The Return Of The Rockabilly

There’s something about the rockabilly look that just oozes cool. Perhaps it’s because of all the iconic imagery left behind of musicians who have channelled the style throughout time. Or perhaps it’s due to the edgier modern update we see today, tattoos and all. Either way, the spirit of the rockabilly is hard to match.

With rockabilly-inspired style resurfacing across the runway and high street in recent times, we’re set to show you how to get the look.

Of course, for true rockabillies – those men (and women) who live and breathe the culture – it’s much more than just a ‘trend’, it’s a way of life. With that in mind, we’re simply exploring how key elements of the aesthetic can be incorporated into a contemporary wardrobe.

But first, let’s take a brief look at the origins of rockabilly style and how it has evolved over time…

Rockabilly Style: Then And Now

Rockabilly is considered one of the earliest forms of rock ‘n’ roll, which dates back to the 1950s. The term ‘rockabilly’ is actually an amalgamation of the words ‘rock’ and ‘hillbilly’ – referencing the cross between rock ‘n’ roll and country music that influenced its development into its own sub-genre.

First made popular by legendary artists such as Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, the influence of the rockabilly movement dipped in the 1960s, before seeing a revival in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since then, the genre of music and image that comes with it has continued to exist as a subculture, producing several sub-styles in both music and fashion.

Traditionally, the rockabilly look for guys comprised leather biker and denim jackets, plaid and bowling shirts, jet black jeans, and two-tone brogues or chunky boots. And we can’t forget the quiff, of course.

Today’s rockabilly aesthetic borrows much of these signature pieces, celebrating the vintage aspects of the style. However, there is an edgier undertone in contemporary rockabillies, who adapt elements of punk rock and indie looks, such as full sleeve tattoos. It’s all about a cool, carefree attitude that only a true rockabilly would be able to pull off authentically.

Get The Look

A rockabilly’s wardrobe all begins with the right jacket. Whether you opt for a beaten-up leather biker or faded denim version, this is the piece that will finish off your confident, carefree look – so wear it with pride.

Opt for a style with additional detailing such as exposed zipped pockets and hidden compartments for both aesthetic and practical purposes. After all, where else will you keep your comb to ensure your quiff is in check?

When it comes to fabric choice, you don’t want your jacket to look too new. Ideally you would spend hours scouring vintage stores or eBay for a truly one of a kind piece, but if you are time-poor, another option is to try and achieve the lived in look yourself.

A little trick is to grab a cheese grater and dig in – your denim will be distressed in no time. For leather, kneading alcohol into it should do the trick. So what are you waiting for? Grab yourself a bottle of bourbon and after pouring yourself a tipple, tip some over your leather jacket and massage away.

Note: FashionBeans takes no responsibility for damaged clothing, so use common sense – test the above techniques on old garments that you no longer intend to wear first, before trying it on your new purchases.

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Next up, you’ll want to invest in an array of retro shirts to alternate throughout the season. Ideal for layering underneath your leather biker, every rockabilly needs a variety of check/plaid designs in his wardrobe.

Whether you go for a classic blue and white gingham version crafted from pure lightweight cotton or a thicker red and black tartan overshirt, your selection of casual shirts will not only be practical enough to layer in the colder months, but effortlessly stylish too.

If you’re slightly more daring, you’ll also want to consider purchasing a couple of bowling shirts, to really nail the 1950s rockabilly look. Similar to a Hawaiian shirt in shape, a bowling shirt is typically more conservative as it doesn’t feature the tropical prints of its warm-weather cousin.

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Before we discuss footwear and finishing touches, we need to consider legwear. Traditionally, rockabillies were known for wearing dark or black denim jeans – a custom that remains the same today.

Although skinny and slim fits are the go-to for any rock or indie look these days, there are no set rules when it comes to your jeans. If you’re more comfortable in straight cuts or simply aren’t a fan of skinnies, there’s no reason why you can’t try pairing your plaid shirt and denim jacket with straight-legged styles this winter.

Only you know the type of jeans you feel most comfortable in and that suit you the best – remember, confidence and a carefree attitude play a huge part in truly pulling off this aesthetic.

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Key Pieces
  • He By Mango Leather Biker Jacket
  • Allsaints Chatton M65 Leather Jacket
  • Allsaints Kane Leather Jacket
  • Allsaints Colbert Denim Jacket
  • Lee Denim Jacket Rider Slim Fit Grey Coated Washed
  • A.p.c. Washed-denim Jacket
  • Asos Overshirt In Heavyweight Check
  • Asos Shirt In Long Sleeve With Mid Scale Brushed Check
  • Shore Leave Bounty Check Shirt In Red And Navy
  • Uniqlo Men Extra Fine Cotton Broadcloth Check Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Uniqlo Men Flannel Check Long Sleeve Shirt
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Check Shirt
  • He By Mango Skinny Black Jude Jeans
  • Nudie Jeans Organic Tight Long John Jeans In Black
  • Allsaints Corw Iggy Jeans
Best Foot Forward

So you’ve got the jacket, shirt, jeans and attitude – you’re definitely on your way to nailing the rockabilly look this winter. But whether you opt for chunky Dr. Martens or statement creepers, no rockabilly’s style is complete without the right footwear.

The original Dr. Martens 8-eyelet boots in black are a great choice as they’re strong, sturdy, go with anything and actually quite comfy once you’ve worn them in. If you want to bring the aesthetic bang up to date, it might even be worth trying out a pair of DMs in a bright hue such as red or blue to inject some colour into your winter wardrobe this year.

Then there’s creepers. Not everyone will be a fan of this style of footwear, but if you can look past their association with underground subcultures they’re actually a sturdy and stylish shoe that ooze individuality and will give any outfit an edge.

Finally, if you prefer to take a more polished approach to your everyday wear, why not consider a two-tone brogue? Coming in a wide array of colour combinations, these lace-ups will add a touch of retro panache to your tailoring collection or smart-casual getups:

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  • Purified X George Cox Mens Black Leather Creepers
  • Asos Brothel Creepers Made In England
  • Dr Martens Mens Black Boanil Brush Leather Arthur Boots
  • Saint Laurent Leather Lace-up Shoes
  • Edward Green Malvern Two-tone Leather Golf Brogues
  • Black Two-tone Draycott Brogue Shoes
  • Topman Dr Martens Original 8 Boots
  • Dr Martens Original 8-eye Boots
  • Asos Brogue Shoes In Leather
Finishing Touches

Accessories should be used to cement the aesthetic and really give it an edge. Obviously the slick quiff/pompadour hairstyle and a penchant for colourful tattoos are two integral aspects of rockabilly style that will only be relevant if they appeal directly to your lifestyle and personality, yet there are a number of modern accessories that will also help you get the look.

Braces, reader style glasses/wayfarer sunglasses, masculine metal jewellery and wallet chains will help toughen up your appearance and exude the easy, effortless style rockabillies are renowned for.

Bear in mind, rockabilly fashion isn’t particularly complicated – many of the key pieces identified above are already wardrobe staples for the modern man – it’s the attitude, confidence and finishing touches that will set you apart.

  • A.p.c. Mens Silver Curb Chain Bracelet
  • Icon Brand Ring
  • Ray-ban Wayfarer Glasses
  • Topman Icon Brand Silver Necklace
  • Icon Brand Engraved Ring In Silver
  • Next Braces
  • Ray-ban Original Wayfarer Sunglasses
  • Drakes Elasticated Braces
  • Baxter Of California Pocket Comb
The Hair

Hair is such a huge part of rockabilly style that we couldn’t possibly touch on the subject without mentioning it. The quiff and pompadour were the most prominent hairstyles sported by rockabillies, and these days there are so many ways you can take these iconic cuts and make them your own.

From disconnected/shaved sides to slick, high shine finishes, take a look through our excellent hairstyles articles for more inspiration on how to individualise your look:

  • Baxter Of California Soft Water Pomade
  • American Crew Pomade 85gm
  • Pomade Wax Mr Natty
  • Kevin Murphy Shimmer Shine
  • Fudge Head Shine 100g
  • Moroccanoil Glimmer Shine Spray 100ml
Final Word

Whether you’re a fan of the rockabilly aesthetic or not, the confidence that exudes from the style is something we can all admire and learn from. You don’t have to be covered in tattoos or wear your hair in a slick quiff to be a fan of the rockabilly spirit, nor to be able to incorporate elements of the look into your wardrobe.

Like with most styles, self-assurance is the key to getting it right. Once you’ve got that covered, the rest comes naturally.

But now you’ve heard from us, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you a fan of the rockabilly look? And if so, will you be giving it a try this winter?

Let us know in the comments section below…