David Bowie is perhaps the world’s most famous style, music and life chameleon, having spent the last five decades flitting between radically different personas, from gender-bending bohemian to ever-flamboyant alter ego Ziggy Stardust to new romantic pin up and beyond. Although before he was even a blip on the public’s consciousness, a then 17-year-old Bowie was the lead activist and founder of ‘The Society of The Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men’. Yes, really.
Speaking to the BBC in 1964, a suited-and-booted teen Bowie defends the right to have hair longer than nine inches without abuse. “I think we’re all fairly tolerant, but for the last two years we’ve had comments like ‘Darling!’ and ‘Can I carry your handbag?’ and I think it just has to stop now,” Bowie tells the interviewer in his distinctive, softly-spoken cockney twang. “I think we all like long hair and we don’t see why other people should persecute us because of it.”
Although Bowie’s campaign might sound like the embodiment of a First World White People Problem, it’s worth remembering that his outspoken and unapologetic gender fluidity went on to influence and alter the course of pop culture, style and politics forever.