Themes/Identity: Redressing gender

Philip introduces us to some pioneering creatives from across the decades who have challenged gender style conventions.

Before Grace Jones’s fierce high-top afro hair and k.d. lang’s hip swaggering men’s denim looks, iconic artist Hannah Gluckstein (1895 –1978), nicknamed ‘Gluck’, was blazing a trail in the 1910s in the evolution of modern art and queer gender style. Gluck dressed almost exclusively in men’s clothing and had love affairs with numerous women, who all inspired her hand to paint those magical paint strokes. Financially independent and relatively free to be herself for the era, Gluck is now considered to be pioneer for LGBTQI* lives.

Credit: Photographic portrait of ‘Gluck’, taken by Howard Coster in 1926 at the Fine Art Society, London.

The appropriation of masculine dress by women to create identities for themselves has a long and brilliant history.

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, Gluck and her contemporaries changed many people’s perception of feminine and masculine dress. From actors Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Katherine Hepburn, and Diane Keaton in the film ‘Annie Hall’ to musicians like Patti Smith, Grace Jones, Annie Lennox and k.d. lang. Phew what a list!

Fashion designers also got in on the act including legendary Yves Saint Laurent, with his iconic ‘Le Smoking’ (a tuxedo for women).

These iconic women and creatives chose to express their identities through masculine style, and challenged how people thought about identity, gender and sexuality.


Diane Keaton in ‘Annie Hall’

Credit: Still from the movie, Annie Hall directed by Woody Allen (1977), attributed to Amy via Flickr.
Earning a Best Actress Oscar and lifetime status as an icon of androgynous style, Diane’s radical fashion choices created a global trend for the ‘Annie Hall Look’. She came to represent the 1970s woman who was battling to construct her own strong identity at a time of political unrest and change. Diane’s personal style was brought into the mainstream in a brilliant mix of shirts, ties, masculine waistcoats and very high-waisted, wide-leg trousers. We bet Katy Perry’s stylist has been eyeing up Annie’s costumes!.

Watch ‘Annie Hall (1977) Best Scenes’posted by Renne Cuisia on YouTube to see more of the character’s classic menswear looks


Grace Jones

Credit: Above and listing image. Grace Jones, on the cover of her 1982 single ‘My Jamaican Guy’, designed by Jean-Paul Goude. ©Jean-Paul Goude.
For the past four decades, Jamaican American music legend Grace Jones has been a voice of power, androgyny, and highly charged sexual rebellion. Jones is both a fashion and cultural icon, constantly challenging the status quo. When Jones posed in a sharp-shouldered suit on the cover of her 1981 album, ‘Nightclubbing’, it sent a tsunami through fashion. The codes of Jones’s beauty look; the graphic hard flat top, highly contoured cheekbones, and body paint have all been copied by makeup artists and designers alike. Slaying!

Watch the trailer for Grace Jones’ 2017 documentary ‘Bloodlight and Bami’, directed by Sophie Fiennes.


Annie Lennox

Credit: Annie Lennox- The Eurythmics years via One of the most controversial moments in pop music history was at the 1984 Grammys where Annie Lennox appeared in male drag. It marked one of the high points of the representation of androgyny in pop culture. Lennox was dressed in a man’s suit with a nod to the music greats of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. In contrast with the hard synthesizers, her voice was warm and sensual. This was androgyny itself, and the world loved it!


Yves Saint Laurent: Groundbreaking 1966 Creation Le Smoking Tuxedoes

Credit: Yves Saint Laurent, French Vogue, Rue Aubriot, Paris, Helmut Newton (1975), via Flickr. Picture attributed to
In 1966, at a time when women were expected to don a classic skirt and just smile, Yves Saint Laurent introduced the world to ‘Le Smoking’, a tuxedo-style suit that made the leap from catwalk to ‘must have’ in one YSL heartbeat. Yet, for all the media buzz, it was arguably photographer Helmut Newton who made ‘Le Smoking’ iconic; he had an extraordinary capacity to charge his subjects with a raw powerful sexuality. The only smoking habit we need is for the YSL tux. We’re addicted!

Step beyond the tuxedo with a whole museum devoted to Yves Saint Laurent


Buffalo Movement


Credit: DR. MARTENS X THE SPIRIT OF BUFFALO. A film by Jamie Morgan, exploring the cultural history of the eclectic Buffalo movement. Buffalo was a maverick 80s youth culture collective made up of photographers, designers and artists. These radicals transformed the way that society thought about fashion. Ray Petri, the movement’s leader explained that the word ‘Buffalo’ itself was a Caribbean expression used to describe ‘rude boys’ and ‘rebels’. His travels to far flung-places in the world helped inspire his youth-charged aesthetic that collided MA-1 flight jackets, sportswear and Che Guevara hats with the decade's leading fashion designers and Dr Martens boots, kilts and African headwear. Let’s make a revolution!

Find out more about Ray Petri’s influence at Volt café
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