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					Androgynous/Unisex Look

Androgynous looks have been produced under the various influences of
politics, subcultures and musical styles. For men, embracing an
androgynous style has meant the adoption of a decorative and sexualized
style of clothing. Ironically, for women it has often involved the
opposite, a desexualization and simplification of dress styles. Music-
related subcultures have had a major influence on men’s embrace of unisex
styles. Swinging London and psychedelic styles, emerging in 1967 and 1968
from the mod look, took up bright colours and Op art designs in vivid and
decorative clothing worn by men and women alike. The hippie subculture of
the late 1960s and early 1970s allowed men to wear long hair, beads and
headbands, a shift in style that was interpreted by contemporary
commentators as accompanying a gentler style of masculinity and a more
liberal approach to diverse sexual practices.

British glam rock took this emphasis on androgynous, sexualized style to
a new limit in the early 1970s, with Marc Bolan and David Bowie adopting
the glam personae of the Cosmic Crusader and Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane,
respectively. These characters from a genderless future emerged in
prosperous circles in London, in contrast to the black funk style
appearing simultaneously in the USA. Some new romantics of the early
1980s, especially Duran Duran, ABC and Culture Club, took up similar
glamorous, androgynous male styles. Figures like Boy George showed the
influence that gay subcultures had on these music-related styles, as does
the origins of the word ‘punk’ as a term for a homosexual lover.

Musical trends also had an influence on women’s adoption of androgynous
styles. Jeans and t-shirts as unisex wear were popularized by the hippies
and the mods, while jeans and dungarees were also embraced by the women’s
movement as comfortable, relatively unrestrictive clothing. Punk, too,
offered a less feminine dress style for women, which has been more
recently adapted by the Riot Grrrls. However, only in the 1980s did
mainstream female musicians offer exemplars for androgynous style. Grace
Jones, who went on to appear in the Bond film A View to a Kill in the
mid-1980s, adopted a punk-glam look of short sculptured hair and
masculine tailoring. Jones’s image showed the influence of high fashion
through her collaboration with Jean-Paul Goude. Annie Lennox’s adoption
of the male suit in the earlier part of her career was a way of
symbolizing control over her musical identity, and the adoption of the
suit as a way of demonstrating a non-sexualized competence has persisted
throughout the 1980s. The women’s movement, gay subcultures, lesbian
‘butch’ styles and peacenik hippie politics have all had an impact on
androgynous styles. Nonetheless, there is considerable debate as to
whether the popularity of unisex dress styles is connected to a
liberalization of the distinction between genders or transformations in
attitudes to gay and lesbian sexuality.

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