A movement and a spontaneous fashion trend. In early 1971, when Marc Bolan, during an appearance on Top of the Pops, decided to allow the make-up artists to apply some glitter to his eyes and cheeks, he surely didn’t realize that he would bring back for an entire new generation of teenagers a long tradition of outrageous behavior and transvestitism.
This is a story that, involving creatures dear to Jack Smith and Andy Warhol, goes back to the sources of sexual ambiguity, an obvious device with Mae West and even further back. Even Klossowski’s The Roman Ladies are mentioned to legitimize a need to appear as something different from one’s own self, in order to find one’s own authenticity in that other, in the sense of the authentic Greek etymon: “A person acting for oneself.” Yet, around 1970, glam rock was there, and this time rock stars acted as designers for a generation too young to remember Beatlemania and wanting to give a theatrical sense to their own existence.
Thus Bohan and David Bowie are the interpreters of androgyny in a cosmic and alien sense with space suits in satin with sequins and an ostrich boa. Iggy Pop, with bare chest, lamé gloves, and a dog collar, embodied the perfect proto-punk. Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music, helped by Anthony Price, gathered together several periods of Hollywood glamour. The brothers Ron and Russell Mall, of Sparks, offered themselves as an amphetamine parody-combination of Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, and the New York Dolls in women’s clothing both on-stage and off. It should also be remembered that for Bowie’s 1973 tour of Japan promoting his album Aladini Sane, Kansai Yamamoto designed 9 costumes inspired by traditional Kabuki theater.
And obviously, Ossie Clark and Antony Price designed for rock stars and acquaintances with a lively sense of glam-glitter way before the advent of the phenomenon. Also to be noted is the charming and prevalent obsession over Berlin in the years of the Weimar Republic, explicit in Bob Fosse’s 1972 film Cabaret with Joel Grey and Liza Minelli, often cited as an influence on the Bromley Contingent, a direct heir of glam.