Mick Jagger was the Swinging Sixties made flesh. Along with his ragtag court of haute-bohemian gypsies like Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg, this son of a gym teacher and an Avon Lady was the embodiment of a high-low society that brought together models and photographers, plutocrats and aristocrats into one drugged-out, sexed-up jet-set happening. As the music critic Nik Cohn once wrote, by 1966, "Jagger was the most wanted guest in the world, the final face, the ultimate. For one pout of his red lips, any millionaire hostess going would have promised away her life."
In fact, more than one may have. He's been linked to Catherine Guinness, Cornelia Guest and Margaret Trudeau, who was the first lady of Canada at the time. In 1978, Jerry Hall broke off her engagement with Bryan Ferry to be with Jagger. And over the years, he has notched a list of model conquests the length of a catwalk.
The legendary aesthete Cecil Beaton best summed up Jagger's androgynous allure: "Mouth almost too large, but he is beautiful and ugly, feminine and masculine, a 'sport,' a rare phenomenon." His unconventional looks have seduced not only a bevy of beauties, but also two generations of pop-culture image-makers, including Rei Kawakubo, the Comme des Garçons designer, who riffed on the iconic logo of Jagger's childbearing lips in her spring collection.
It's easy to see why designers continue to behave like Jagger groupies. A pop Byron, Jagger was dirty — witness his 1967 drug bust, involving a mythical Mars bar and Faithfull naked on a fur rug — and exuded an air of supernatural menace. (During the late 60's, the avant-garde filmmaker and Magus Kenneth Anger inflamed Jagger's interest in the occult, resulting in the album "Their Satanic Majesties Request" and the song "Sympathy for the Devil.")
But what makes Jagger truly compelling is the tension generated by the opposing facets of his persona. Jagger is the middle-class boy with upper-class aspirations who affects a working-class accent; the revolutionary Street Fighting Man who knelt before royalty to receive a knighthood in 2003; the narcissist who left Bianca, his mirror-image wife, for a six-foot blonde. As he ages, his physicality, too, reflects his perversity. At 62, he is at once Dorian Gray and the portrait in the attic, the lined face of a debauched satyr set upon a body that remains as lithe and lean as any of today's freakishly skinny man-child models.
Jagger's struggle for identity has thrown up an endless parade of masculine fashion referents: from the psychedelic velvet fin de siècle drag in which he pranced around to portray the reclusive opium-deranged rock star in "Performance" to the nipped-in tailored look, a precursor to the attenuated suits currently in fashion and made famous in a portrait by Hiro. Now that Jagger's Luciferian fop threads and the coke-sharp tailoring of his Studio 54 nights have been sampled ad nauseam, perhaps even his oversize acid-colored raincoats teamed with white Reeboks or his Jazzercise sausage-skin tights may look fresh to future stylists.HORACIO SILVA AND ZARAH CRAWFORD