Bowie was known for his androgynous style. His best looks transcend gender without compromising masculinity. For me, this is one of his most important contributions to fashion. It’s also damned sexy on a man with the charisma to pull it off.
This image from the back of Hunky Dory (his first real masterpiece) is one of his more restrained looks, but it’s also one of his most subversive. Young Dude in a Dress has given way to something altogether more ambiguous: a man dressed as a woman dressed as a man. It’s an out-and-out appropriation of the classic mid-century menswear glamour pioneered by Coco Chanel, Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich.
I don’t think he ever improved on this as a template for androgynous style that transcends the very notion of gender altogether. It’s both genders simultaneously and yet it is neither. It brings to mind Helmut Newton’s iconic shots of Le Smoking, which move beyond mere cross-dressing and suggest an erotic synthesis of both masculine and feminine archetypes.
But wait. This mysterious creature is next seen out and about pushing a pram in the company of another glamorous androgyne. The first Mrs Bowie is sporting high boots, proto-Ziggy hair and a teddy-fur jacket. Hard to tell at a glance which of this couple of kooks is the mother of the child and which the father.
Incidentally, the teddy-fur is the very same one worn by Bowie in the picture on the front of the album, leaving one wondering whether Ziggy Stardust wasn’t first conceived when Bowie randomly plundered his wife’s closet.