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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Patti Smith as Style Icon

You bet... reading Friday's NY Times, I stumbled upon a headline: Patti Smith's Eye for Fashion and devoured the piece, pausing to smile to myself at this short paragraph: Admirers find her disheveled look alluring. Such observations seem to please her. Gaunt and bony as a girl, she was told by a fawning Salvador Dalí, “You are like a gothic crow.”

An admirer of Ms. Smith I certainly am. She was and continues to be an inspiration and role model; she was the first female pop culture figure I looked up to (right down to the "gothic crow" look identified by Dali)... previously, I found inspiration in men such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Francois Truffaut. You could definitely say that Patti Smith punked me. She offered all that Dylan, Lennon and Truffaut did and more, because she made me believe that a life in the arts on your own terms was attainable AND you didn't have to work hard to look like the other iconic women of the rock n roll era (models, most of them... Patty Boyd for example).

Now that her genius is indeed recognized by more than her die-hard fans and admirers (punctuated, consecrated and documented not just by the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame but by The City of New York as well), it seems that Patti Smith as subject matter in all aspects of pop culture is fair game. I've discussed within these cyber-pages what might be referred to as a punk fashion sensibility and I've also declared that we punk rockers put a permanent stamp on the face of high fashion as well as ready to wear. It should therefor come as no shock to me that the New York Times is taking my baton and sprinting to the next messenger on this course... but I am always surprised when I find any vehicle of the vox populi, especially one as noteworthy (ie: "the paper of record") as the Times, agrees with me or shares my taste.

The photo above was taken in May of 1978 in the parking lot behind the erstwhile Licorice Pizza record store (the building at 8878 Sunset Blvd. now houses an Aahs! gift store that stocks among other merchandise, punk rock branded memorabilia). Patti was doing a reading from her book, Babel while on tour supporting the album Easter and garnering some ink in more mainstream magazines and papers than before... though she was always a critic's darling.

Patti refers to some garments she wears on tours as emblematic of that tour. In 1978, that brown suede jacket and the hounds tooth vest you see on her in these off-stage pictures were part of her on-stage ensemble, together with leather pants (super rock n roll a la Keith Richards!)

The first time I saw Patti perform she wore an outfit similar to what she wore on the cover of Horses - somewhere between a 1950s/60s beatnik and Charles Baudelaire (19th century Paris).

Clothes do not make the man or woman, but Patti Smith featured in a New York Times story on fashion just vindicates what we punk rock chicks knew about her AND fashion some 30+ years ago.

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