Following the passing of two major celebrities last Thursday – Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, for those of you living under a rock – I trolled the endless virtual photo albums showcasing decades of success, scandal, and of course, of style.
A flurry of outlets jumped to brand the deceased as “fashion icons” and pay homage to the stars’ respective glory days: Think Farrah’s hair and Michael's Brooke Shields-era sequined blazers.
Notably, Farrah kept her signature flip full-bodied and blonde through the very end – chemotherapy be damned, the woman looked amazing! And Michael, well, the King of Pop morphed so many times in the past 50 years, he should officially override Linda Evangelista as The Chameleon in the Fashion Hall of Fame.
That was the beauty of MJ, though. His never-ending spiral into the androgynous caricature we came to expect made quite the impression on le monde de mode. I’m not just referencing the resurgence of military jackets via Balmain designer Christophe Decarnin, although I commend the dedication of die-hard devotees like Beyoncé and Rihanna. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Michael pioneered modern androgyny, making gender bending a force so prevalent in fashion today that the latest collections would be unrecognizable without his influence. (For the sake of argument, I’m ignoring David Bowie and Boy George, so bear with me.)
Just glance back a few days to Spring 2010 Men’s RTW: A pervasion of floral prints and pastels – from periwinkle, lilac, and primrose at Ballantyne to candy-colored cashmere at Bottega Veneta and Thierry Mulger. Fast forward to male tube tops and sheer overlaid suits at Jean-Paul Gaultier, which bring to mind Guy Trebay’s posthumous account of Michael's “curious and repellent, beautiful and alluring, sexy and asexual, masculine and feminine manifestations.”
With this recent transitioning of traditional womenswear, a few male models have even admitted to the pressures of fashion week dieting. And our cultural preoccupation with asexuality goes both ways – look to the rise of Agyness Deyn, the British-born peroxide sensation who exploded in 2006. Without her pixie cut, boyish features and distinctive style, she’d still be little Laura Hollins folding clothes back in Manchester.
Jackson has had a profound influence on the way the world views fashion – from the inside out. In a bold look at the singer’s life and death, AP Music writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody summed it up: “His one glove, white socks and glittery jackets made him a fashion trendsetter, making androgyny seem sexy and even safe.”
So now I wonder…who’s next? Since Samantha Ronson dumped LiLo, maybe she’ll take a crack in her free time?
Photo credit: Michael Jackson discography.