• The Celibacy Issue

    Bending Gender with Bowie

    The Celibacy Issue

    En Rogue

    Bending Gender with Bowie

    In early January, at the show for Burberry’s Fall 2016 Menswear line, a female model dressed in a cape opened her hands to reveal the word “Bowie” written on her palms, while other men and women in plaid overcoats, double-breasted jackets, and widely-draped trenches walked the runway. Already, the expectations for a men’s fashion show were thrown – although, in our current cultural ecosystem, where queer and female identity are central, the fashion world belongs, in part, to an audience who is eagerly fluid. Amidst this representation of mixed genders, Benjamin Clementine performed live in a soulful, brooding voice, singing: “I swear that yes, you’ve seen me, you’ve seen me here before.”

    In truth, we have: designers often have double-dip into the past for inspiration. This time many paid homage to David Bowie, who reimagined feminine glamour as male, fashion that doubles as costume, and even the gender of the everyday suit. At recent shows for Men’s Fashion Week, Bowie’s influence was undeniable, and it was clear that fashion’s gender-bending, DIYing, pop art, and 1970s inspirations made many runways a timely tribute to the late pop chameleon. In between chrome pants and wide-legged suits, Bowie’s varying personas were largely at play, and we witnessed a cultural legend continue as such, even so shortly after his death.


    Much like the Bowie we witnessed circa Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold the World, spacesuit-style chrome was big this season, alongside 70s-era onesies and fluorescent accents at Katie Eary, Moschino, and McQ Alexander McQueen.

    Katie Erie and Moschino

    Alexander McQueen


    For some, the most noteworthy trend at Men’s Fashion Week was the number of women walking in the shows. Men’s designs draped female models – ten at Gucci, five at Matthew Miller, a handful at Burberry and Billy Reid – in ways similar to Bowie’s gender-bending in the 1970s and 1980s, with suits easily transferred between genders, wide-legged and high-waisted trousers, jewelry in excess, and feminine patterns.

    Gucci and Opening Ceremony

    Burberry and Billy Reid

    Burberry and Alexander McQueen

    Pop Art, Kitsch, and DIY

    Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Zane days repped a DIY style that spoke to the power of using various cultural references in fashion to create a new kind of visage. Bright colors, pattern-mixing, patches, and varying cuts of garments communicated that men no longer have to conform to fashion’s typical formulas.

    Kenzo and Commes des Garcons

    Paul Smith and James Long

    JW Anderson and Prada

    Clean Suits and Slicked-Back Hair

    Post-experimental Bowie introduced The Thin White Duke, an impeccably-dressed persona whose crisp clothing and slicked-back hair followed the recipe for a more predictable male guise. Similar in his simplicity, we later met Bowie in a white t-shirt, rounded-hat and sunglasses in the film The Man Who Fell to Earth, a style almost completely mimicked this season by Public School.

    Kenzo and Undercover

    Theory and Undercover

    Public School and Brioni

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