The Spandex Years: Designer Ray Brown's Hair Metal Days With Mötley Crüe, Guns N' Roses, Ratt And More
Welcome to the third, and (maybe) final installment of our look at the work of heavy metal fashion designer Ray Brown. This week I'm going to bring you back to the fucking Sunset Strip in LA and the bands which defined the debauchery and big hair of the scene in the 80s and 90s. Let me put it to you this way–Brown pretty much dressed them all. Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Lita Ford, Guns N' Roses, Poison, Stryper, Cinderella, and others were all dressed by Brown, and his designs would create a template of what a heavy metal musician (or their fans) looked like.
Of all the glammy hair bands Brown decked out, his work with Motley Crüe was the most extensive, starting in 1985 with the band's Theater of Pain Tour, and again for the hugely successful Girls, Girls, Girls Tour which kicked off in 1987. One of the more memorable outfits Brown made for the band was a black and white striped jumpsuit worn by bassist Nikki Sixx–perhaps inspired by another fashion icon of rock, Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler (who has also been referred to as a "style terrorist") and his infamous black and white stripped unitard which he often wore on stage during the 1970s. It's also safe to say Brown drew plenty of inspiration from Tyler's self-styled 70's stage wear for Crüe, including a nod to Tyler's pink animal print get up from 1976. Sure, Crüe had some great jams and their live shows back in the day were total fucking spectacles (I know, I saw them all), but what distinguished Crüe from the hair metal pack was their look– and they owe much of their eye-popping fashion iconography to Ray Brown.
It's never unusual when an artist such as Brown looks back into the past at another playbook for inspiration. That said, Brown was (and still is) an innovator as it pertains to his clothing designs. Brown was one of the first, if not the first, to start decorating the back of jackets for his clients, such as one he designed for Jon Bon Jovi and Crüe which, according to Brown, was once displayed at The Smithsonian. His pioneering early studded leather work with Judas Priest (previously featured here on Metal Injection) would also become a heavy metal staple, as did his side-lacing leather pants. And, if you've ever been inside of a Hard Rock Cafe (and you have my sympathy if this is the case), it's a safe bet something made by Ray Brown is hanging inside of a display case.
Ray Brown didn't just make clothes for men, he has also styled women who rock such as Lita Ford–specifically a cloth and metal jumpsuit with a beltline proudly displaying the word "BITCH" in all caps. There is something to be said for being loud and proud, and Ray Brown's work embodies both of these objectives. I've posted a bunch of flashback-inducing photos from the 80s and 90s below when spandex, sprayed-up hairdo's, and sweet licks ruled the world. Enjoy!