There’s no denying that David Bowie — who released his final album, Blackstar, two days before his death in January — was a true icon. With a slew of hits and several awards, most mourners will instantly think of him as a talented musician. But, for the fashion flock, Bowie is also remembered as being a true trendsetter. From cool to kooky, read on to see the best fashion moments by the late legend.
1. Structural stripes in 1972
For any of us mere mortals, sporting a structural silhouette — along with head to toe stripes — sounds a bit daunting. But for a superhuman songster like Bowie? Not only is it doable, the piece in question was partially responsible for a career-defining photograph taken by Masayoshi Sukita. The striped bodysuit, which was designed by Kansai Yamamoto for Bowie’s Aladdin Sane tour, is more of a piece of art than it is a garment. Would most modern men wear this look? Probably not. But, for style savants, that’s exactly what’s so amazing about this outfit: Time after time, Bowie goes somewhere — sartorially speaking — that no other man would dare go. And for that, he’s a total style icon.
2. Unpredictable accessories in 1974
For a regular guy, accessories include — but are not limited to — shoes, ties, watches, and glasses. In Bowie’s case, eyepatches were also thrown into the mix. Yes, you read that right: The famed rock star sported a single patch when he performed his song “Rebel Rebel” on the Dutch television show TopPop in 1974. We don’t look at his quirky add-on as a jab at those who require eyepatches. Instead, it’s a testament to Bowie’s commitment to an outfit’s theme. Between the colors, prints, and flowy sleeves, this getup offers a neo-pirate aesthetic that is neither basic nor costumey. In layman terms? He was able to embrace the theme of an outfit without poking fun at the inspiration. And decades later, several designers and tastemakers do the same — only with Bowie as the source of inspiration.
3. Cheerily monochromatic in 1974
Unless you’re taking style cues from a mine, which seems fairly easy, wearing a fashion-forward, monochromatic ensemble is no easy feat. Yet, in 1974, Bowie did it so effortlessly in Terry O’Neill’s “Scissors” shot. His secret? Experimenting with different, similarly-hued patterns. Let’s face it: A solid yellow jacket, shirt, and pants would be insanely boring, but Bowie used high-octane patterns — such as a striped dress shirt and houndstooth socks — as subtle accents, which breathed some much-needed life into a head-to-toe yellow ensemble.
4. Strong shoulders in 1973
According to the singer, Ziggy Stardust (one of Bowie’s many fictional personas) did a lot. He played guitar, really sang, and played for time. But one thing you may not know? Ziggy also supported some seriously strong shoulders. At a Los Angeles performance in 1973, Bowie (as Ziggy, of course) sported a futuristic striped playsuit with origami-inspired shoulders. From the tight silhouette to the plunging neckline, this look is a departure from masculine fashion and blurs the line between appropriate dressing for the sexes. Does that sound similar to the collections of today? Gucci’s Alessandro Michele ring any bells? Exactly. And, to complete the whole outfit, Bowie accessorized this look with platform, calf-high boots.
5. Blue crush in 1974
Nowadays, sporting a suit in a powerful hue is no big deal: Jared Leto does it consistently, Usher’s had his run-ins with a potent suit or two, and even David Oyelowo donned a lavender number to this year’s Golden Globes. But, unless you’re John Travolta’s alter ego in Saturday Night Fever, a colorful suit was rarely timeless in the 1970s. Except for Bowie, of course, who has that confidence and effortless je nais se quois that makes him able to wear essentially anything. However, just because this was relatively tame for the superstar doesn’t mean it compromised his signature look. Even in the most basic, glitz-free sense, Bowie never failed to blur and challenge gender norms: The double-breasted suit boasted traditional masculinity while his strappy red kicks were unabashedly girly. Polar opposites separately, but together? Totally Bowie.
6. Totally traditional in 1993
Bowie in a regular suit? Gasp. Such a normal look may not be as flashy as the songster’s more notable looks; however, it shows a more humble side of the legendary icon. Would you sport a sequin-adorned, spandex leotard to the grocery store? We definitely wouldn’t, and we have a sneaking suspicion that the feeling’s neutral for you and Bowie. It’s an everyman outfit: Something a guy with a standard, nine-to-five job would wear and like wearing. Yet, instead of looking like a fish out of water in a classic suit, the musician looks just as comfortable and confident in this outfit featured in Max Magazine than he did in a boa-clad number. And if that’s not the pure definition of style icon, we don’t know what is.
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