David Bowie wasn’t the first the play with gender in his looks, but he certainly was the most influential. He always seemed like the epitome of cool; effortlessly fashionable with a dash of recklessness. The year he died, 2016, was the same year we lost Prince; another blow. One thing I read a lot after Prince passed away was how both of these iconic artists showed us there was more than one way to be a man. This thought was updated to include George Michael after his death in December of 2016.
While the latter two men would not be considered gender nonconforming, they absolutely challenged our preconceived notions of men in rock and pop music. 80s-era Prince was a vision in ruffled pirate shirts and spandex. My 12 year old brain couldn’t wrap its head around a man who would wear (what I considered to be) such feminine looking clothing, but his music was so full of raw sexuality! Around the same time we were introduced to George Michael via Wham! but it wasn’t until his solo efforts did we see the rougher side of George: unshaven face, cool-guy aviators, and a sensuality that demanded your attention.
The world of music owes so much to these incredible artists; not only for their timeless music or fashion sense, but because by their gender identity choices they gave us the freedom to express ourselves more easily. David Bowie and other gender nonconforming artists helped pave the way for new generations of gender variant artists.