As the musician turns 74, Another Man explores his extraordinary stylistic legacy
Lucifer, eat your heart out. On December 18, Keith Richards – Mister “too tough to die” – turns 74. Let that sink in for a moment. For nearly three quarters of a century, the man who’s been perennially deemed most likely to bite the dust has evaded your every move and stratagem. Heroin couldn’t topple him, grief couldn’t shake him, the horror of the 80s couldn’t lay a finger on him, and even the ravages of 2016 left the septuagenarian rock and roller unscathed. However, it’s not only the man’s life we’re celebrating here and his adroitness at parrying your many blows, but also the fact that he’s managed to do it looking as cool as hell all the while.
If Brian Jones was the original bad boy of the 60s, Keith quickly stole the title as soon as he ditched the bowl haircut and took, with pal Mick Jagger, the musical reins of The Stones. Making even his badass heroes like Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters look tame, Keith sublimely encapsulated the rakish elegance of the decade. Years before Kurt Cobain thought it would be cool to sport fly-eye shades, there was Keith, rocking them like it was nobody’s business in the mid-60s.
Richards could be seen ambling around London in Persian lambskin coats, snakeskin boots, and lush purple velvet. Add in a raven shag that would evolve into his famed ‘rooster-do’ and a dab of kohl around the eyes, and there you had it: the prototype, the archetypal rock and roll star par excellence. While he has admitted to occasionally raiding his girlfriends’ closets for inspiration, and famously appeared in drag for the cover of The Stones’ Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?, he was a sartorial one-off all the same.
Like The Stones, who found their signature sound in the early 70s, so too did Keith define and epitomise his personal style then. In lieu of the neatly tied silk scarves he donned in the 60s, Keith threw around his neck Sanskrit scarves. He also stowed away the fly-eye shades (and granny glasses), opting instead for aviators to veil those ‘cocaine eyes’, and filled his wardrobe with every manner of frilly cuffed satin shirt. There were also the polka-dot blazers, the shark’s tooth earrings, the proverbial bottle of Jack in hand, and the occasional missing teeth. In other words, the man singlehandedly conceived pirate chic. Jerry Seinfeld may not have wanted to be a pirate, but boy, were there others who did (and do): Johnny Thunders, Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, Izzy Stradlin, Johnny Depp – the list goes on.
On a similar note, where would labels like Alexander McQueen and The Kooples (among others) be without Keef? In terms of skulls, all roads lead back to Keith’s legendary skull ring, which, since the late 70s, has been a permanent fixture; and today, it’s all seemingly come full-circle, with Keith rocking many of the clothes he himself inspired, such as the skull-adorned scarves, python blazers, and rock-chic jewellery. Whoever said that clothes ‘make the man’ obviously wasn’t acquainted with Keith, for, without him and his attitude, they wouldn’t mean a whit.
And so, on the occasion of his 74th birthday, we raise a glass of ‘nuclear waste’ (as he likes to call his vodka screwdrivers) to the man who continues to mock death and squeeze life for all it’s worth in consummate style.
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