ABBA were never afraid to wear downright audacious outfits when they were on stage. However, there was a more sinister reason behind their decision to wear these bizarre costumes, one which had little to do with their love of fashion.
Their outfits were the definition of outlandish and, on reflection, it not only made them stand out from the crowd but it caught the attention of every single person in the room. That was one of the main reasons that the band members chose to dress in the manner they did but, in truth, there was one reason that made the decision to wear embarrassing clothing very lucrative.
“In my honest opinion we looked like nuts in those years,” the band’s Björn Ulvaeus said in 2014’s Abba: The Official Photo Book before adding, “Nobody can have been as badly dressed on stage as we were.”
Ulvaeus then went on to say that the decision to wear these outfits was to appease Swedish tax authorities who, at the time, had special tax discounts for items of clothing bought for work purposes that couldn’t be worn for everyday life. The loophole almost certainly wasn’t created to make tax exemptions for pop bands’ stage clothes but, technically, ABBA was right as nobody was wearing that outfit down the shops.
In 2007 Ulvaeus was wrongly accused of failing to pay 85m kronor (£7.9m) in Swedish taxes between 1999 and 2005 and went on to successfully appeal against the decision. “I am of course very happy that I have been informed in writing that I have always done the right thing concerning my taxes,” he said after his victory in court.
The Swedish tax code has changed somewhat over the years to stop others taking advantage of this rule which people have been rather flexible with over the years. In 2013, Swedish crime thriller writer Camila Läckberg found herself at trouble with the law for trying to get exemptions for her workwear from the likes of Zara and Karen Millen in her tax returns.
“It should be fantasy clothes, pure stage clothes, clothes with the employer’s name or logo, or other attributes that make them clearly distinguishable from ordinary garments,” Sweden’s Tax Agency said in an official statement about Läckberg’s outfits.