Before a cross-dressed Channing Tatum lip-sync battles with Beyonce, we’re taking you back to the days where glam fashion started and it has a lot to do with the starman himself – David Bowie.
Our fashion editor took a flash back to the days of eyeliners, glitter and men walking out of the house in 6-inch red patent platform that made granny cried in the kitchen and of course why David Bowie remains a fashion icon today. If it weren’t for him and the other glam rockers, there won’t be no Sex Pistols, no Smiths, no Nirvana, no Suede, and no… you get the drift.
Before glam, it was the era of mods, hippies and rockers. It was the good years of The Beatles and people had been waiting for a new wave of phenomenon. Then came a boy named David Jones – a wannabe pop star who came into the scene with a few original tracks with his band. He later went solo but no one noticed. Feeling despaired and discouraged, he almost became a Buddhist monk. In 1967, he met Lindsay Kemp – an important figure in the theatre scene, David Jones became David Bowie and he was inspired by the theatre and art scene. Not long after, “Space Oddity” was born.
“Since Space Oddity, I just wrote a song about spaceship and everyone expected me to be some kind of expert.”
THE MAN WHO STARTED IT ALL
“Got your mother in a whirl, She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl…”
Space Oddity got some attention from the record label so Bowie made a trip to the States, which changed him, his ideas, and his works. It wasn’t until “The Man who Sold The World” that the world started to notice Bowie who was creating gender confusion wearing a dress and a head of long curly hair.
This marked the very beginning of glam fashion and it went on to be an inspiration to Kurt Cobain who wore a dress as well in one of his performances.
“Whatever their wrong impression of me is, probably right. The only thing that saddens me is that less attention is given to the music. I am an outrageous dresser. But I don’t stay with one thing very long, I’m like a grasshopper. I really want to move on all the time.”
True enough, when people started to like what he was doing, he moved on to something else.
Ziggy Stardust And The Spider from Mars
“I’ve always worn my own style of clothes. I’m not outrageous, I’m David Bowie.”
“The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the spiders from Mars” was his fifth album that is based on a story of a fictional rock star named Ziggy Stardust. The album signified Bowie’s way of thinking which tells a story about a bisexual alien rock superstar and the concept shed a light on the artificiality of rock music in general, discussing issues of politics, drug use, and sexual orientation. He was at least ten years ahead of time in his music and fashion by now.
Bowie was a Buddhist and had always been attracted to the Eastern culture and when he met Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto, sparks literally flew. Keep in mind that Internet or social media did not exist at that time so it was pure chemistry and fate for both of them who were from totally different cultures to meet and share the same vision. Not only was Bowie the very first to discover and explore Asian fashion but at the same time, Asians especially the Japanese were learning about Western culture from him.
Through these cultural exchanges, Kansai Yamamoto created many pieces of apparel that remained significant and relevant even until today. Their inspirations always revolved around the fatalistic attitude in human kind, the fantasy world humans should have gone to, Japanese dolls like Kabuki and Onnagata. It was all about fantasy but yet realistically how fragile and powerless human kind is. It is probably not a bold statement to say that there isn’t any other artist in this era who can combine such fashion, art and music into one performance like what Bowie did.
Not just a pretty face: Here comes Aladdin Sane
“I certainly don’t understand the stuff I write. I can look back on a song I have just written, and it means something entirely different now because of my new circumstances, new this and that”
Perhaps this could explain why Bowie was moving on so quickly and didn’t even have a chance to explain his creations in music, fashion and art. Just when the world went crazy about his gender-confused alien rockstar Ziggy Stardust in his carrot mullet hair, glittery jumpsuits and high patent platforms heels, Bowie decided to move on to something else. What followed became so iconic and the style needed to be copyrighted. Yes, it is the lightning bolt makeup across Bowie’s face marking the birth of his new persona – Aladdin Sane.
The sixth album had more energy and felt more remote and consciously space-influenced. He was always fascinated with the thoughts and possibilities that could take place in the future so in a more vampy style with lighting bolt and moon makeup, and Kansai Yamamoto’s kimono, Bowie continued to explore the possibilities of his self created myth of an imminent race of supermen called homo superior.
“I usually pick different eras and go back and pick incidents that happen in the ‘30s and 40s’ and push them through to the 80’s and see what conclusions could come from what happened then.”
Farewell androgyny, it’s time to shut the closet door
“With Ziggy, I became Ziggy on Stage. That was my ego. But I don’t think I am Ziggy anymore, it’s a more mature David Bowie.”
When glam rock fashion and music scene slowly subsided, David Bowie was among the few who struggled to go through the changes. Brian Eno, Wayne Country, David Johansen, Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop were also going through the changes and probably The New York Dolls was the only American androgyny band left during that time.
David Bowie’s fashion mellowed but of course still stylish and relevant to the fashion world – just less outlandish and outrageous compared to Ziggy and Aladdin. A lot of the stuff he was wearing this time were made up of YSL, Vivienne Westwood, Gucci resembles. The new style was classic, chic, elegant but not losing a touch of Bowie.
David Bowie: A true legend
“I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring.”
At 69, David Bowie was still looking as handsome as ever. Whether in fashion or in music, he has always been the source of inspirations and he achieved so many different looks and styles that the fashion world still study upon for years to come. How many fashion editorials have you came across that took Bowie as an inspiration? Bowie was never a trend follower, he was a trend setter.
We are truly lucky to have witnessed such an evolution in music and fashion and lived to see all the effort and inspirations of David Bowie. With his passing, the world has a lost a hero, a fashion innovator, a true artist and a legend whom we will always remember. Thank you for everything, David Bowie!