Does it get any more Vigilante Living than David Bowie? Talk about inventing yourself on your own terms! Of course there is Bowie, the colossal figure in 20th Century rock music; and then there is Bowie the inventor of fashion shock-value (and gender ambiguity) as a tool for branding and marketing. I’m sure some music historian would correct me, declaring some obscure baroque violinist the first shock-artist-musician. But in contemporary times, David Bowie is the pinnacle of modern self-expression. Bowie is famous for harnessing “glam weirdness” as part of his performance art; he broke as many rules in fashion as he did in rock music. Bowie’s invention of the androgynous Ziggy Stardust — his alter ego — is a particularly captivating creative device: by playing off his face’s delicate feminine features, he turned himself into a canvas for exploratory fashion, makeup, and gender expectation. He looks like he’s posing for an avant garde fashion shoot — and in my book usually nails ‘Beautiful’. You can tell I’m not alone in my admiration. When you see a performer donning such an artful ensemble now, its just plain derivative. (Imitation is the highest form of flattery.) But the idea of being liberated and ballsy enough to invent who you want to be (even if it’s fake and temporary) takes cojones. So the next time you’re about to take a big creative risk that could potentially make you feel like a big ninny, think of Bowie in his Ziggy unitard with striped jodphur thighs and go for broke. The worst that can happen is you sober up and lay claim to a colorful past. Normal is boring.
Photos:/ Rolling Stone archive