When a unknown brunette in a red boater appeared on Top of the Pops in 1982 with ‘Do you really want to hurt me’, a proportion of straight men in Britain declared they had the hots for that pretty girl. The mysterious figure would become one of the most notorious and successful of his time – Boy George.
The original romantic, Boy George (Alan O’Dowd) pioneered androgyny, dressing in eclectic hats, waistcoats and billowing white shirts. Caught somewhere between a pirate and a china doll, he wore bright facial make-up, winged eyeliner and crimped hair braided and tied with ribbons and rags. Influenced by dance, reggae and blue-eyed soul, this was reflected in the pop-peacock’s appearance.
It must be noted that this was 1982 – unlike today, his appearance was a sartorial fight, and he was the first artist to place drag into the commercial mainstream. His club-kid persona was worn with conviction, each sequin, braid and bead laced with punk spirit.
"Boy George's club-kid persona was worn with conviction, each sequin, braid and bead laced with punk spirit."
Boy G’s headwear is as iconic as his music; over three decades paved with trilbys, caps and bowlers crafted by milliners such as Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy. His outlandish style has influenced fashion houses too: the singer was easily recognised within the 2009 collections, referenced by Sonia Rykiel, Unique and Marc Jacobs, while Meadham Kirchhoff's A/W12 flamboyant makeup channelled a young George.
The chameleon stated, “Always have comfortable shoes and a comfortable bed, because if you're not in one, you're in the other.” An advocator of the chunky heel, he teams bright footwear with leggings, oversized shirts and velvet jackets, embellished with beadwork, badges and print.
No longer a boy, George turned 51 this year. He played a very special set at the AnOther A/W12 launch party at Annabel's and recently confirmed a Culture Club reunion, proving that glitter far outlives dirt.
Text by Mhairi Graham