Pamela Rooke, aka Jor­dan, poses in Vivi­enne West­wood’s Sex shop, Lon­don, 1976

The Guardian - Weekend - - That’s Me In The Picture -

In 1976, punk was ex­plod­ing across Lon­don. I was work­ing at Sex, the Kings Road bou­tique owned by Vivi­enne West­wood and Mal­colm McLaren, where this pic­ture was taken. Chrissie Hynde, Sid Vi­cious and Glen Mat­lock all had jobs there at dif­fer­ent times; John Ly­don au­di­tioned for the Sex Pis­tols by singing along to the shop’s juke­box. In my first week, two of the New York Dolls came in for a browse.

It was my dream job. Since I was 13, I’d been push­ing the lim­its of how I looked. I wanted to turn my­self into a work of art. I started go­ing by the name Jor­dan, af­ter a char­ac­ter in The Great Gatsby, and would search my home town, Seaford, and nearby Brighton for vin­tage clothes to trans­form with studs, rips, vinyl patches and bal­le­rina ac­ces­sories.

At 14, I was ex­cluded from school for hav­ing a pink mo­hawk. At 16, I was in the front row of a David Bowie con­cert when he walked over and asked if he could have my ear­rings. I said no. I liked Bowie, but I liked the ear­rings more.

At Sex, I’d wear net tops, rub­ber skirts, stilet­tos. When I started, I was still com­mut­ing from Seaford; Bri­tish Rail put me in first class be­cause other pas­sen­gers com­plained about my clothes. I’d not been work­ing there long when this shot was taken; it was for a mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle about risque shops. The pho­tog­ra­pher only came to get some in­te­rior im­ages, but the five of us in this shot [from right, Vivi­enne West­wood, me, Chrissie Hynde, writer Alan Jones, un­known, and Sex Pis­tol Steve Jones] hap­pened to be there and I sup­pose we took over. It was spon­ta­neous. What I’m wear­ing – the racoon makeup, the PVC skirt – was what I’d turned up in that day.

Vivi­enne was in­sis­tent the pic­tures should cap­ture some spirit. Punk was about in­spir­ing peo­ple to rip up rules and push bound­aries. That’s what we were try­ing to con­vey. I’m not sure why I lifted my top, but it felt right, and still does. There’s noth­ing sex­ual about it. It’s em­pow­er­ing: a young woman who is com­fort­able in her own skin. Af­ter, I went back to serv­ing cus­tomers. It was all fairly mat­ter-of-fact.

Not long af­ter, the Sex Pis­tols made their TV de­but, and Mal­colm, who man­aged them, asked me to go along and get on stage. He said I’d add weight to their look. It was fun and I started do­ing it at a few of their gigs. Af­ter that, I’d oc­ca­sion­ally end up in the tabloids as a face of punk. It wasn’t some­thing I looked for, but I never minded. I man­aged Adam and the Ants for a while and starred in the cult films Se­bas­tiane and Ju­bilee.

Peo­ple have since said that see­ing me gave them the courage to dress dif­fer­ently. That was never my in­ten­tion, but it makes me very proud. I still get teenagers say­ing it to me to­day. I tell them: be in­spired by oth­ers, but al­ways be your­self.

I left Lon­don and Sex – by then called World’s End – in 1984. I was 28 and a lit­tle dis­il­lu­sioned. There was ter­ri­ble sex­ism in the mu­sic in­dus­try, which I had no de­sire to be part of any more. It felt the right time to move on. But I never stopped be­liev­ing in the ethos of punk. Those years showed me, if you just have the courage, you can be any­one you want to be – I still be­lieve that as much as I did in 1976. In that way, I’m the same per­son to­day as that 20-yearold in the pic­ture.

Jor­dan is In Con­ver­sa­tion to­day at the Louder Than Words mu­sic and lit­er­ary fes­ti­val, Manch­ester, which ends to­mor­row (loud­erthanwords­fest.com). Interview: Colin Drury

Are you in a no­table pho­to­graph? Email thatsme@the­guardian.com

‘Since I was 13 I’d been push­ing the lim­its of how I looked. At 14, I was ex­cluded from school for hav­ing a pink mo­hawk. At 16, Bowie asked if he could have my ear­rings’

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