Imagine the scene: the US Senate Committee is in full regalia. Uninspired, boxy, and expensive suits hide the uninspired Committee members that came off of the conveyor belt of the government machinery. Uniform thinking, nothing out of the box, except for the almost identical ties, shirts, and appearances. They came out of the same stale packaging. Everyone looks like an archetypical bureaucrat.
Then, the door opens and a confident man walks in and buoyantly strides to the desk in front of the cathedral. His mane of platinum blond curly hair, his double denim, and sleeveless band t-shirt couldn’t be more outlandish.
The otherwise immobile eyebrows on the stony faces of the apparatchik slowly start their migration upwards as the cameras quickly pan to this newcomer. The contrast tenses the atmosphere to the brink of breaking.
The man with an extraterrestrial appearance, a trespasser in the land of inertia was none other than Dee Sneider, a singer of the heavy metal band Twisted Sister. The year was 1985, and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee convened to discuss Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) concerns that certain music has a bad influence on kids and warning labels should brand these albums to warn parents.
PMRC was founded by Tipper Gore, the then wife of Al Gore, both of whom in their own rights are keen advocates of vehement regulation rather than trusting people.
Rock and roll was always about rebellion against the stale status quo. It often cried for liberty, and the rights of the individuals rather than the “establishment”. Dee Sneider came out of the hearing as the winner. He shredded the accusations to pieces pointing out the hypocrisy and the probably intentional misunderstanding of the would be regulators.
The PMRC strongarmed the music industry into besmirching albums with censorial advisory stickers, something people disregarded wholly as expected.
What stuck, however, were the reasoned arguments of Dee Sneider and other musicians, subverting expectation that behind the rock and roll facade there is emptiness. It wasn’t so.
But the ostentatious fashion sense of the rockstars drew more attention, and their points (and in fact their works) are remembered better than all the actions of the bureaucrats at the hearing.
Because they dare to stand out, dare to be different, dare to think out of the box, and not to fit in. Clothing is often the expression of such individuality. Whether going against the stuffed-shirts of the Senate in a heavy metal attire, or by standing out through a remarkable dandiness, as was the custom of Caesar and Churchill, to name but a few.
Barack Obama projected a youthful energy by ditching the tie during his appearances, no other candidates dare do at the time. Donald Trump went against the establishment his own way, as did Boris Johnson, who, in the age of the growing middle class played on his aristocratic flair. For better or worse, all great disruptors, to shake up the current inertia.
Nowadays, workplaces are made more comfortable by allowing casual attire. This is, by the way, thanks to free markets, as fashion companies wanted to make profit, so they marketed their more relaxed clothing in a way that changed the work environment, allowing other attire than suits.
Classical liberals were called radical once, for they wanted hitherto unimagined change, championing human rights, free markets, and individuality. They were the rockstars of the past.
Businessmen such as Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk are also great disruptors whether you like them or not. So let’s blast more rock and roll into politics, and dare to be radically different, stand up for our convictions, and make a change. Rock on!