THIS HANDSOME DEVIL
Iain Webb, Undress, 1984
The line from This Charming Man "I would go out tonight but I haven't got a stitch to wear." Was that written from experience?
From total experience. For years and years I never had a job, or any money. Consequently I never had any clothes whatsoever. I found that on those very rare occasions when I did get invited anywhere I would constantly sit down and say, "Good heavens, I couldn't possibly go to this place tonight because I don't have any clothes... I don't have any shoes." So I'd miss out on all those foul parties. It was really quite a blessing in disguise.
I read about you tucking your shirt collars in because you couldn't find the shirts you wanted?
Yes, collars were always totally unmanageable things... it didn't really matter that you'd found a wonderful shirt because inevitably the collar would be totally unwearable anyway, so you had to throw the thing away.
So do you have a definite idea of how you want to look? How you see yourself?
I do, but it's a slight dilemma because in an obscure way it's a cross between Oscar Wilde and James Dean... I'm not embarrassed to admit it although I know James Dean has become almost this synthetic vogue thing. I rarely manage it... although it's something I strive for.
Are there things about yourself that you try to hide, or alternatively, try to emphasise?
Yes there are. One of the lines in the song Accept Yourself is "When will you accept your shoes?", and I find that so many people have this dilemma about shoes. If they have the wrong pair of shoes it can totally destroy their entire life. Similarly if people think their feet are too big, or that their nose is too big it can result in a diminished social life for totally false reasons.
For instance? Is there anything which you feel about yourself?
Yes, I feel that if you have a foul hairstyle that your entire life is foul. It's a totally brief issue, but I do maintain that if your hair is wrong, your entire life is wrong, and you could never possibly have a serious job...
Although your general appearance is quite casual, there are those who would see your look as highly pretentious (the beads and the flowers and whatever)?
Would they be right making such an assumption?
Yes. I think they are right, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. So many pretentious people are really treasurable. In a way it's like Oscar Wilde's dandyism... it's attractive nonsense as far as I'm concerned... but it's not trivial, because it's vastly important to me.
Is it difficult to wear flowers?
Not really. It depends upon the scope of the imagination. It's not just a matter of wearing them, but of course how you wear them, so...
What gave you the idea in the first place to shove a bouquet down your jeans?
Well, that sounds quite interesting (laughs)... I became bored with just carrying them which I did for a long time and it was quite clumsy, so I discovered this new angle. It just seemed perfectly natural... unquestionable that it would happen.
Where will it end though, because in the last video it looked like you were sitting in a shrub at times...
Well, there were so many of them...
Mmmmmmmm, yes, I suppose it really has to end, but it's just a matter of being as close to nature as possible. I don't think it will get to the point where I'm heaving an oak tree about or anything, but it's quite an amusing project...
Whose appearance charms you?
I think it's really... this could sound a little dull... it really has to be James Dean because he looked good regardless of what he wore. He could wear an old rag and he was still quite stunning, and equally he could clamber into a tuxedo and it would also be incredibly fetching. So for me he is the only person who looked perfect persistently.
Yeah... Joe Dallesandro, Antony Perkins, and Jean Marais appear on your covers. Are they men whose styles you admire?
To a certain degree, yes, but I think it's because they are sensitive and inverted, like Terence Stamp. The bed-sit person with the old ragged cardigan on. I like that, the failures, people who look like they're failing. I'm really quite fascinated by failure... in other people of course.
Are clothes important to you?
They are. I mean I like to have them on. I wouldn't feel very secure if I didn't have any, so yes I suppose... (smothered laughter)
Is there anything you wouldn't wear?
Oh, so many things. I mean I'd never wear a duffle coat. Definitely not.
Has it affected you being featured so heavily in the media... like seeing your picture all the time?
It does, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you become obsessed and feel that everytime your picture is anywhere you have to be in entirely different clothes. To me it works reversely. I feel that it doesn't really matter anymore. I feel slightly beyond the point where I always have to be somewhat alluring or attractive... I don't think people write about me for the way I look, but the things which I lyrically say.
The look you present doesn't make a screaming statement necessarily, but the beads and the flowers do lean toward the trend for sexual ambivalence...
How do you feel about that?
Well, I think it's true and quite intentional. I want to make that point quite strongly but in a way that wouldn't bore people. I think people in the past have tried to and have bored people because it's been so severe, and too far removed from everybody's daily lives that it's therefore inconsequential... I think things have to be done quite slyly and in a way that doesn't really seem dangerous or doesn't really seem serious but when you sit down and think about it you realise that everything falls into place, but people who try to be incredibly shocking fail because I think...
Because they can be packeted?
Yes they can, and they're too extreme, therefore nobody pays any attention to them.
So you'd rather be subversive?
Yes I would... but not overlooked.
Do you ever go on shopping sprees?
I often go out with the intention of a shopping spree but come back with half an item. It's quite difficult. I'm a very neurotic consumer.
So you don't actually enjoy shopping?
I wouldn't say so... no.
But you enjoy clothes?
Yes I do... I mean obviously everybody has to be judged by their clothes. It's a true statement. I think we all do and there is no point pretending we don't. We know that it's wrong, but it doesn't matter anyway. So what? I would find it absolutely impossible to speak to somebody if they were wearing a duffle coat, regardless of who they were or what their intentions were... or if they had a repugnant hairstyle I could never tolerate the conversation.
Do you find that if you get up and do your hair and it doesn't go right your whole day is messed up?
Obviously the day is completely ruined. It's a common dilemma. I mean a new hairstyle can completely change your entire views on life. It can change your political views virtually... So the hair rules the body... it's an absolute fact!
They hang very well and show the fact that I have no body whatsoever. They are the kind of shirt I'm fond of for no sensible reason. They are my children. I get them all from Evan's Women's Outsize Shop... but not because I'm a fat woman!
I always wear the same jeans. I always have done, the pair I've had for five years. I remember reading about Edith Piaf when she was singing in the streets of Paris and she wore this little black affair, and even when she was an international star earning millions a minute she still wore this same little black sparrow affair. I was interested that stardom never changed her... I think if you start moving too quickly in one direction you can forget why you came into the thing in the first place and eventually you don't recognize youself. I'm really attached to these jeans. I live in total despair of making hole in them or something... I could never possibly sing again (much laughter). The jeans are Levi, bought in United States.
ODDS AND SODS
A foul kimono donated to me by some indulgent relative. This is a famous shirt. It appeared on the cover of the NME. I've had to dye it several colours because people kept saying, "Why on earth are you still wearing that?" (It's now plum.) From some depraved barrow in Manchester.
I like these kind (slip-on with a buckle strap) from Manuel (f55). A year ago that would have been totally extravagant, but today is absolute necessity. I like them because I can slip in and out of them without having any debate.
I don't wear any!!