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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Style - making bands look good
The Beatles
The Beatles were freer to decide their own style
From the sharp-suited Franz Ferdinand to the dishevelled bad-boy image of Pete Doherty, style has become as important in rock as it has been in pop for many years. What are the tricks to styling rock icons?

Style advisors were traditionally associated with bubblegum pop, boy and girl bands, and manufactured groups.

But image has now become very important in all music. Cultivating the right style can generate publicity and interest - and increased sales.

Acts from Athlete to the Sugababes and Basement Jaxx are asking for help from stylists.

Public awareness

"Our job is to visualise the larger picture behind a band - to make music visible in some way," Gerard Saint, creative director at design company Big Active - who work with Athlete, Garbage and the Futureheads - told BBC World Service's The Music Biz programme.

"That doesn't just include an album cover, but also the series of releases that would come out around that, and all the advertising and marketing.

"What's interesting right now is that the public is becoming more aware of it."

Mr Saint said that while the need for a "look" has always existed, and can be traced "right back to Elvis Presley," what has changed is the level of control the artists themselves have over their image.

'Petrified on stage'

"I've had it in the past, where you have a manager of a band who'll say, 'make sure they're wearing something really tarty and sexy'," explained another stylist known as Mr Gammon.

"Then you have an artist who's petrified on stage, thinking, 'oh god, they're looking at parts of me I didn't want them to look at - I want them to listen to the music'."

Mr Gammon also highlighted some of the best ways to cultivate a style.

"The key thing is, if you're a new pop star, come up with something that kids can copy," he said.

For female stars looking to attract attention at festivals, he recommended men's trousers and a suit from a second-hand shop - "as long as it fits you on the hip, even if it's really massive on the waist."

The Libertines: Do they need a make over?

"Have a shirt. You could do a tie, but that might look a bit off," he added.

Meanwhile Gerard Saint explained that one reason behind such current emphasis on the look of an act is the precarious financial situation music is currently in.

With profits falling, record companies are now, "more than at any other time," using stylists to get their acts to copy successful bands - albeit while pretending they are not.

"They'll go, 'well you know that band The Libertines, they're doing very well - we kind of want a bit of that, but we don't want it to look like that'," Mr Saint explained.

And he added that some bands find themselves being reinvented "every other month."

"You'll have something successful come along, and then a raft of people copying that - within six months, nobody will want to know," he added.

Style over content

"It's frustrating for the bands - when there is something genuinely exciting there, you want the record company to follow through, and I think it's sad when that doesn't happen."

Mr Gammon also warned against becoming over-dependent on style.

"If it becomes more of an issue than the music, you've kind of failed," he said.

"It really is that weird thing - if I put you in something really plunging and low-cut, people are going to be talking about your knockers rather than your hits."

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