They came to us nearly fully formed in sound and attitude: bombastic, righteous, and solemn, but always impressively airtight in their professionalism for such a young band. Paul “Bono” Hewson was always a head of hair. He was a small statured man with a huge voice and a vaulting ambition — and always, always hair. Hair from here to Sunday. Less so, Dave “The Edge” Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. — you always felt that the three of them put together couldn’t grow one Bono-like pompadour — but still the band was never less than fashion conscious and well appointed. Early on they projected the image of serious young men with grave thoughts on the brain, espousing a rigorously intractable concern with social justice, non-violence, and human rights. It was a largely noble and certainly understandable posture for four individuals raised amidst the teeming chaos of a divided Ireland in the 1960s and ’70s. The periodically grim earnestness of their spiritual and political preoccupations played in odd ways with their fashion choices, and Bono’s hair seemed to grow higher and higher, until, around the time of Rattle & Hum, it became clear that the band could no longer sustain its literal and metaphorical weight. Something had to change. The band took time off. When they regrouped a few years later, with the entirely revamped sound of Achtung, Baby, highlighting the group’s long suppressed sense of irony, Bono’s mane had been tamed — or at least slicked back in the manner of a particularly repugnant Hollywood agent — and he had added the colored sunglasses which became a trademark of the band’s second act and later work.
Most people can’t wear vests or leather pants without creating a tremendous public outcry. You have to have some kind of standing in the world to do this and not be burnt as a heretic. U2 understands this, and also understands that as one of the biggest rock bands in the world for four decades running, they can wear anything they want. In this regard they do not shrink from the privilege, but rather embrace it. Lets take a look at a few examples of U2 doing it their way:
This is an image of the very young band – so young that they couldn’t even afford full-size t-shirts or to have Larry Mullen in the photo (instead they got Guggi to pose in his stead. All except that rogue The Edge, who has enough shirt that he can tuck it in his pants — where does his trust fund come from? Why is he holding a shoe? So many questions.
OK, here’s U2 on the beach during their imperious middle period, we guess doing like a Village People thing where everyone’s a different kind of manly archetype? Larry Mullen pretty much nails the biker dude look, Adam Clayton seems comfortable as a rent boy, Bono’s maybe trying to be a gangster, and The Edge appears to be like some hybrid of a bandito and a guy who handmakes hammered dulcimers. Those painted jeans had to have been a conscious decision on his part, yes? Whatever, these guys all seem like they just want to get the photo shoot over with so they can get into whatever is cooking over that unforgettable bonfire (likely a piping hot cauldron of Guinness, right?).
And so we progress to the “Beautiful Day” salad years. What have we learned? Looks like vests are out, leather is now for blazers and not pants, and v-necks for everyone. Although it’s not a contest and we don’t encourage wagering, if there is a real winner here, it has to be Adam Clayton, who has really managed to run the vaunted geek to chic gamut by going prematurely gray and therefore Paul Newman-exotic (who are we kidding? Of course it’s a contest.).
And … back through the looking glass!
So: has U2 inspired crafts? You bet U2 has inspired crafts. At the risk of selling short our previous subjects on Craftwerk, this may be by orders of magnitude be our greatest bounty yet. It took a pitched, highly emotional, multi-hour winnowing process to arrive at just these ten, complete with crying, recrimination and epithets (and this was just when we consulted James Jackson Toth). So by all means, explore on your own – there’s a lot out there if you still haven’t found what you’re looking for. (We know, fuck off).
Start Crafting here.