David Bowie
Where would modern men be without Bowie? As a sexual trailblazer, his importance can’t be exaggerated. His 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, was a first, in that the image was even more influential than the music. Bowie’s dramatic look, created by the make-up artist Pierre Laroche, was as shocking as the androgyny of his costume in the fictional role of the alien rock superstar come to earth. Although Bowie quickly killed off Ziggy Stardust as a musical alter ego, the influence of his creation continued, not because he wore jump suits, shiny platforms and red hair, but because he came to personify changing attitudes to dress and sexuality. A good five years before the new romantics, Bowie had spearheaded a fresh approach to the male psyche. After Ziggy, young men – mainly teenagers – realised that a flamboyant appearance didn’t necessarily mean effeminacy. Perhaps more significantly, their girlfriends didn’t think so, either.
It is a form of subversion that continues today. After all, without Ziggy, Brandon Flowers of the Killers might never have discovered eyeliner. The real significance of all this, however, is that perceptions of masculinity, as seen in the real world, rather than in trendy clubs, have been so modified that, today, even cricketers can have highlights in their hair and apply their sunblock with all the make-up skills of a diva, without anybody whispering behind their backs. You’ve come a long way, boys.
(First published October 2005)