When we think of 1980s fashion accessories, we think of leg warmers, zipper ties, Swatches and fingerless gloves. But a vintage KISS advertisement about their 1980 album Music From The Elder reminded me of another: Headbands.
Paul Stanley was sporting one during the tour and promotion of the controversial concept album. In a world without heroes, KISS ditched their capes for headbands. Paul’s makes him look like Beaker. His head is two feet high.
Here in Canada, the headband hero (with stars in his eyes) was Loverboy lead singer Mike Reno. He still wears one. It’s awful. But, I suspect he was the one who inspired my brother to wear one in the early ’80s. For a while, he even wore a bandana around his thigh for some reason. I guess it was to catch the cascading crotch sweat. It was like a garter. How bizarre.
Steven Van Zant started making bandanas and headbands his “thing” to hide scars from a head injury. Hard to imagine him without one, on stage anyway. He doesn’t look a thing like himself in The Sopranos. But, during the hot-as-headbands era of the early ’80s, every member of The E Street Band was decked out in one, like they were rockin’ their way back from the washing line or the war effort factory assembly line.
Dire Staits frontman Mark Knopfler is certainly known for his headband, or was during the band’s heyday when these things were popular and his hair was just receding. Since he went fully bald, he’s stopped wearing them. Also, he’d probably look like one of those babies with a bow on their head if he did that now.
Willie Nelson gets a pass, he was probably just using it to conceal contraband. So does Olivia Newton-John — she was doing a workout. Hers was probably the most legit. Drummers are allowed as well. I see lots of more recent photos of Stewart Copeland wearing one on stage. That’s fair. He’s working. Same with Alex Van Halen and the late, great Jeff Porcaro of Toto. Axl Rose is a different story. His may have started off as a cool accessory, but now looks more like a fez.
But what I’m really talking about here is the trend. Just take a look at photos of Duran Duran circa 1983. Pouty-faced, globs of Dippity Doo and headbands all around — sometimes combined with a hat.
During the later stage of Abba‘s world domination, Agnetha (the blonde one) tried to make headbands — even comically thin ones — her thing. But her thing was always that she was the blonde one. Some of them were seriously thin, like tying four pipe cleaners together.
Before her Prince days, Sheena Easton rocked one that was sort of reminiscent of the dangly things on the Ultimate Warrior‘s arms. Speaking of Prince, he certainly dabbled with the fad as well — but, he’s Prince, so it was often lace.
Maybe Paul Stanley was inspired by Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx, who wore one under his hair, which gave his coif a sort of cake-strip look.
When Chicago dramatically changed their sound in the 1980s, Peter Cetera started wearing a headband. Coincidence? I think not.
It’s a hard habit to break.
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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.