David Bowie, one of our favorites here at Buffalo Exchange, passed away two weeks ago. In honor of his amazing legacy we decided to explore the history of glitter rock (more commonly known as glam rock) and the fashion icons that inhabited the movement.
Late 1960s-Early 1970s
“I think Led Zeppelin must have worn some of the most peculiar clothing that men had ever been seen to wear without cracking a smile.”
A more androgynous, gender-neutral style of dress became prominent in the late 60s, thanks to artists like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. The New York Dolls penetrated the early 70s punk scene with their crossdressing antics. Marc Bolan, lead singer of T-Rex, spearheaded the revolution by wearing feather boas, top hats, and glitter on his face during performances. It was when his fans began to emulate his look at shows when the glitter rock movement took off. Soon to follow was his friend, David Bowie. Because of a mutual manager and producer, Bowie (then known as Davie Jones, later changing his name to avoid confusion with the Monkees frontman) adjusted his Brit-pop aesthetic to the more androgynous, space-age idol we’re more familiar with.
Having renamed and re-branded himself, Bowie started to explore the world that theatrics and rock and roll had brought together and begun to create. With Space Oddity he was finally brought to the mainstream as well as his outlandish performance style, which included make-up, platforms, and sequined jumpsuits, and he was able to create his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust. An up-and-coming photographer, Mick Rock, came upon respective phenomena Ziggy, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Debbie Harry, Freddie Mercury, and Lou Reed, who had been trying to revive his career after the disbanding of The Velvet Underground in the early 70s. They became his effective muses, and their showmanship on and off the stage became the basis of the infamous photography collection called Glam: An Eyewitness Account.
Transition Into the 1980s and Today
The homonormativity of the 70s gave way to excessive masculinity of the 1980s, although popular groups like Kiss, Motley Crue, and Cinderella paid homage to their androgynous ancestors through overstated make-up, jumpsuits, platforms, and long, crazy, teased hair. Stage performances became more exaggerated and theatrical, while the musicianship became even more mainstream.
The glam rock movement even made its way onto Broadway, and shows like The Rocky Horror Show and Hedwig and the Angry Inch became such popular cult hits that they each got their own film adaptations. Today, modern glam rock artists like Hammered Satin and The Darkness draw heavily aesthetically and stylistically from their forerunners, and thanks to their iconoclastic, nonconformist attitudes glam rock is most definitely here to stay.
Rock, Mick. Glam! an Eyewitness Account. Grand Rapids: Vision On, 2006. Print.
Peter Cade/Central Press/Getty Images