Sunday, 11 May 2014

poetry's high-priestess for twenty-first century rock 'n' roll

For me, Patti Smith represents all the goals. She is the Godmother of Punk, or if you prefer, the self entitled Poetry's High Priestess For Twenty-First Century Rock 'N' Roll. She did not release 'Horses'- her poetry meets punk meets rock n roll debut- until 1975 but before then she was already moving in the right circles of artists at the Chelsea Hotel with her best friend, and sometimes lover, Robert Mapplethorpe.

'Horses' was not only a success because of the wonderful guitar ballads alongside beautifully eloquent lyrics, but because of the controversially androgynous album art (see above.) Ugh, yeah, even in the '70s androgyny was still subversive. Female singers were supposed to be pretty and feminine. Not very punk rock, huh? Patti often shared clothes with Robert and this gave her a distinctive look that coolness radiated off of. The cover of 'Horses' epitomises her love for loose neck ties and oversized blazers. I recreated the look for my first day of wearing own clothes for sixth form in September. I bought a size 18 blazer for 99p in a charity shop whilst I was reading 'Just Kids.'

My dad has a book called '100 Best Album Covers' which tells the story of how the cover of 'Horses' was shot. It's really beautiful and kind of sums up Robert and Patti's unique friendship:

Mapplethorpe and Smith spent several hours at the Pink Teacup on Bleecker Street. Suddenly Mapplethorpe looked at his watch. "Let's get out of here", he said, throwing change on the table and running from the café. Patti Smith had no idea what was happening but she followed him as she sprinted down the street. "The light" he called out, "we can't lose the light." Mapplethorpe lined up her body so that the tip of the triangle of light jutted from her collarbone, like an angel's wing. He knew he'd taken a good picture before he saw the contact sheets.

I was lucky enough to see Patti live on my 16th birthday last year. The venue was a small Church in Brighton and Patti asserted her punkdom right away by stopping mid song to tell the commissioned photographer to fuck off. She read out extracts from 'Just Kids' in between songs, including the story of Robert stealing a painting but feeling so awful about it that he flushed it down a toilet. It was a magical night and Patti wished me a happy birthday. The concert ended with us jumping up and down to 'People Have The Power' literally centimetres away from Patti herself. Whenever Antonio and I talk about it now we usually get so excited we start shouting. I told Eleanor about it at the Rookie meet up in the middle of Foyles and she screamed and hugged me. 

Patti's laidback androgynous style oozes cool. She has sported jeans to the most formal of events, though often she opts for a baggy tux instead. Though most of her outfits seem extremely effortless, all her best looks are not complete without a hat. Patti's outfits are sartorially basic, mixing together what many assume to be wardrobe essentials, such as the white shirt, fitted black trousers and t-shirts. The clothes themselves are not entirely distinctive. It is the fact that they are worn 2 sizes too big and with a load of punk attitude that make them look so unique. So get out your menswear inspired clothes, put on 'Horses' and read some Rimbaud. Here are some of my favourite looks worn by Patti:

This is one of my favourite ever photographs of Patti Smith. The look is really well put together because there are so many layers and subtle details to it. The rings and the thin necklace finish the outfit off cohesively.  Cut-off denim shorts and tights are a key go-to outfit and Patti wears them so well. The tights balance out the bagginess of the upper part of the outfit. The hair sticking up behind the hairband, gives a kind of bedhead I-don't-give-a-fuck look.

I can confirm that Patti looked kind of like this when she told the photographer to leave her gig in August. My favourite thing about this outfit is definitely the blazer. It appears more complex than the blocks of monochrome usually worn. Wayfarers are classic. Full stop.

Another 'Horses' snap.

The ripped jeans are grunge before its time. Of course, the best thing to top off ripped jeans with is a basic t-shirt. This is where you get the freedom to choose a catchy slogan, a favourite band or whatever else you can iron onto a t-shirt. The hat, however, gives the outfit a more sophisticated put together tone. Get ahead, get a hat.

It's often a good idea to get a t-shirt that is a few sizes too big. I recently received a medium men's Sonic Youth 'Goo' t-shirt from eBay and I really like the fit. It adds androgyny but is also fabulous to tuck into skirts and trousers for a more shapely look.

Recreating 'Horses' 30 years on.

Overall, Patti Smith's look is rather writer-esque. As Patrick from The Perks of Being a Wallflower says, "All the great writers had great suits." This is one of the things that I personally adore most about Patti's look. Some days I just wanna Bukowski it and write all day long but I need to be wearing the right outfit to do so. Nearly all female style icons, however, are all pretty and glamorous. Patti just waltzed around like a beat poet. This messenger bag is perfect for carrying around manuscripts. It is notable that Patti should take on the traditional look of a male writer because she was breaking into punk music, a very male dominated domain. She does it all with such unforgiving elegance.

The ripped details on the t-shirt make it seem like it is very well worn. The dirty look also makes the t-shirt look very loved. Items like this really seem as though they have a history. Even if they haven't and they are just made that way, they always add character to a bland outfit.
You can never go wrong with a striped top and lots of necklaces. There are no shortages of beanies available to purchase on the high street at the moment (mostly due to Miss Cara Delevigne) so pop out and get one to complete this outfit. Chunky black boots look so great, especially at a special event where most others are probably wearing delicate stilettos. It reminds me of Kristen Stewart's fabulous look at the MTV Movie Awards in 2009.

Hanging out with Marc Jacobs.

Hanging out with Johnny Depp (who is a huge fan.) Patti looks like some kind of Dickens character here- a look that I am always trying to achieve. They both can rock the all black look and look hot doing so.

There is so much RIGHT with this outfit. The glamour notch is switched up a little more than usual with this sequin blazer. I have been lusting after a sequin tux for literally 3 years but I still have found/purchased one. The best accessory of this look simply has to be that unique camera.

Here we also see something a bit different, with the ruffled details on the blouse. Such details do not overwhelm the rest of the outfit, neither do they send it over the edge. Here, Patti achieves the perfect balance between laidback and edgy without sacrificing any aspects of her signature look.
Get the Look

just kids

Rebecca Taylor crop shirt
£135 -

Asos top
£6.78 -

Brown trench coat
£12 -

Pied a Terre slim leg pants

Vintage shorts

Ray Ban wayfare
£180 -

Charlotte Russe head wrap headband
£3.55 -

If you are still not convinced of Patti Smith's brilliance, remember that it was her who once said,
"Rimbaud was like my boyfriend. If you're 15 or 16 and you can't get the boy you want, and you have to daydream about him all the time, what's the difference if he's a dead poet or a senior?"
Furthermore, she wrote this tragic yet breathtakingly beautiful piece on Lou Reed after his passing last year.


  1. PATTI SMITH IS A MEGA BRILLIANT. She is a total creative spirit/inspiration/master of androgeny. My friend read her book - Just Kids and it seems to have had a huge effect on her. I really want to read it.Your blog is brilliant, lovely.
    Bella xx

    1. You should definitely read Just Kids- it is quite life changing. Thank you <3

  2. Patti is DYNAMITE. I absolutely loved reading Just Kids, and that's what introduced me to all her music and wonderfulness. I can't believe you saw her live, I am almost in tears because that is my dream. This is a killer post. You describe her so perfectly.

    1. DYNAMITE is such a fabulous way of describing her! Thank you so much :)

  3. Patti Smith is QUEEN omg. Everything about her and her writing radiates cool, beautiful, punk rock androgyny. Your description of her style is spot on. Everything she does is brilliant.


  4. I'm afraid I'm not too familiar with who she is, but I totally get a Keith Richards vibe of her look. Love the pic of her and Johnny Depp, they look like family.

    1. Oh yeah, there is something Keith Ricards-y about her look. They really do aha!

  5. Not very familiar with her but she owns the androgynous look


  6. Style icon!


    Anastasia from FashionPeekaboo

  7. Am I the only one who didn't know Patti Smith? Well, I did not grow up in the West so that may be it. But then now that I read your whole post and saw all the pictures, I can't get over the fact that how contemporary her decade old looks are. After all, this is the kind of aesthetic that is sought-after in the mainstream today. She was a visionary then in that sense! :)

    Absolutely loved your post. Want to find out more about Patti now!


    Swati @ The Creative Bent


If you comment I'll always love you and we can hang out and bake vegan cupcakes and drink tea and listen to sixties records. Go on, you know you want to...