Minor Music
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Clothes Enough for Jazz
Categories: Concerts, For Parents, Jazz

Back in the 1930s when the big bands took to smoke-filled stages from New York to Los Angeles they were often recognized by their official look: Matching suits, ties and fedoras.

Fast forward to the modern-day competitive high school jazz scene, and a similar effect is found. Top ensembles are often recognized by their own trademark look. The “uniform” has evolved into a more personal take on the look of jazz. We spoke to our friends at DeMoulin Bros. & Co., (one of America’s leading manufacturers of marching band uniforms, formal attire and guardwear), for their take on this clothing trend.

Unlike marching ensembles or concert band, Jazz Bands have never had a set look to wear when they appear as a group.  It almost seems against the style of jazz itself to have a set “uniform” associated with it.  However, there are certain trends whose popularity have withstood the test of time.

While many Jazz Ensembles have worn full tuxedos or appeared in “concert black” throughout the years, a different style came about during the 1960s and 1970s.  Dashikis, loose-fitting, hippie-style tops, often patterned in bright colors, were worn with band collars and black pants or sometimes even denim.

Dashikis and denim were replaced with khakis and polos in the 1980s.  DeMoulin Sales Rep Chris McCurdy remembers his high school jazz band had a different colored shirt designated for each section of the band.  Colors worn included teal, maroon, blue and purple. “It was definitely the 80s,” he recalls.

The early 2000s brought with it a more relaxed, “hipster” style variant of the concert black look.  Both boys and girls wore black pants and black button-down shirts, then added the pop of a white tie.

Today, there are still many different styles of uniforms that appear in the Jazz world.  McCurdy gets to see what the popular looks are when he attends the Iowa Jazz Championships every April. “Iowa is one of the few states that has a state-wide Jazz Band competition,” he comments, “and it’s always interesting to see what groups are wearing from year to year.”

McCurdy says current trends still include matching tuxedos, some sporting bow ties and cummerbunds in school colors, the classic all-black look, black pants with each section wearing a different colored shirt, black pants with an oxford shirt in school colors, and black pants, a white shirt, plus a tie and cummerbund- without a jacket.

Top placing groups, however, seem to have a look of their own. “The winners of the Iowa Jazz Championships tend to wear the same style of clothing,” he reports, “Suits or tuxedos for the boys, dresses for the girls.”

While these are by no means all of the possible ensemble choices in Jazz Band that have appeared, it definitely goes to show that there is no one set “uniform” requirement .  Jazz Band attire is really a reflection of the style of the group, not an industry standard.

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