The Manics- reactionary pioneers of feminine identity or shameless culture sluts?

Dressing in drag - the ultimate way to separate you from the Nuts and Zoo generation, or an alternative to staying in and listening to Razorlight? As any young man who has had to run away from a horde of syphilitic Loaded readers for wearing a little Revlon can testify, androgyny isn't an easy lifestyle choice. So what made Nicky 'Shirley' Wire first don his auntie's blouse, rummage through his mother's powder compact and smear himself in glitter? And why risk having chips thrown at you on the bus in the first place?

When The Manics arrived in a flurry of leopard print and Cacharel in the early nineties, their followers had finally found a band as literate, ambitious and articulate as themselves. Young men who had kept their Bowie records and existentialist texts to themselves had found a band who spoke to them. Wearing fur coats and eyeliner was about more than the potency of tawdry glamour. It became a uniform that declared allegiance to political rhetoric over indifference, articulacy over apathy. It distanced you from the Paco Rabanne wearing bloke who knew more about Carling than Camus. By embracing the aesthetic of glam rock, the Manics also aligned themselves with their heartlands - the swathes of women who at last had found a band who not only looked great in spray-on white jeans but also had the intelligence and empathy to match their own worldview.

But what made the Manics the first band of their era to carefully appropriate the panda eyes in the first place? Surely it was their intellectual ferocity, fuelled by small town frustration which caused them to assume an antagonistic identity as a way of declaring the lyrical innovation inside.

This must echo how glam rock started - as a response to the communal, inclusive, badly deodorized sixties. What better way for a generation to forge their own identity out of the wreckage of free-for-all festivals and piss-drenched Portaloos than to preach poise, elegance, and a liberal smattering of Boots 17 as a design for life? Pissing off the parents who first dictated a binary attitude towards sexuality probably didn't make it any less appealing either. Thirty years later, The Manics realised that the same image would offer the same service. It would illuminate the contrast between them and the countless Fred Perry wearing Gallagheresque drones who sometimes accidently tried to pull them at discos.

And perhaps the bow around the androgynous package, the lipstick trace on the powder compact, was that by recycling the aesthetic of the glam rock era they were also making a point about the impossibility of originality in the trash culture we live in.

Or perhaps Richey just realised he looked amazing wearing a bit of kohl?

Guy Mankowski

Guy Mankowski is lead singer of Alba Nova. They can be found at

Get your knickers in a twist about this rant on our message boards here