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Ten Dazed covers that defined a moment

From the demise of the cover star to the rise of fourth wave feminism – revisit ten of our most agenda-setting issues

To mark our 25th anniversary, over the next two weeks we're opening up the pages of Dazed to bring you a curated edit of the best of our archive, from 1991 to 2016.

Do you remember the first issue of Dazed & Confused you bought? To commemorate our 25th anniversary, we’ve journeyed back through the archives to select ten covers that define a significant cultural moment. From 1998’s radical Fashion-Able cover that brought disability to the forefront of fashion to pondering the demise of East London in May 2012 – here are ten of the most powerful to date.


Issue number five of Dazed & Confused did what few titles had dared to do before: eradicate the cover star. Aptly printed in metallic silver with a cover line that read: “The Death of The Cover Star”, the absence of designer clothing, a model, a celebrity, or even an image was a clear indicator of the fact that Dazed was not concerned with conventional editorial constraints. “We were kind of making it a bit weirder; a bit strange,” remembered Rankin of their visual strategy at the time. Meanwhile, the issue featured a jewellery shoot shot in X-ray vision, a portfolio of Central Saint Martin’s class of 93, and a tracklist of the music the team had been listening to in the office – Silver City’s “Love Infinity”, Björk’s Debut and Moby’s “Move”, in case you were wondering.


Emerging in the wake of Britpop and Britart, Dazed captured the exuberant spirit of British pop culture in the mid-90s. The era was defined by dishevelled, devil-may-care Britpop poster boys with scruffy hair and skinny legs, who propelled normal dress to the forefront of fashion with their uniform of basic green parkas, square-framed aviators, bucket hats and matching two-piece tracksuits. While the movement defined a generation musically, it also came to define the pages of Dazed with the likes of Blur’s frontman Damon Albarn, Pulp’s lead singer Jarvis Cocker and 1994’s cover star Richard Ashcroft of The Verve spearheading the era. 


Nick Knight and Katy England’s Fashion-Able cover of Dazed & Confused tackled previously untouched territory within the field of fashion. Guest edited by Alexander McQueen and featuring Paralympic champion Aimee Mullins on the cover, the inside story featured individuals with physical disabilities and was inspired by McQueen’s belief that beauty can be found in extreme individuality and difference. Questioning notions of body image and rejecting stigma, Knight and England cast people with different physical disabilities to model in the shoot. McQueen then asked his peers – Hussein ChalayanRei Kawakubo and milliner Philip Treacy – to create custom-pieces for each subject, that allowed him to bring disability into the landscape of high-fashion for the first time, representing it in a frank and beautiful light. Read Katy England’s memories of the day here.


The Terry Richardson-lensed Dazed & Confused cover of a then-23-year-old Milla Jovovich is as relevant now as it was in 1999 (ignoring the fact that we made a minor typo on the cover – sorry Milla!). Following an era of digital manipulation and nothing-short-of-perfect imagery, Richardson’s photographs of Jovovich were real, human, and definitely ahead of the times. Seen on the front of the magazine with her arms behind her head to reveal unshaven armpits, the cover text that riffed off beauty monolith L’Oreal’s strapline read, “Because She’s Worth It”. Inside, the editorial titled “The Real Life of Angels” shot in the hills of LA was a further commentary on the constraints of Hollywood’s prescribed industry standards.


Dazed & Confused’s March 2000 cover story, shot by Rankin, and styled by Alister Mackie, rang in the millennium with eight powerful images. The most memorable of the series sees two young boys dressed in faded sweatshirts kissing, with their gold neck chains intertwined. Defining a new-century attitude – while delivering a veritable two-finger salute to the conservative attitudes of the one just past – the “8 Kisses for 8 Covers” story inside chronicled more candid shots of gay, lesbian and interracial couples passionately embracing and kissing each other.


With a cover shot by Rankin, The South Africa Issue coincided with a landmark moment in history. Commemorating ten years since the end of the apartheid, the issue’s cover lines read: Future + Positive. The message? One of optimism, demonstrated by the individuals featured in the issue who have been able to allow their talents in film, art, music and fashion flourish thanks to the new order laid down by the country’s first post-apartheid president, Nelson Mandela. “I have always had a real belief that photographic imagery can be democratising; because you can have a celebrity and a person who is not famous next to each other in a magazine and it kind of makes them,” says Rankin of the cover. “The misunderstandings that happen with language is another thing that photography can cut through, and I’ve always been excited about the ability to say something in a photo that you can’t say in a language.”


Dazed called upon Barbara Kruger and Damien Hirst to make a personal visual interpretation of the Declaration of Human Rights for the July 2006 issue, which saluted those defending human rights and fighting for their freedom. Kruger’s cover featured a black and white close-up image of an eyeball with with a needle hovering above it, along with the cover lines: “Busy Unmaking The World” and “They blind your eyes and drain your brain”, while Hirst’s equally arresting interpretation featured an image of a torso with a visible open bullet wound overlaid with the text “Number one/You have the right/Not to be killed”. This latter cover meant they had to be issued with a protective wrapping to protect sensitive shoppers. Meanwhile, the issue itself investigates press censorship in countries like Iran, China, Vietnam and Cuba that prevents freedom of speech, and looks at horrific scenes of children bearing loaded weapons fighting the war in the Congo, calling out the need for a global international arms trade treaty. 


Photographed by the late Dazed contributor Matt Irwin and styled by Nicola Formichetti, 2007’s “Sex Me Up” cover came issued with the mantra, “Express yourself, don’t repress yourself”, epitomising the youthful clubbing scene being lived out in London at the time. Featuring a naked female model sandwiched between two boys in boxer shorts, each wore phallic papier-mâché headwear created in a collaboration between famed milliner Stephen Jones and Belgian fashion designer and provocateur Walter Van Beirendonck. The entire issue centered on sex – from private life exposés shot by long-term Dazed contributor Jack Webb and exhibitions that recall the sexually permissive drug-fuelled underground scenes of 80s New York, to pornography and a shoot of late 90s supermodel Liberty Ross dressed up as a latex-clad dominatrix.


Released just months before the London 2012 Olympics, the “Is East London Dead?” issue boldly questioned the future of creativity in the capital. As the Olympic Park rose above the city’s skyline, the words ‘regeneration’ and ‘gentrification’ were becoming all too familiar in London’s creative heartland, its inhabitants questioned how much longer such their social and cultural enclaves would exist. Jamie Hawkesworth documents over 20 British talents from the worlds of fashion, art, music, photography and literature facing this truth. Four years on and on paper, things aren’t much better. The George and Dragon, Fabric and a string of other clubs and watering holes have closed their doors and rent prices are still soaring, however, as Dean Mayo Davies investigates in the new issue of Dazed, London’s creatives are surviving against all odds.


Heading up the February 2014 issue was cover star Lupita Nyong’o, who had recently starred in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. Shot by Sharif Hamza, and styled by Robbie Spencer, Nyong’o shared some wisdom passed down from her mother that has come to define her approach to life. 
“She instilled in me that you don’t have to apologise for being a woman. There’s no apology in my femininity,” says the actress. Marking the fourth wave of feminism, the issue celebrated the women setting a radical cultural agenda on their own terms, from teens Tavi Gevinson and actress Amandla Stenberg who join forces to discuss the evolution of feminism, to photographer Petra Collins and a head-to-head between Naomi Wolf and author Evie Wyld. As Dazed & Confused’s then-editor-in-chief Tim Noakes wrote in his opening letter: “Boys, embrace the future. Girls Rule The World.”

Dazed’s back catalogue is available online via ExactEditions.