I’ve always gotten in trouble for doing what was in my heart. I grew up jumping out of the highest tree and diving off the highest diving board, and every year I climb up a couple more feet to get to the biggest thrill. It has gone from being on roller coasters to being in Aerosmith. Without thinking too much, I just jump.
So I’m very grateful for this favorite mistake: designing clothes with my designer Francine Larnis. All those early clothes in the ’70s were her designs and my designs, but that story has never been written.
My style started right in the beginning of the band in 1971 because it was all hippie stuff and I couldn’t afford anything. Francine suggested that we go to a fabric store, so I went with her and picked out this fabric and that fabric, and spent like $20 on seven yards of something I could never afford. We didn’t have any money at all—we didn’t even have money to eat back then. She had a sewing machine, and out of the goodness of her heart, Francine would design clothes for me. When Aerosmith did the next gig, I gave her the money that I made from that.
The clothes you see now started with that girl Francine, by me looking at her and going, Should I do it?, and her going, Why not? Early on, it wasn’t Mick Jagger—it was Janis Joplin who was my biggest influence. I always thought that who I am was inspired by Janis. She just was it. I saw her beads and bangles in the ’60s when hippies came into play, and I loved it. It was me taking what Janis did, wearing it as a boy, and saying, “I don’t care, it’s what I like.”
From that, it created a style. My daughter was saying, You’re not wearing that, are you? You look like a girl! My response was, You know what? Here it is, here I am. When I found a good shirt, I wore it to death until it turned into a rag, and I hung it from the mike stand. Then I turned that into a scarf, and that scarf turned into something else. At first, it hurt so much to think that someone might feel that it wasn’t cool, but I went, F--k it. I didn’t care what people thought. I think that came from my Italian core of not being a quitter and to just stay with it.
Later, the press would all say, Dude looks like a lady, and they wouldn’t know what to think, but my favorite mistake was taking a risk and designing those clothes with Francine. I always had doubts, but I realized early on that the greatest things are unknowns. It’s so beautiful to take a risk and find out later how it all turns out.
Interview by Kara Cutruzzula
Takes fashion cues from Janis Joplin before he’s famous.
“Sweet Emotion” becomes the band’s first Top-40 hit.
Sells 5 million copies of Permanent Vacation in the U.S.
Aerosmith is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The band will release its first album in eight years and kick off a tour in June.