The Least-Known Most Influential Man in Fashion

Add to the list Slash (whose signature look owes much to Mr. Bolan’s portrait on the cover of the 1972 album “The Slider”), St. Vincent, James Bagshaw of the rock outfit Temples (a spit and image), and Johnny Depp in the “Alice” films. Generally speaking, though, the man behind glam rock is largely shrouded in obscurity, while Bowie is hailed as its poster boy.

Born Mark Feld into a Jewish family in London, Mr. Bolan always knew he wanted to be famous. First, he did it with solely with style, appearing in Mod outfits in magazine spreads and cardboard cutouts in department stores; later on, in the early ’70s, he did it with his band T. Rex. Widely credited with pioneering the glam rock movement, Mr. Bolan, with his corkscrew hair, sparkly makeup and flamboyant outfits, defined an era of glitter and gobbledygook, though he never broke through in America.

“A lot of fashion designers reference him today,” said Oriole Cullen, senior fashion and textiles curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum. “You can really see that again and again. For instance, at YSL when Hedi Slimane was there, with the chunky platforms, baby-doll dresses, the snakeskin jackets.”

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Mr. Bolan’s sartorial style can be seen in the Topman, fall 2016 collection.

Credit
Gio Staiano/Nowfashion

According to Ms. Cullen, a host of other designers has also been influenced by the man once widely known as the “bopping imp” (Mr. Bolan was less than 5 feet 6 inches tall). His influence can be seen in the glittery space boots of the Saint Laurent fall 2017 collection, the lush red velvet trousers in Anna Sui’s fall 2017 show and coruscating jackets and vivid patterned flares in Balmain’s spring 2017 collections. (A Guardian article explicitly mentioned Mr. Bolan as an influence on Topman’s fall 2016 collection.)

There also is Michael Halpern, a New Yorker whose debut during London Fashion Week in February was heralded for its use of glitter fabrics and wide-flared trousers, and Paula Knorr, a recent graduate of Royal College of Art in London, with a liking for lamé and what Ms. Cullen called “wider flowing shapes.”

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Saint Laurent, fall 2017. (Note the glittery space boots.)

Credit
Gio Staiano/Nowfashion

And Gucci’s current…

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