For artists, music videos breathe life and substance into their melodies and lyrics. Telling a story to go alongside the song, they embody a transcendent form of expression, with some acting as veritable works of art in themselves (Beyoncé’s Lemonade, we’re looking at you).
Every part of these videos is conceived with utmost care, from the tale they tell to lighting, choreography, and even the fashion choices featured in these cinematic enactments of the messages and meanings behind the music.
Indeed, some of these looks have become iconic in and of themselves, from the dramatic styling of Queen in Bohemian Rhapsody to the gym-clad aesthetic adopted by Olivia Newton-John in Physical.
With this in mind, here is our pick of the five most iconic music video looks of all time.
George Michael in Faith (1987)
Watch the iconic video here.
If there’s one statement accessory that screams effortless cool, it’s a pair of Ray-Bans. Sold around the world, this sunglasses brand has dozens of iconic styles for the chic and stylish to pick between, from the Aviators worn in this music video to the widely retailed Ray-Ban Clubmaster. Modelling a pair of his own, George used them to create one of the most famous looks of the late 80s: the simple rock star styling seen in Faith. Consisting of tight-fitting blue jeans, white T-shirt, and slick leather jacket, he finished his immortal outfit with on-trend cowboy boots and a signature earring, inspiring millions of young and trendy yuppies to replicate his style.
Queen in Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
There are few images more instantly recognisable than the opening shot of Queen in Bohemian Rhapsody. Not only is the imagery iconic, but so too the band’s incredible white satin jumpsuits. Perfectly embodying the ethereal sound and aesthetic of the song itself, these are dramatic, striking, and romantic. Combined with the foursome’s signature 70s hairstyles, the video and the look it captured went down in history, fast becoming one of the most famous pieces of musical drama ever created.
Olivia Newton-John in Physical (1981)
In an arguably successful attempt to shed her formerly clean-cut image, Olivia Newton-John created another iconic music video look when she donned large amounts of pastel-coloured spandex in Physical. Combining a white leotard and fuchsia leggings, she was largely responsible for ushering in the gym-wear trend that pervaded for much of the 80s. Defined by legwarmers, sweatbands, and lots of colour, the move no doubt paved the way for the athleisure movement that remains popular to this day.
Prince in 1999 (1982)
Prince was famed for his incredible purple-hued wardrobe, and it all began with 1999 (confusingly released in 1982). This was the video where he modelled his truly iconic purple trench coat, complete with matching gloves and lots of leopard print. So legendary would his love of violet-coloured clothing become, that he eventually earned himself a pretty cool moniker: ‘The Purple One’. If that doesn’t make his 1999 music video look truly legendary, then we don’t know what would. Today, he even has his own shade named after him.
Michael Jackson in Thriller (1983)
Of course, no such music video list would be complete without an appearance from the King of Pop himself, and its Thriller that made the cut. There is no other look that can quite compare to the red-and-black leather combo that Jackson will model on-screen forevermore. Much like George Michael, Michael Jackson was also known to have a love of sunglasses that often featured in his performances, though his iconic aviators didn’t make it into the Thriller music video itself.
With the original video stretching to an incredible 13 minutes, the outfit certainly got plenty of airtime. Indeed, so famous did it become, that the jacket alone sold to a collector at auction in 2011 for the incredible sum of $1.8 million.
Which of these looks would you choose to crown as the most iconic of them all?