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David Bowie, The Geoff MacCormack Collection
David Bowie: Hammersmith Odeon, London, 1973Photography Geoff MacCormack

Unpacking David Bowie's beauty evolution

TextAlex Peters


“I think that, at heart, I’m no different from anybody else,” reflected David Bowie to Jefferson Hack in his 1995 cover interview for Dazed. “And yet,” Hack wrote in reponse to this statement, “it’s so obvious that he is.”

Bowie’s influence on the fashion industry and pop culture at large is both undeniable and unparalleled. Never afraid to experiment with his look, Bowie pushed (and crossed) boundaries throughout his career, using his body as a canvas for creativity, self-expression and individuality at its most extreme. With his ever-changing personas and continual self-reinvention, Bowie’s identity was fluid, androgynous and sexually ambiguous, and with each shape-shift came the next seismic cultural shift.

Today would have been Bowie’s 72nd birthday, and to mark the occasion we look at some of the standout moments in his beauty evolution.

The Mod

Before Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane and even David Bowie there was Davy Jones, a mod teenager whose minimal yet sharp style included crisp suits, inch-wide ties and a bouffant haircut.

The Hippie

Seen here just a year before debuting alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, Bowie’s long hippie hair and flowing outfit already suggests the androgynous style he would become so known for throughout his career.

Ziggy Stardust

Ziggy Stardust lands. With his shaved eyebrows, naturally mismatched eyes (the result of a school fight) and celestial gold sphere dominating his forehead, Bowie's fantastical otherworldly look makes it easy to believe alter-ego Ziggy Stardust really was a bisexual alien from Mars. The now iconic hairstyle was created by Suzi Fussey, Bowie's Beckenham-based hairdresser, using peroxide and German hair dye.

Aladdin Sane

The face that launched a thousand copycats. The most iconic of Bowie's looks (immortalised forever as an emoji), the flame hair and lightening bolt make-up Bowie rocks on the cover of 1973 album Aladdin Sane has been replicated endlessly in fashion and wider pop culture, with everyone from Kate Moss to Lady Gaga paying homage.

The Thin White Duke

After the wild and otherworldly glam rock looks of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, Bowie’s next persona was the Thin White Duke, a character not without controversy. With inspiration for the impeccably dressed alter-ego coming from cabaret, the Thin White Duke was amoral, emaciated, and had slicked back hair, and was described by Bowie as “a nasty character indeed.” Bowie’s cocaine dependency was at an all-time high, and after a number of pro-fascism comments and an alleged Nazi salute incident at Victoria Station, Bowie moved to Berlin and got clean.

The Goblin King

In 1986, Bowie took on the role of Jareth the goblin king in Jim Henson’s brilliantly bizarre Labyrinth, a movie for which he also wrote and recorded the soundtrack. It's a character that is still beloved by many and – thanks to a costume that was part ethereal Mr Darcy, part glam rock pirate, with wild 80s rocker hair, glossy lips, monochrome shadowed eyes, and those pointy brows – remembered by all.

The Nineties

In the last few decades of his career, Bowie returned to a more toned-down beauty look. Here he is fronting the cover of Dazed and Confused in 1995 and sporting a highlights-eyeliner-goatee combo only acceptable in the 90s.

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