This week on the blog, we’re paying tribute to the iconic and ever-evolving style of David Bowie, by taking a look at the creation of Ziggy Stardust…
‘Ziggy Stardust was Bowie’s most complete concept. The look, the music, the story – everything worked together brilliantly to create one of the most striking and iconoclastic characters in rock and roll.’
‘Based partly on the Legendary Stardust Cowboy and partly on Vince Taylor, both early rock and rollers, as well as taking the glittery androgyny of Marc Bolan and running with it far beyond the elfin rocker’s style, Ziggy Stardust catapulted Bowie to fame. The first, and only, single released off the album was Starman and Bowie’s appearance on Top of the Pops in support of the song was the first time most people encountered Ziggy and saw the new look that Bowie had constructed. Dressed in a multicoloured jumpsuit and red silk knee-high boots, with deathly pale skin, purple eyeshadow and white nail polish, Bowie performed much of the song with his arm laid limply around the shoulders of Mick Ronson, who himself was dressed in a gold satin jumpsuit. The performance divided opinion among the country’s teenagers but many converts to the cult of Bowie date their devotion to this moment. The Ziggy persona was appealing to teenagers because it was a very obvious and deliberate act of self-creation. It defied convention, which appealed to young people who were themselves in the process of determining who they were and what they wanted to be.’
‘While for Bowie the Ziggy character was a continuation of his preoccupation with integrating theatre and art into rock and roll, it represented a huge step forward in terms of his style. The radical overhaul of Bowie’s image began with a haircut. Cut by Suzi Fussey, a Beckenham stylist (who later married Mick Ronson), Bowie’s blond locks were chopped into a strange concoction of shoulder-length mane at the back, feathered sides and a spiked top, then dyed a vibrant red. (The style was, as it turns out, inspired by a model in a magazine spread that Bowie had seen. It featured clothes by Kansai Yamamoto, with whom Bowie would later work on costumes for the Ziggy tour.) Bowie also shaved off his eyebrows. He clad his slight frame in figure-hugging leotards, brightly-coloured patterned jumpsuits, metallic fabric jackets with protruding epaulettes twinned with capri pants, PVC platform boots and floorlength kimonos teamed with sumo-wrestlerstyle jockstraps. Sequins featured heavily, as did theatrical make-up.’
‘Art and life became mixed up as Bowie began to fall prey to the same excesses of fame that the Ziggy alter ego was meant to characterise, not least a heavy cocaine addiction. While Bowie declared Ziggy retired at the end of the world tour in support of the album, the following record was very much a continuation of the concept. Thematically, Aladdin Sane, which reached number one in the United Kingdom in 1973, addressed the fall-out from fame, completing the narrative set out on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It retained the glam rock sound and much of the flamboyant look. While crotch-skimming leotards were no longer quite the order of the day, stackheeled platform boots, clashing colours and patterns, synthetic fabrics, skintight leather jackets and artful use of make-up all featured in the lad’s wardrobe.’
This is an adapted extract from Chapter 3 of David Bowie Style by Danny Lewis, published by Bloomsbury.