Boy George look
More than a Karma Chameleon, George O’Dowd—the ‘Boy George’ of the musical group Culture Club—was a gender chameleon with his trimmed down version of drag queen dressing. An original face of the New Romantic scene, Boy George brought androgynous dressing to the world of Top-40.
Androgyny was nothing new, last seen by the glamsters of the 70’s, who trotted around in full feminine frills. The 80’s crop of androgynous superstars weren’t as blatant about their sexuality: they preferred innocent ambiguity, and Boy George was the figurehead. Although he didn’t wear girl’s dresses, his hair was worn long, braided, and tied with ribbons and bows, and makeup masked his face. He tested the limits of drag’s mass acceptance, but because he was singing catchy tunes like “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” and “Miss Me Blind,” he seemed stylish and harmless rather than threatening.
Boys and girls alike copied his style, unaware of the issues he was advertising. He even published a how-to book entitled Boy George: Fashion and Make-up, which gave step-by step directions for makeup application and fashion tips. Many an old sheet was donated by Mom so that you and your friends could tear it into strips and tie around your braids. The look became even more popular with the bi-sexy style of New Wave favorites Duran Duran.
Boy George joined other pop icons in his gender bending ways: Annie Lenox of Eurythmics fame dressed in men’s suits and cropped her hair into a bristly orange mane, and Madonna expressed herself in equally masculine fashion. As the decade wore on, the message wasn’t so ambiguous. The ‘Boy’ trend continued with groups like The Pet Shop Boys sporting the word ‘BOY’ across t-shirts and hats.
As the 80’s progressed, the kids who grew up with the infectious grooves of the Culture Club began to listen to the technological savvy New Wave sounds. Boy George and the Culture Club slipped from the fashion pedestal, but their look remains one of the most memorable 80’s styles.