If there is a single pop cultural figure who has contributed the most to menswear, it’s David Bowie. From his gender-bending ambiguity to his unrivalled originality and experimentation, he changed the way men (and women) could wear clothes. A true renegade, Bowie refused to play by the rules, instead persistently pushing the boundaries of music, art and fashion through his various creative incarnations. As Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke, he defined 70s fashion and reinvented what a pop icon could be forever. Here’s what your wardrobe owes to David Bowie.
STYLE LESSONS FROM BOWIE
By Kasia Hastings, 27 October 2016
Androgyny: wear what you want
Genderless dressing may feel like a relatively new concept, but Bowie was pioneering an androgynous aesthetic well before Kristen Stewart and Jaden Smith. In his early days, he flirted with the feminine, disregarding the masculine pop mould in favour of longer locks and women’s clothes. In the 70s, embodying stage personas like Ziggy Stardust (above) transformed him into characters that sat outside normal gender binaries.
These days, Bowie’s influence is felt throughout fashion with boiler suits, longline cuts and avant-garde layering all stalwarts on the street-style circuit and designers like Alexander McQueen and Hedi Slimane blurring the lines between menswear and womenswear in their collections.
Tailoring: a smart alternative
A constantly evolving icon, Bowie’s next major style contribution came in the late 70s as the Thin White Duke, a further exploration of Thomas Jerome Newton, the character he portrayed in The Man Who Fell To Earth. While jumpsuits and thunderbolts will always feel Bowie-esque, his Station To Station-era relaxed suiting, high-waisted trousers and unbuttoned shirts are also an important part of his fashion legacy.
Just as Bowie juxtaposed Ziggy’s skin-tight lycra with the Duke’s loose tailoring, contemporary designers like Gosha Rubchinskiy mix big baggy denim with more streamlined streetwear cuts for an interesting antidote to the ubiquitous skinny jeans.
Accessories: be a scarf ace
Historically, men have been poorly served in the accessories department, with neckerchiefs and the like reserved for the ladies. Naturally, Bowie saw no reason why he shouldn’t wear one and silky neckwear became a key part of his early 70s aesthetic.
While Bowie wore his as a finishing touch to a plethora of colours, prints and other eccentric garb, these days the neckerchief is worn more modestly as a style insider’s subtle flourish on the perfect Scandi-minimalist fashion week outfit.
Style: wear it well
Perhaps the most important lesson to be learnt from David Bowie is to wear your clothes well. Whether that means having the confidence to rock cuts of a more controversial nature, or to simply wear the hell out of your everyday wardrobe.
Four decades later the so-called ‘fashion drape’ is ubiquitous wherever fashionable folk like Kanye West and Luka Sabbat (above) gather. But it’s about more than just not putting your arms in your sleeves. The drape is just an example of a broader attitude that Bowie embodied – constructing your look with conviction, always keeping things interesting and never being afraid to peacock your personal style.