bands. There’s so much to unpack here but for the sake of this blog not lasting forever, I’m going to talk about a music video from each of the big four Britpop bands: Suede, Oasis, Blur, and Pulp as well as a video from Elastica, the only big Britpop group that is female led.
Let’s start with Oasis and their video for “Wonderwall”. First of all, the video is completely in black and white except for the brightly colored guitars and sad clown hat that stand out in the most beautiful way possible. “Wonderwall” is of course a more melancholy song which the black and white color scheme suits very well. This isn’t the first time that Oasis did a stripped down, black and white music video like this, but “Wonderwall” was the perfected version of it. There’s so much to see in this video: Oasis jamming and just goofing around, records spinning, sad clowns, and more. This very stripped down style of video was very fitting for Oasis given the band members’ backgrounds in the lower middle class. Some of the big Britpop bands were more posh but Oasis certainly was not. Their background is also reflected in the styles of clothing they wore, especially in this video. We see denim on denim, crewnecks, oversized button ups, and Liam Gallagher’s John Lennon-esque sunglasses.
Next we need to look at the band that was pretty much at war with Oasis, Blur and their video for “Parklife”. This video couldn’t be more different than the video for “Wonderwall”. First off, the video is in color, and very bright color at that. This video is full of chaotic energy with speedy car scenes, Damon Albarn’s dancing and bouncing (with ice cream in some cases), spinning rainbow umbrellas, and more. This matches the energy of the song which is also quite chaotic and punchy. Blur is known for their upper middle class background which has been an object of ridicule. This background is naturally reflected in their fashion which we can see in the video for “Parklife”. We see blue jeans, collared sporty jackets, and crewnecks once again. In Blur’s case, their style is preppier and more polo inspired.
Next we’re going to tackle Suede and their video for “Animal Nitrate”. This video is much more sensual and sleazy than what we’ve seen from the other Britpop groups so far. For most of this video, we see Brett Anderson sensually dancing, Suede making music, and people dressed as animals - often with minimal clothing. This certainly fits with the song that is more sexual in nature than “Parklife” or “Wonderwall”. So what was Suede wearing? The Cool Britannia movement is generally known for making dressing casually, cool but Suede didn’t really fit into that. Brett Anderson dressed very androgynously with opened button up shirts, cropped shirts, and jewelry being staples. His style was generally a bit more glamorous and adrogenyous than what others were wearing in the movement.
“Common People” by Pulp is our next video up. I would argue that this is the most fun video out of the bunch with coordinated dancing on the illuminated, colorful dance floor, rides in a shopping cart through the supermarket, and people moving repetitively like robots throughout. The colors are very bright and the energy is very high in the video. This contrasts however to what Pulp was wearing in the video. We see them wearing more neutral tones in the form of button ups over t-shirts, crewneck sweatshirts, and suit jackets. The style is a bit more formal than Blur or Oasis but still generally pretty casual.
Our last video to check out is “Connection” by Elastica. This video is all about contrast with brightly colored sets but an effortlessly cool energy from the Elastica members. We see Elastica dispersed throughout different rooms in a house as well as in the screen of the many TVs in the video. We get quite a lot of eye contact from Elastica, especially Justine Frischmann who stares into viewers’ souls without blinking. Elastica’s attire in this video contributes to the contrast to the brightly colored sets. We see the band wearing nearly all black, opened button up shirts, Doc Martens, and more traditionally grunge inspired clothing.
There was quite a lot of contrast between the style of videos and clothing between the Britpop bands but as you can see there was also quite a bit of common ground in the aesthetics between them. Like I said I just really love Britpop now after listening to Britpop Week here at WIDR so catch me trying to emulate all of these bands' styles for the near future!
There are so many more iconic Britpop music videos worth watching - check out some of them in a playlist here!
If you want to get a better idea of what the Cool Britannia clothing style that accompanied the Britpop movement looked like, check out this Pinterest board here.