Malcolm McLaren

Malcolm McLaren

Fashion Music
New York Dolls
  • 40.725130

Future Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren lived in New York while he was managing the New York Dolls and often went to CBGB, where he Richard Hell’s chopped hair and ripped, safety-pinned clothes—a style McLaren popularized with his partner, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.


Malcolm McLaren Poaches Richard Hell’s Look


The mass media image of punk—think: safety pins holding together ripped clothes—was the result of a transatlantic conversation that developed between the New York and London scenes. Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren started out running a London clothing store in the early 1970s with designer Vivienne Westwood, and then dipped his toes in band management during the New York Dolls’ final days. This pairing happened after McLaren and Westwood began flying to New York for fashion trade shows, where they met Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain—who had his own boutique clothing company, Truth and Soul. McLaren lived in New York when he was managing the Dolls and often went to CBGB, where he kept his eyes wide open. One person he noticed was Richard Hell, who was then playing bass in Television. “Richard had very distinct way of dressing,” Roberta Bayley recalled. “He thought it through. He was very clear on how he came to the look, the haircut, and everything. … So Malcolm went back to England and incorporated some of those things into the things Vivienne designed. I don’t think Malcolm made any particular bones about copying Richard’s look. He was a conceptualist artist, and Malcolm just liked the idea that people looked like street urchins.” One day in 1976, Chris Stein was paging through a European rock magazine and said, “Hey Richard, you’ve got to see this. There are four guys who look exactly like you!” Hell looked and saw the name Malcolm McLaren by a photo of the Sex Pistols.

From Chapter 33 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore