THE STORY OF THE SEX SHOP LEATHER HOOD
FROM HARMLESS FETISH ATTIRE (AS SPORTED BY DAVID BOWIE?) TO THEATRE OF CRUELTY DESIGN TOTEM
Left: Detail of photo of model posing in leather Sex hood, autumn 1974. Photo: © David Parkinson. Right: David Bowie in leather hood, summer 1974, Sherry Netherland Hotel, New York. Photo: Dana Gillespie//
My recent post about David Bowie’s visits in 1974 to 430 King’s Road when it was in its Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die incarnation prompted Facebook friend and DJ Graham “Sugarlump” Evans to alert me to Polaroid photographs of David Bowie trying out make-up, hair and styling options in preparation for his Diamond Dogs tour of the US that year.
In one, as Evans points out, Bowie posed in a leather hood of similar style to the model sold at 430 as it was transformed over a period of six months from TFTL to fetish emporium Sex.
At the beginning of 1974 a couple of friends of McLaren’s had brought a number of hoods back to London at his request from an NYC trip of their own.
“Malcolm knew exactly where they were sold and told us to get a bunch, “says one. “We were pretty anxious bringing them back through customs but he was delighted to have them and put them on sale in the shop.”
This occurred at the time when Bowie was a 430 visitor (McLaren recounted how the superstar once requested a t-shirt bearing the image of James Dean in his “crucifixion” pose with a rifle across his shoulders in the movie Giant).
Bowie archivist and expert Kevin Cann talked me through the Polaroids, which were first made public in Henry Edwards and Tony Zanetta’s 1986 book Stardust and posted last year on the DavidBowieOfficial twitter account:
“All were taken by Dana Gillespie, on or just before the Diamond Dogs tour of ’74, some at the Sherry Netherland.
“The make-up shots (David was testing make-up and hair styles) include Jac Colello. Again they were most probably taken at the Sherry Netherland, but were obviously pre-tour (early June 1974). Jac can also be seen with David in some of the dressing room shots in BBC TV documentary Cracked Actor.”
The hoods sold moderately well in Sex and fresh stock was made by McLaren and his partner Vivienne Westwood’s preferred specialist leatherwear manufacturer, Battersea’s The London Leatherman.
Although disturbing, the hoods did not at that stage have the evil connotations associated with the UK’s notorious “Cambridge Rapist” Peter Cook, who fashioned similar headgear to disguise his identity as he preyed on student victims in the university town for a period of nine months from the autumn of 1974.
During this period McLaren himself was in New York, and returned to 430 in the spring of 1975 to find much consternation over the sale of the hoods. 430 assistant Michael Collins believed Cook – who was at that stage still being hunted by the police – may have purchased his hood at the boutique and had alerted the authorities.
McLaren’s response was to create a brutal and shocking design for a t-shirt using a David Parkinson photograph as its core image. “I drew the logo and rock ‘n’ roll lettering with some musical notes, added the words ‘It’s been a hard day’s night’ and put a post-mortem fake news story about Brian Epstein dying from S&M practices,” McLaren said in 2008 in reference to the conjecture surrounding Epstein’s demise related to him by the art dealer Robert “Groovy Bob” Fraser.
When questioned the next year by journalist David May over the validity of concocting the design, McLaren explained that his intention was not to celebrate Cook’s exploits but to make a provocative statement about the sexual repression he believed was stultifying British culture.
“Look, why treat (Cook) as an individual?” McLaren told May. “Why not treat him as a symbol of what is happening to everybody…I’m saying that if everyone did wear these clothes (from Sex) then this particular island, and all the violence that has been pushed down, would fucking explode!”
The photograph of the hood was later juxtaposed by McLaren with the shredded flag from Jamie Reid’s Anarchy In The UK design for a t-shirt published in January 1978 to promote the Pistols’ fateful US tour that month.
It is not confirmed whether the hood featured in the Gillespie Polaroid of Bowie is from 430 King’s Road. “It could be that the mask was bought in New York from the same place Malcolm sourced his,” says McCann, “though – if it was indeed David’s mask – he may have bought it when he visited the shop.”[fblike]