As Jim Jarmusch’s new documentary charting the rise of The Stooges hits UK screens, we remember some of the godfather of punk’s most memorable looks
In 1968, at a Halloween party in Ann Arbor, Michigan, James Newell Osterberg Jr and his band The Psychedelic Stooges played their debut gig. The 21-year-old Osterberg, who would soon assume the pseudonym Iggy Pop (an allusion to his first band The Iguanas), hopped on stage wearing, in his own words, “a white face and an aluminium afro wig with a maternity dress and golf shoes” and proceeded to play a Hawaiian guitar with every string tuned to the same note, before going onto make experimental sounds with a vacuum cleaner and a household blender filled with water.
Ever since, the frequently dubbed ‘godfather of punk’ has continued to go against the grain, defying expectations both musically and otherwise, while remaining unashamedly himself. This has involved everything from smearing himself in peanut butter, rolling around in glass, slashing his own chest and exposing as much of his lithe body as possible to starring in indie films such as John Waters’ Cry-Baby, presenting those life insurance commercials, hosting a John Peel lecture and posing nude for British artist Jeremy Deller’s life-drawing class at Brooklyn Museum.
While stylistically speaking, Pop is most readily associated with his unwavering devotion to extremely tight trousers topped by his Miami-tanned torso and straggly locks, his sartorial choices have also proved unpredictable over the years – ranging from the profligate to the poetic. Here, as Gimme Danger – Jim Jarmusch’s anticipated documentary on the rise of The Stooges – hits UK screens this week, we look back on ten of our favourite ensembles from across the inimitable rock star’s career.
DOG COLLARS AND SPACE-INSPIRED ACCESSORIES
“(I decided) it’s a new decade I gotta lose the hair,” Pop told The Independent’s Carola Long of his early-70s look, seen here. “I liked The Jetsons at the time,” he continued, making reference to the space-age cartoon, “so I went with short, go-go, red hair and I bought some cheap silver lamé evening gloves at K-Mart.” Stage-diving (which he is said to have pioneered), a dog collar and ripped jeans that would slowly disintegrate over the course of his visceral live performances were also a big part of his captivating stage persona.
METALLIC LEATHER AND LEOPARD PRINT
As the 70s progressed, so did Pop’s appreciation for glam rock’s sparkly sheen; he frequently doused himself in baby oil and glitter before going on stage and began, in his own words, “playing with the old make-up sticks a bit more.” This photograph, taken by veteran music photographer Mick Rock, shows Pop in London in 1972 when the newly reformed Stooges (after a drug-induced hiatus) had been invited to the capital by David Bowie to record their third album Raw Power. While there, Pop purchased his now iconic cheetah jacket – boasting a faux-fur front and a bold cheetah head embroidered on its black leather black – and studded leather trousers in a dazzling silver which he went on to wear on the Raw Power cover.
BOW TIES AND PATCHWORK JEANS
This brilliant image was taken for the April 1974 edition of Creem magazine which saw Pop grace the cover and had a lengthy feature on The Stooges by revered rock critic Lester Bangs. Rocking a new look, Iggy has swapped his dog collar for a navy silk bow tie, his ripped jeans for colourfully patched ones bearing a prominent Rolling Stones badge, and his trademark black boots from Anello & Davide in London for white sneakers. His once-brown tresses are now bleached blond, his eyes accentuated by metallic eyeshadow. The rest of the shoot sees him breaking up and setting fire to copies of the Raw Power LP, while stripping down to nothing but a bow tie and knee-high black socks, his genitals covered by a single dollar bill.
PIN-STRIPED SUITS AND PANAMA HATS
When Carola Long asked him, in his interview with The Independent, why he was so fond of going shirtless, Pop replied, “It’s to get across, to get closer to you… like a lonely sax. It reaches in a way that works for me,” before proclaiming, “I worked with shirts for a period in the 70s.” Enter this excellent photograph of Pop and fellow musician Patti Smith, taken backstage at the Roxy Theatre in LA in 1977. Pop, wearing a three-piece, pin-striped suit, complete with satin shirt and Panama hat, cuts a slick, complementary dash next to Smith in her iconic black two-piece. Pop is perhaps channelling Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, whose suave, Savile Row style he claims to have much admired in his early years.
DOWNTIME WITH DAVID BOWIE
In 1976, Pop relocated to Berlin along with friend and collaborator David Bowie, with both musicians hoping to overcome drug addiction. Taken in the west of the city near the end of their stay in 1979, this picture shows Pop – who, according to then-girlfriend Esther Friedman, spent most of his time in a black leather jacket – wearing a simple striped sweater and a distinctly 70s flannel scarf. It is a rare and endearing sight to see the two notoriously flamboyant performers in pared-back attire, just goofing around.
POP CULTURE T-SHIRTS
Over the years, Pop has appeared in a lot of covetable t-shirts that proclaim his fandom for the likes of Marc Bolan, cult sci-fi flick Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and various other pop-cultural phenomena. But there’s no beating this one, bearing a snarling Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and perfectly juxtaposed with Pop’s ultra-80s, aerobics pose. The year was 1986, and the singer had just released the new wave-influenced solo album Blah Blah Blah, produced by David Bowie.
FLIRTING WITH FEMININITY
Just one year later and things have taken a more poetic turn, Pop donning what appears to be a woman’s shirt (he frequently borrowed from Friedman’s wardrobe in their years together) and paint-splattered, Bowie-esque high-waisted trousers. While it’s a far cry from Pop as we traditionally picture him, the singer pulls off the brooding, new romantic look surprisingly well.
Fast-forward to 1997, and Pop’s back to his subversive self, decked in one of his most infamous items of clothing to date – the transparent trousers he wore for his performance on Channel 4’s The White Room. He had purchased them in Camden Market shortly before the show. “There they were in a shop, and I just thought they would look good,” he told Long, “and they did, frankly.”
BLACK JEANS AND BARE CHESTS
From the 2000s onwards, Pop’s onstage look is one with which we have all become very familiar. “The guys that work with me call it the ‘Iggy kit’,” he told The Cut in 2014. “If you have a little satchel and a belt that says Iggy, a pair of very, very tight black jeans, balls-tight, and a pair of black Blundstones: that’s what I wore exclusively for the last 12 years.” Surprisingly, however, he claims that he’s only gone through around 100 pairs of jeans over the entire course of his career.
COCKTAIL DRESSES AND DIOR HANDBAGS
Last but not least comes this arresting shot of Pop, dancing solemnly in a cocktail dress with a Lady Dior tote tucked neatly under his arm, taken by Swedish image-maker Mikael Jansson for T Magazine in spring 2011. A number of images from the shoot later featured in Jansson’s photo book Iggy Pop, alongside this memorable quote from the singer: “I’m not ashamed to dress ‘like a woman’ because I don't think it’s shameful to be a woman.” Iggy Pop: we salute you.
Gimme Danger is previewing in UK cinemas now, with a wider release from Friday (November 18)