They’ve been called everything from “nouveau French revolutionary” to “ragbag military uniforms.” We’re talking, of course, about the at-once-dingy-and-colorful European marching-band getups that Coldplay have been sporting in promo photos and appearances in support of their upcoming album, Viva la Vida.
It’s part Michael Jackson paramilitary look, mixed with a dash of the color from the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album cover and a hint of U2’s penchant for donning uniforms that last an entire album/tour cycle. The outfits have raised eyebrows and prompted questions about what inspired the unusual sartorial selection. (Read more about the band’s new look in the Newsroom blog.)
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The new image debuted in the “Violet Hill” video, and so far, the band has been wearing the expensively disheveled-looking rainbow rags during promotional performances like at the MTV Movie Awards . At first glance, the broad blue, red and yellow stripes almost appear to be a mutation of the colorful bits of blue and red gaffer tape singer Chris Martin sported on two fingers of his left hand during the band’s last tour. Those, we found out, were bits of flair meant to draw attention to the Make Trade Fair “equals” sign Martin sported on the top of his hand during that campaign.
According to some interviews Martin has given so far, he is not a victim of color creep, but rather a huge fan of French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix. The artist helped inspire the Symbolist movement in the late 19th century, and his famous French Revolution-celebrating painting, “Liberty Leading the People,” adorns Viva la Vida’s cover. In keeping with Coldplay’s not-at-all-unspoken desire to be the next U2 , they believed in putting symbolic objects in their art to capture some of life’s more absolute truths.
Coldplay’s spokespeople didn’t return requests for comment on the meaning behind the costumes, but Martin recently told MTV News that there is a more revolutionary, symbolic explanation behind the gear.
“All of our visuals [pulls at clothes] are only ever chosen because we think they look good,” Martin explained. “And then we have to remember when we do interviews that we have to explain it. We felt like we got to a point where we wanted to change a bit, and so for us, that’s a bit of a revolution, I suppose. We assassinated our old selves. It’s important for us to change because it keeps us really hungry and excited, and we always sort of felt we never deserved the job we got given, so we’re always trying to improve and validate our position.”
According to a recent interview with London’s Daily Telegraph, the band hired a designer to craft outfits based on what some of the characters in the painting are wearing. And, the article explained, “in a bizarre sartorial bonding exercise, the four musicians are wearing these clothes as a ’uniform’ during all promotional duties for the new album.”
While Martin’s talk of revolution didn’t exactly explain how they came up with the concept for the duds, he did add that there was another unusual inspiration for the clothes, the lyrics and the revolution-hyping cover art, the latter of which also includes the title splashed in red paint in an homage to a different work, by Mexican symbolist painter Frida Kahlo.
“A lot of the lyrics were inspired by … the American ’Office,’ because so many people are in a position to answer to people they don’t want to answer to,” he said, referencing the Steve Carell TV show. “We do sometimes, and you sort of feel like that’s getting in the way of doing what you want to do. So it’s basically about trying to get things out of the way that are standing in the way of doing what you want to do.”
Drummer Will Champion added that the band is “rebelling against the things that make you not enjoy life, like occasionally questioning authority or scriptures that make you not be able to enjoy your life in the way you do. Maybe it’s about rebelling against those things.”