So much is written about today’s uber-preened, fake-tanned, concealer-wearing, eyebrow-plucked, immaculately-coiffed, occasionally ‘androgenous’ male that it’s easy to forget that actually, it’s nothing new at all.
When I read about the likes of Andrej Pejic I’m utterly unmoved by the hyperbole and hoo-hah, possibly because I’m old enough to remember all of this first time around, back in the early Eighties, when such a sight wasn’t confined to the catwalk or an obscure, fash-mag cover but regularly popped up on Top Of The Pops, at tea-time, courtesy of Boy George and Marylin. How’s that for subversive mainstream exposure? Times have changed, of course, and male beautification – for want of a better word – isn’t such a big deal, which is why I can’t be shocked by Pejic’s ‘most beautiful man in the word’ act (David Sylvian got there first anyway).
In reality, of course, whilst I say ‘first time around’ those eighties ‘gender-benders’ (for that’s what they were dubbed back then) and parading peacocks had themselves been inspired by Bolan and Bowie, who had in turn clocked people like Elvis (with his dyed quiff) and Little Richard – a man no stranger to an inch of make-up, even back in the fifties. How my dad, a huge fan of Tutti Frutti, never spotted the eyeliner I’ll never know.
But I digress. My main reason for writing this blog is to alert you all to the photographs of Graham Smith – a man who was, to use Gary Kemp of Spandau’s words, ‘at the centre of this vortex that spun out of Soho during those heady days’.
As a clubber frequenting New Romantic haunts such as the Blitz, Billy’s and Le Beat Route he wasn’t just a chronicler of the scene he was part of it. His photos (he discovered the negatives stashed away in his attic a while back) are now to made into a lavish book chronicling the times, with text supplied by Blue Rondo a la Turk frontman-turned-writer Chris Sullivan.
As a social document of the time it’s going to be a fascinating, visual feast and as a child of the eighties I’m looking forward to recapturing my youth via its pages. It’s essential reading, too, for all those wide-eyed Gen Yers out there who think that Pejic is patient zero. To them I say ‘this is how it’s done!’
For more information about We Can Be Heroes by Graham Smith go to www.unbound.co.uk