With a career spanning six decades (yes, really) David Bowie has long cemented himself as pop culture’s most fashion-forward music icon. From his emergence as a monochrome teen mod in the 1960s, to the glitter-soaked, gender-bending explosion as Ziggy Stardust in the 1970s, and the new romanticism, neo-classicism and Berlin-channelling looks that followed, Bowie is best known for undergoing a style renaissance at every possible turn.
Earlier this week, it was announced that Bowie had officially decided to retire from touring, with his live booking agent saying: “He has decided to retire and, like Phil Collins, you can’t demand these people go out there again and again and again.” Although the stage will have lost its most flamboyant presence, the artist will apparently continue to create new musical material into the future. To celebrate David Bowie’s enduring legacy as a visionary without borders, here are five of his most radical, career-defining looks. We haven’t included all of them (we’d be here for years), but these are our favourites:
As the swinging 60s slowly folded into the 70s and the ‘Summer of Love’ was on the cusp of completion, a 23-year-old David Bowie was fully embracing his predication for androgyny with a halo of flowing locks, patterned fur and an expression oozing with self-aware sex appeal. This look would mark the moment he caught the world’s attention with his heavy metal oddity The Man Who Sold The World, the album that influenced the glam rock that would define the decade ahead, and the slew of sci-fi, gothic creators (Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, Gary Numan) that would emerge much later.
AVANT-GARDE SPACE SAMURAI
With his shock of bright orange hair and preference for alien life, the early 70s saw David Bowie evolve into cult persona Ziggy Stardust and launch a stage show with The Spiders from Mars. The man behind his most iconic tour outfits during this monumental era was Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto, whose bold, innovative creations helped cement Bowie’s reputation as a gender-skewing, norm-defying figure in music. Our personal favourite is this freaky black-and-white striped cat suit, which make his legs look as it they defy the laws of physics. “David Bowie and I combined the worlds of seeing and sound,” Tamamoto told us last year ahead of his exhibition at the V&A “because musicians who want to be number one, want to wear the number one.”
There’s no point discussing David Bowie’s pinnacles of style without the inclusion of this fiercely flamboyant pirate outfit that became his signature look during the mid 70s. From the neon tufts of mullet, the crotch-crushing high-waisted body suit, the floaty chequered blouse and thateyepatch, this was the get-up that embodied the camp mysticism of pure glam rock. “I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human,” Bowie once commented. “I felt very puny as a human. I thought, “Fuck that. I want to be a superhuman.'” With this outfit, you can believe it.
THE PERFECT PLEASURE
It was Oscar Wilde that famously wrote: “A cigarette is the perfect type of pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?” And although glamorising smoking is akin to glamorising other things that might kill you (not cool), it’s hard to deny that Bowie looks effortlessly old school with a lit one dangling from his mouth, like an afterthought. This mustard-yellow, double-breasted suit marks just one of Bowie’s classically tailored one-coloured suits, the others including baby blue, pastel lemon, mint green and basic black versions.
KILLER IN HEELS
Just like the other gender-bending icons of the glam rock era, David Bowie looked absolutely killer in a pair of high-stacked heels, especially when using them to strut across the stage with. The picture above isn’t the only time he wore towering platforms, though. He has also been known to embrace thigh-high rubber boots, short black stilettos and these bright red, patent leather block-heeled boots. Sashay, shante!