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11 androgynous icons who redefined gender, style and sex – while looking suitably amazing

11 androgynous icons who redefined gender, style and sex – while looking suitably amazing

Adam Lambert's 2009 debut album was paired with striking imagery that played with ideas of gender

Today’s catwalks are full of models across all gender and sexual spectrums, rocking male and female looks simultaneously.

But who laid the foundations for the gender-fluid fashion and style movement in full swing today?

Here, we pay props to the stars of decades past (plus a few more recent faces), whose daring approach to appearance – and often sexuality and gender – paved the way for countless future provocateurs…


1 Annie Lennox

Ginger buzzcut. Sharp suit. Smoky eye. Bright red lip. Scottish superstar Annie rocked a truly iconic look for the Eurythmics’ 1983 single Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).

So amazing, in fact, that it remains burned on pop culture’s consciousness 33 years later. The look continues to reverberate through the fashion world, and while Annie’s style is ever-changing, she’s still partial to a bit of masculine tailoring now and again.


2 Boy George

The same year Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) was released, another androgynous pop superstar was holding the world’s gaze. Culture Club – fronted by the inimitable Boy George – released Karma Chameleon, which became a worldwide hit. The Boy’s wild, heavily made up, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink style also garnered mass attention.

The band are still touring after all these years, and George still has the most beautifully made up eyes of any celebrity we can think of.


3 Conchita Wurst

It was clear from the start that Eurovision Song Contest 2014 champ Conchita was more than just a ‘bearded drag queen.’

The gorgeous Austria-born singer, who last year appeared topless on the cover of German Rolling Stone magazine, brought the concept of gender-fluidity to the Euro masses. And all the while without a hair out of place.


4 Grace Jones

An inexhaustible pioneer of androgyny in fashion, art, music and beyond, Grace Jones has influenced the the likes of Miley, Gaga and Rihanna more than they’ll ever know. Probably.

The Pull Up to the Bumper singer is known for her frank, fearless and ferocious attitude to life. As well as that achingly cool flattop haircut on the cover of Nightclubbing. On her male and female influences she said in 2008. ”I do change roles in life, I live that way. I go feminine, I go masculine. I am both, actually. I think the male side is a bit stronger in me and I have to tone it down sometimes.’


5 Janelle Monáe

She burst onto the music scene in her signature tuxedo with 2010’s Tightrope. And soul singer Monáe refused to be photographed in anything else for a very long time.

Explaining the political message behind her style, the star once told NME: ‘It’s up to us as women not to accept [sexism] and lead by example, and that’s what I’ve always tried to do with music and the way that I dress. I won’t allow myself to be oppressed, or I won’t allow myself to be a slave or controlled by anybody’s own belief system.’


6 Brian Molko

The above picture doesn’t do him justice, but Placebo frontman and self-confessed ‘Nancy Boy‘ was, and is, a mysteriously sexy style icon. The openly bisexual star is know first and foremost for his strikingly confessional lyrics, but also for his taste in lipstick, nail polish and daring outfits. ‘Dresses, I find, are impractical in social situations, but I enjoy wearing them a great deal on stage,’ he once said.

Now, excuse us while we re-listen to Pure Morning 764 times.


7 David Bowie

The world mourned the loss of the icon earlier this year. But Bowie’s legend lives on, not only in his music, but also the many chapters of his image. Sometimes sexy, sometimes strange, but never ordinary.

The touring V&A exhibit ‘David Bowie is…‘ celebrates the Let’s Dance singer’s eclectic dressing up box, including out favourite look: the ultra revealing one-legged knitted jumpsuit.


8 Kristen Stewart

She’s started touching on the subject of her non-heterosexuality with the media in the last year. But K-Stew has been expressing her unconventional identity with her androgynous chic fashion choices for years.

She told Harper’s Bazaar UK in 2015 that she likes ‘being really sexy or insanely androgynous,’ adding: ‘I’m not great at applying make-up myself. My mom never taught me anything, she doesn’t wear make-up…I like mineral make-up. You can’t screw it up and it’s not bad for your skin.’


9 Ruby Rose

The Orange is the New Black actress is one of the hottest LGBTI stars of recent years. And with her mammoth social media following, she’s breaking down remaining barriers around sexuality and gender with ease.

In an interview with Refinery29, the model said: ‘I’ve always been a tomboy, and been gender-fluid; I have days where I dress more femininely, and then there are days where I’ll dress with a masculine vibe. […] Regardless of who you are, it’s about dressing for what you want to express.’


10 Tilda Swinton

One of her early-ish film roles was in Orlando, an adaptation of the Virginia Wolf novel, in which she played a man who turns into a woman. The role fit her perfectly.

The ethereal beauty once said: ‘The other day, I was going through the airport security and I was searched by a male security guard. I’m very often referred to as “Sir” in elevators and such. I think it has to do with being this tall and not wearing much lipstick. I think people just can’t imagine I’d be a woman if I look like this.’


11 Adam Lambert

The artist formally known as Glambert has softened his image since appearing on American Idol in 2009. (And we’ve got to say, the 34-year-old looking sexier than ever). But there was something equally transfixing about him in those early days. The multicoloured hair, the layers of make up, the ultra-feminine accessories – it made an impact.

Nevertheless, he told Billboard of his evolving look in 2013: ‘I’ve put down a lot of the makeup. I put the flat iron in the attic. I’m looking at people like Elvis and James Dean. I’ve been asked: “Did you want to tone it down?” It wasn’t that I was consciously [doing that], though. It just shifted.’