“My people were fair and had sky in their hair,
But now they're content to wear stars on their brows…”
…and glitter, sequins, and feathers. The crazy costume trip that occurred during the late 60’s and exploded into the 70’s quickly came to be known as the effeminate era of glam. With a penchant for the frillier side of life, Marc Bolan of the ultimate glam band T-Rex sang about transcendental beauty, and transformed into a pretty-boy in top hat and curly mop.
T-Rex, Slade and Sweet were among the ringleaders of a new music movement that built itself around a fashion fantasy and challenged the gender rules. Glam fashions, inspired by the glam rock movement, were unlike anything seen before, and outrageousness was the only rule. Glitter platform boots, sequined jumpsuits, feather boas, and feminine frocks on boys were common gear for gender-bending at its most outrageous.
Glam rock had hit London in the late 60's and soon, like so many other fabulous trends, made its way across the shores to America. The sequins sparkled, the glitter gleamed, and the stardust transformed lanky boys into fashion creatures of the night. Twisting the gender-bending notion, boys looked to female fashions and fantasy costumes to transform them from the ordinary to the astro. More than boys in girl’s gowns, glam became the ultimate freedom of expression for a sexually explosive decade.
Shock rock impresario David Bowie, in his role of Ziggy Stardust, pranced on stage in rainbow jumpsuits and mile-high platform boots that lifted him to the heavens he claimed to have come from. Rainbows leapt from his face, and a shocking red/orange shag with spiked top and lengthy back bristled on top of his head. He was a space-aged rooster strutting his stuff to fans hungry for carnival-style fashion.
At a time when most of the world was peace-loving in bellbottomed denim and pared-down earthy looks of leather sandals, glitterama took fashion to the extreme. These were kids who didn’t want to protest war and injustices: they wanted to play, to be stars on the stage, to shine like they did in their dreams, in their fantasies. Glam was playing dress-up in Mommy's closet, even if you were a boy.
American bands like the New York Dolls were performing in their own costume circus, and bands like KISS combined the heavy metal leather scene with glam. KISS's face paint paired with Ziggy-style jumpsuits and platform boots to create a bizarre performance band that remains one of the most memorable in rock's history. And the kids just couldn't get enough.
After transmogrifying into the flashy New Romantics of the early 80’s, glam returned to the scene in the form of 80’s hair metal, as groups like Poison wrapped themselves in fluffy feather boas, smeared their faces with colorful makeup and teased their long locks to look like their girlfriends’ big hair. By the 90’s, glam lived on primarily in the shape of androgynous shock god Marilyn Manson, but by this time, fewer eyebrows were raised. In a culture of body piercings and such, it took a lot more than makeup on men to shock the masses.