On the 1 August, 1981, music’s relationship with the moving image was to change forever. We wonder if MTV knew, as they launched with The Buggles’ 1979 single Video Killed The Radio Star, just how apt its title was.

Nowadays, of course, it’s difficult to imagine an artist being signed at all without their image being thoroughly probed and valued. And having a sharp sense of style, or a strong personal brand, is often just as important as being able to play an instrument or write a catchy lyric.

But over the decades of the music video’s evolution, who’s done it best? We trawl back through the archives to unearth some of music videos’ finest menswear moments, and show you how to riff on the look today.

The Ramones – Rock ‘n’ Roll High School

Formed in 1974, The Ramones were not only pioneers of punk rock’s raucous sound, but its iconic look too.

Clad in a uniform of black leather biker jacket, tight tee, mid-wash skinny jeans and plimsolls, the New York-born band’s getup then, as now, defined style that’s easy-to-wear but packing plenty of edge.

Get The Look

The biker jacket is the frontman here, and the key piece you’ll need if you want to nod to the style of punk’s first offspring. Willing to do a little digging? Try second-hand and charity shops to pick up a bargain. Failing that, Acne Studios has a fantastic offering of buttery smooth styles, while the black leather biker is nothing short of a mainstay in most high street stores (AllSaints and Topman being two of the main contenders).

Also integral is footwear, and while Converse’s rock-infused Chuck Taylor or Jack Purcell is the obvious choice, a simple plain white plimsoll or – for something right up to the minute – a minimal leather trainer will work just as well.

It’d be remiss of us not to mention how certain elements of The Ramones’ aesthetic haven’t aged so well, however – particularly those skintight fits. Update your look with slim-cut tees and jeans.

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Key Pieces

  • Topman Black Leather Biker Jacket
  • Allsaints Howard Leather Biker Jakcet
  • Acne Studios Gibson Leather Biker Jacket
  • He By Mango Essential Cotton-blend T-shirt
  • Uniqlo Men Supima Cotton Crew Neck Short Sleeve T-shirt
  • Maison Margiela Cotton-jersey Crew Neck T-shirt
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Medium Wash Tim Jeans
  • Lee Jeans Arvin Stretch Slim Tapered Fit Raven Ragged Distressed
  • Officine Generale Slim-fit Washed-denim Jeans
  • Converse All Star Hi Black Canvas
  • Converse Jack Purcell Leather Sneakers
  • Greats The Royale Leather Sneakers

Justin Timberlake – Suit And Tie

A true rags to riches style story, JT has managed to transform himself (doubtless with the assistance of a good stylist or three) from a car crash of frosted tips and ill-fitting jeans into a sartorial showman with the chops of a big band entertainer.

In Suit and Tie, it’s The Rat Pack he tips his cap to, in a classic tuxedo.

Get The Look

Conveniently enough, you can purchase this look (well, something very similar) in its entirety from Tom Ford (the designer was behind Timberlake’s wardrobe for The 20/20 Experience tour), but on the off chance your budget isn’t quite as extensive as Trousersnake’s, Reiss’ black tie eveningwear comes in at under £500 without skimping on quality.

To round out the look, JT teams his tux with a two-tone black and white loafer true to the jazz roots of his ensemble – you’ll find a similar style from loafer daddies G.H. Bass. For a more traditional finish, though, a patent black leather lace-up dress shoe does the job. Church’s offers an investment-worthy shoe in its Alastair style but check out Kurt Geiger for decent options at a third of the price.

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Key Pieces

  • Reiss Mayfair Peak Lapel Tuxedo Black
  • Suitsupply Smoking Black Plain
  • Tom Ford Grosgrain Lapel Tuxedo
  • Austin Reed Classic Fit Marcella Dress Shirt
  • Austin Reed Black Semi Plain Bow Tie
  • Kingsman + Drakes Silk-faille Bow Tie
  • Gh Bass Larson Penny Loafers
  • Standard Fortyfive Patent Leather Tassel Dress Slippers
  • Churchs Alastair

Jarvis Cocker – Common People

Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker has managed to hone what so many in the music industry strive for – instantly recognisable style. The Brit Pop dandy’s combination of slim tailoring and modish thrift store chic oozes effortless cool in this 1990s classic.

Get The Look

First and foremost, that blazer. Most likely plucked from obscurity in a now-defunct charity shop in Sheffield, the seldom-used bouclé cloth that this jacket is cut from makes it a rare gem, so you may have to spend like Danae Stratou’s dad to find something truly authentic. The Italians do bouclé best, with Maurizio Miri, Isaia and Lardini all producing a handsome selection.

While the eccentricity of Cocker’s ensemble in this video is a key part of its charm, we’d probably swerve the black button-down and skinny silver tie for something more contemporary like a pared-back granddad collar shirt or a fine-gauge roll neck jumper.

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Key Pieces

  • Reiss Arthur Jacquard Wool Blazer Burgundy
  • Burberry London Dark-purple Slim-fit Velvet Blazer
  • Maurizio Miri Boucle Two Button Blazer
  • Wincer & Plant Smart Shirt With Grandad Collar Slim Fit Exclusive
  • Wincer & Plant Smart Shirt With Grandad Collar Slim Fit Exclusive
  • Uniqlo Men Extra Fine Merino Polo Neck Sweater
  • Topman Black Twill Stretch Skinny Chinos
  • Allsaints Neunaniwa Rigg Jeans
  • River Island Black Sid Skinny Stretch Jeans

Michael Jackson – Thriller

Thriller was, and continues to be, arguably one of the most influential music videos of all time – an inspired combination of music video and ‘video nasty’ that’s often been imitated, never duplicated.

And although the macabre video was mostly famous for its SFX make-up, the opening scene of the film also offers a valuable lesson in Ivy League collegiate style. That’s before the weird werewolf bit, of course.

Get The Look

At the centre of it all is the varsity jacket, a menswear staple that’s drifted in and out of the mainstream since its birth on American college campuses in the 1950s.

Despite its fairly run-of-the-mill origins, the varsity has recently been picked up by some of menswear’s biggest names – including Saint Laurent, Givenchy and Gucci – but you’ll find affordable alternatives at most high street retailers too.

Also key to the King of Pop’s look is his pair of Bass Weejuns, which can be picked up for just over £100, but should you want to step it up the in the craftsmanship stakes, try Gucci or J.M. Weston.

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Key Pieces

  • Cheats And Thieves Varsity Jacket
  • Asos Bomber Jacket With Varsity Styling
  • He By Mango Wool-blend Varsity Jacket
  • Reebok X Maison Kitsune Varsity Jacket Bold Orange & Cream White
  • Mki Black Classic Varsity Jacket Black & Off White
  • Nike Destroyer Jacket Medium Team Red Heather
  • Bass Weejuns Larson Loafers
  • J.m. Weston 180 The Moccasin Leather Loafers
  • Gucci Horsebit Leather Loafers

Kanye West – Mercy

Kanye West once told American GQ – “I’m looking for 50 per cent rock ‘n’ roll, 50 per cent hip-hop, 50 per cent genius. Because, you know – for genius, you have to be at a hundred and fifty per cent.” Clearly, any man that drops pearlers like that is confident in his own skin.

Which is exactly why ‘Ye’s outfit works so well in Mercy. Clothed completely in black, West somehow manages to rock a black balaclava in an underground car park without looking like a complete tw*t.

Get The Look

Safe to say, the hip-hop ninja vibe isn’t easily emulated. But there are elements of this slick and minimalist streetwear look you can take your cues from.

All-black, for example, is a no-brainer – not only is it a safe bet for most occasions, it’ll also suit pretty much any body shape or skin tone, and save you the hassle of matching your colours.

Try the likes of ASOS and Topman if you’re on a budget, or look to Mr West’s Yeezy collab with adidas Originals if you’re watching the money pile up.

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Key Pieces

  • Asos Longline Oversized Hoodie With Extreme Funnel In Black
  • Asos Super Longline T-shirt With Relaxed Skater Fit
  • Allsaints Wilde Sweatpant
  • River Island Black Elongated Curved Hem T-shirt
  • Saint Laurent Leather-panelled Loopback Cotton-jersey Hoodie
  • Saint Laurent Zip Crew Sweat Black
  • Reiss Zinadine Technical Hooded Jacket Black
  • River Island Black Zip Sleeve Bomber Jacket
  • Common Projects Bball Leather Sneakers
  • Ymc Button Bomber Jacket Black
  • Alexander Wang T By Alexander Wang Leather-trimmed Loopback Cotton-jersey Sweatshirt
  • Burberry Brit Tapered Loopback Cotton-jersey Sweatpants

Mark Ronson – Uptown Funk

Ronson’s career in music spans some 20 years, and 2014’s Uptown Funk saw him reach his peak to date. His outfit here, taking inspiration from 1970s-era Harlem and the Bronx, proves exactly why he tops not only music charts, but best-dressed lists, too.

While co-star Bruno Mars’ look misguidedly veers into fancy dress territory, Ronson plays it down with the effortless sense of style that’s seen him dubbed one of the Most Stylish Men Alive by American GQ.

Get The Look

For a structured double-breasted blazer like his, Reiss has a stellar selection in a fitted silhouette, as does its high street counterpart COS. Ronson’s front-pleat, relaxed-leg trousers also acknowledge a trend that’s been back on the scene for a few seasons now, championed by the likes of Oliver Spencer and E. Tautz.

The biggest talking point here, though, is Ronson’s serious sock game. On the high street, Uniqlo has your back with a staggering selection of colours, but for an extra touch of luxury, Falke, Pantherella and Ralph Lauren offer superior fine cotton options.

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Key Pieces

  • Topman Grey Jersey Double Breasted Blazer
  • Hart Hollywood By Nick Hart 100% Wool Double Breasted Herringbone Blazer In Slim Fit
  • Reiss Calcium B Wool And Silk Blazer
  • Asos Wide Leg Smart Trousers In Wool Mix
  • Topman Sand Cotton Twill Wide Leg Cropped Trousers With Turn Up
  • Asos Wide Leg Smart Trousers In Herringbone
  • Uniqlo Men Colour Socks
  • Pantherella Short Ribbed Cotton Socks
  • Ralph Lauren Merino Wool Flat Knit Socks

Kurt Cobain – Heart-Shaped Box

While grunge’s West Coast rough and ready vibes had been making themselves felt since the late 1980s, it was the spectacular success of Nirvana, and their sophomore album Nevermind (1991), which thrust grunge into the spotlight.

Now, although grunge style may have transcended its alternative roots, it’s still an iconic off-duty look bristling with attitude.

Get The Look

Although Kurt’s metallic lamé shacket might be rather difficult to source, his nautical striped tee is easily emulated. Armor-Lux or A.P.C. are a worthy investment if you’re looking for a piece that will wash well and last.

Another Cobain staple, and a key part of the grunge pantheon, heavily distressed jeans are more popular than ever. Go all-American with some vintage Levi’s, or try Japanese designers like Remi Relief who are particularly accomplished when it comes to patchwork denim.

Top it all off with, yes, you guessed it, rock’s footwear brand of choice: a pair of iconic navy Jack Purcell’s from Converse.

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Key Pieces

  • Remi Relief Slim-fit Patchwork-effect Denim Jeans
  • Levis 501 Original Moment Magnitude Ripped Jeans
  • Asos Slim Jeans With Rip And Repair In Mid Blue
  • Armor-lux 1525 Long Sleeve Loctudy Tee Natural & Dark Blue
  • A.p.c. Striped Knitted Cotton T-shirt
  • Topman Ltd Long Sleeve Bretton Stripe T-shirt
  • Topman Ltd Grey Melange Brushed Overshirt
  • Oliver Spencer Loungewear Cotton-flannel Overshirt
  • Reiss Jack Purcell Signature Jack Purcell Trainers Navy

Final Word

Do any of these looks chime with your personal style? Which other music videos feature standout menswear?

Have your say below.