Why Prince was a true style original
WITH the heartbreaking news that Prince passed away on Thursday at age 57, so goes an unparalleled breadth of style. Challenging and stretching the boundaries of masculinity, sex, race, and rock ’n’ roll with his fantastical and gender-bending onstage costumes, the foppish Minnesota native pulled from a consortium of references that included Victorian peasant blouses, sequins, and a seemingly bottomless pool of purple, to cull a distinct rock god look.
The legacy he leaves behind knows no bounds, either: His influence is evident on the runway and on the stage, notably on black male musical eccentrics like Miguel and Kanye West, to this day — and undoubtedly it will endure long after the Purple One himself.
There were those signature flares that flowed about as the musical genius slashed across the strings of his sculptural guitar with expert precision.
The clack of his heeled booties kept to the beat of his endless anthology of hits.
Shirtless and sheathed in a pair of high-waist narrow trousers, Prince crooned, screeched, and bellowed out his sexy and hypnotic lyrics.
Adorned in sequined jumpsuits and twirling about with finesse akin to some of his own heroes, James Brown and Little Richard among them, the seemingly ageless singer outperformed musicians half his age with incomparable flair.
There was no fashion risk he was unwilling to make, whether donning a hat with chains covering his face as he took the stage or wearing even full-on fringed pants . . . pre-Balmain, of course.
He switched up his trademark perm for the bouncy throwback ’ fro he had been sporting just as recently as his appearance at 2015’s Grammy Awards.
There’s a moment in the video When Doves Cry video in which we see Prince in the bathtub shirtless.
He’s looking directly into the camera as he gets out of the tub, and he extends his hand toward the viewer.
It wasn’t the first time anyone had seen Prince’s nude torso; he was topless on his first album cover and had already been wearing shirts that opened down to his waist for years.
But something about that moment, with his with beautifully lined eyes look- ing back in a penetrating stare and a perfectly coiffed head of curls, that manages to feel both vulnerable and slickly styled. He’s masculine but doesn’t shy away from feminine embellishments. That mix is what made him a sexy MF-er.
Prince was only 5-foot-2. He wore high heels. The thing that could bring on a lifelong neurosis for the average man was nothing for this sex god. It probably didn’t even occur to him and certainly didn’t occur to the legions of female fans who were all too happy to have their idea about what was sexy turned on its head by Prince.
His gender-fluid look, developed through the eras of disco and new wave, embraced something many male pop icons tried their hand at, but few came anywhere close to walking the line of explosive sexuality that Prince lived astride.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, his eyeliner, blush, and penchant for purple didn’t make him less dangerous or a dandy. He never lost his edge; he always oozed sex.
That’s at least partly due to his songs, how numbers like “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “Darling Nikki,” “Kiss,” and “Jack U Off” really didn’t shy away from talking about sex and relationships in the most explicit terms.
But he wasn’t two-dimensional about those things either, making our hearts break with emotional songs like “When Doves Cry,” “I Would Die 4 U,” and “Little Red Corvette.”
He could perform in a bikini bottom and high-heeled boots, he could show us his perfect butt, and he could wink at us through his perfectly applied mascara — and never lose an ounce of charisma.
And then there was the way he danced: effortlessly. And the way he played guitar: orgasmically.
His presence onstage made us scream and dream of ripping off his clothes and smudging his perfectly applied eyeliner.
That beauty mark he colored in was an object of fantasy all on its own. His affectations were unique to him — no other male pop star ever tried to be like Prince because there was no being like Prince.
His beauty, his sex appeal, and his genius were one of a kind, intertwined, and flouted the idea of traditional masculine appeal.
By pure force of will, his aesthetic taught many of us to embrace and love the feminine yang to the male yin. — Vogue