Musicians Who Killed The Idea of Gendered Fashion
Besides Rowdy Roddy Piper of then WWF, Axl Rose was among the earliest personalities I saw in Scottish Kilt. It was fascinating to see men rocking skirt-like silhouettes in the era of gendered fashion. The attire had lot in common with the popular lungi worn by South Indian men, including the pattern – checks. The sight of lungi and kilt always made me ponder over the futile notion of gender-tagging clothes. Waist-wrap garments were popularly worn by every genders in clothing history and Axl Rose was instrumental in pointing it out to millennials like myself.
I was so late to David Bowie that I was listening to the man who played Tesla in Prestige by the time I dug up his music in Youtube. Better late than never. It was the Academy Award nominated costumes of Velvet Goldmine that kindled my curiosity for Bowie and thereafter, his vast discography filled up my playlist for several months to come. Bowie’s music was ethereal, his personality was surreal and his costumes were literally supernatural. He made me fall in love with glam rock. David Bowie’s style altered my views on style, gender and sexuality like no one else did before. A hand drawn portrait of Hunky Dory is among the few images I’ve put up in my bedroom wall.
We Will Rock You was among the earliest English songs I heard, I Want To Break Free was among the earliest drag attire I saw, and Freddie Mercury was among the earliest queer icons I knew about. As a child who grew up in a hetero-normative society, I initially found Freddie’s style to be ridiculous. Over time, Freddie Mercury made me realise how ridiculous the hetero-normative society is. Catsuits with chest hair and a thick moustache – his flamboyant style effortlessly blended the polar opposites of masculinity and femininity. Nothing seemed like an absolute binary anymore and he literally killed the idea of gendered fashion. Thanks to Freddie Mercury – 70s seem so ahead of time than 2000s itself!
I stumbled upon visuals of Grace Jones while studying fashion history of 20th century. Fierce, outrageous, and bolder than the boldest – Grace Jones’ style was revolutionary. She could bare it all in nothing but just an underwear and then effortlessly pull off a boxy suit. While women are mostly told to accentuate their curves, she took it on herself to break every known fashion rule out there. The only rule in Grace Jones’ rule-book – there are no rules! Zero gender fucks given!
The King of Pop is a household name in India. His dance is widely mimicked on Indian television and his songs are among the most familiar American tunes known in South Asia. Being the most famous person on the planet, Michael Jackson left behind his perennial imprints on most socio-cultural aspects including fashion. By 80s, it appeared like even his sweat would glitter. Make up and military jackets went hand-in-hand. Michael Jackson wore styles from womenswear runway and the entire world took notes.
Frilly shirts, lace gloves, bikini briefs, high heels, black eyeliner and bouffant curls – Prince’s gender fluid statement was radical and right there on-your-face. He’s yet another star from the 70s and 80s who sparked the dialogues on gender fluidity that we’re having today. The Purple Rain star reinvented flamboyance which appeared lost for centuries since the time of France’s King Louis XIV. Prince broke countless barriers in fashion and gender to provide a more inclusive and diverse fashion to the future generation.