Bin There, Read That: Wild Style

Title: Wild Style

Authors: Robert Hofler and Cyn. Zarco

Photographs: Doug Vann

Year Published: 1985

Publisher: Fireside/Simon & Schuster

Purchased: Phar-Mor

Price: $1.00 (originally sold for $7.95)

Wild style is “the next wave in fashion, hair and makeup.” Wild style combines the retro and the futuristic, the minimalist and the baroque, the glamorous and the beyond-glamorous. Wild style exists among the most attractive young residents of New York City’s hippest, artsiest, partyingest neighborhoods. Wild style makes no statement, has no philosophy, doesn’t really care about anything one way or the other. Wild style is the 1980s.

See Sasha, the punkette, who uses egg whites to keep her two-story white Mohawk standing tall. See Michael, the Max Headroom lookalike, who wears a black string tie, black checkered jacket, green shirt, and gold pants ensemble he calls “Hollywood-Coconut Grove extravagance with a little dash of today and ‘Dallas’ and tomorrow.” See Ti Ti, the makeup artist and hairstylist, who has created an “ ‘aquamarine’ face” in only nine easy steps (“4. Small dots of blue and green eye cream may be applied over the green shadow for added highlights”). See Keith Haring, the graffiti artist formerly from Pittsburgh, who wears “his favorite leather jacket—a brown aviator with an oil portrait of Michael Jackson on the back.” See Elizabeth, the paparazzi favorite, who goes nightclubbing in a designer “see-through vinyl dress with faux-fur hemline”, nothing but white electrical tape covering her nipples. See Gerold, Albert, Kimberly, Charlotte, Julinda, Naoko, Sur Rodney, and many others in black threads, sculpted tresses, or troweled-on pastel face paint, or in various combinations of these.

And remember the words of Louise: “Let’s face it, people today are more attracted to Marilyn Monroe than the Thompson Twins.”

Addendum: I’d originally written this circa 2001-2002 for the Pittsburgh City Paper’s Bin There, Read That column, which reviewed old, discounted books, the type found on bargain tables and in thrift stores. (Note the local angle, namely the reference to Keith Haring’s hometown.) I submitted my piece, to no response. If I crafted this piece today, I would mention that I’d bought Wild Style during the early Nineties, and that the book had helped me survive that who-cares, nothing-will-change decade, the book’s depiction of a sophisticated, fun, aesthetically-advanced time and place that I’d never experienced firsthand nevertheless causing me to nostalgia-gasm repeatedly, never mind that probably a large percentage of the Wild Stylers had to endure Eighties-era misery, including economic precariousness, and racism, and AIDS, and everything else that would make the following decade so miserable, too. (As a teenager and young adult during the Eighties, I considered myself the next Beau Brummel for wearing a Pac-Man T-shirt in public.)—May 19-21, 2023

Copyright © 2023 by David V. Matthews

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