John Lydon, otherwise known as Johnny Rotten the insolent front man for the Sex Pistols, turns 54 today. As a young delinquent, Lydon hung around Vivienne Westwood’s fetish shop called SEX where he met Malcolm McLaren who was working with the New York Doll’s at the time and looking to promote a new band. McLaren chose Lydon as the lead singer for the Sex Pistols because he was impressed with his ragged look. The name Rotten was given to him by band mate Steve Jones due to the fact that Johnny’s teeth were apparently – rotten.
Sid and Johnny looking stylishIn the late 70’s the Ramones went over to England to play at a gig with The Clash, the Sex Pistols and several other bands. Supposedly, Rotten was frightened of the Ramones and thought that lead singer Joey might beat him up! Have you seen Joey Ramone (not lately, of course)? Joey was freakishly skinny with a very sweet and passive demeanor. Johnny Rotten wasn’t so tough. Angry definitely, but not tough. He was genuinely concerned for his friend Sid (whose real name was also John) and his addiction to heroin. Johnny pleaded with Sid many times to stop and in the documentary The Filth and the Fury, Rotten is noticeably emotional when talking about his pal Sid.
Rotten in a fabulous plaid blazer!
Obviously, the punk rock movement made a tremendous impact on fashion and the Sex Pistols were one of the leaders. The influence they had on fashion was completely unintentional. Bands like the Sex Pistols weren’t trying to make a fashion statement; on the contrary, they were with great effort making an anti-statement. Johnny and his mates didn’t use safety pins because it was cool; they actually used them to hold their threadbare clothing together since they couldn’t afford a new wardrobe. But, as with any performer, once they’ve established and a fan base, it’s inevitable that their followers soon imitate. After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery…
Johnny Rotten in the late 70's (left) / Rodarte men's 2009 (right)
Johnny on stage in a leather vest and leather cuff
me in menswear pinstripe vest (my own design), leather cuff and "swear rings" by WendyB
Today Johnny lives with his wife of 30 years, Nora, in Los Angeles. He reunited with members from his band PiL which he joined after the Sex Pistols split in 1978. They will be playing shows together in the upcoming months.