Photography by Gary Trueman. Model Charly Malone.
We may not all have been blessed with the cheekbones of Debbie Harry, the pout of Courtney Love or the eyeliner budget of Siouxsie Sioux but never fear! With a few hints and tricks, we can all get the look of our fave punk stars. Whether you want to go all out emulation or maybe just borrow a few aspects of the aesthetic, here’s a rundown of New Wave style icon and blonde bombshell Debbie Harry and how she created her look.
Debbie Harry was an ex-Playboy Bunny and CBGBs regular by the time she became the singer of seminal 80s band Blondie. She became a sex symbol far out of the confines of the ‘scene’ and is widely considered a style trail blazer even today, winning Elle’s Style Icon of the Year award as recent as 2017.
You may not want to look like a carbon copy, but Debbie’s hair, make up and wardrobe can be a lot of fun to have a go at yourself! Here are some of the basics to get you going……..
Firstly, she was in a band called Blondie for a reason- she was blonde (‘Blondie’ was the term truck drivers used to catcall Harry with when driving past her). Her golden hair colour is part of her trademark so a really authentic effort to mimic this look will involve making your hair blonde if it isn’t already. Harsh but true. However, hers was not a platinum/bleach/icy blonde, instead it was a natural dirty blonde. For a grungy, punk look keep your roots dark and gradually lighten towards the tips. Dark roots and regrowth are your friends! Her hair was not long, it was rarely past her shoulders so keep your tresses mid-length and ask your hairdresser (or ‘ave a word with yourself if you’re doing a bit of DIY) to cut in a few razored layers so you have the option of messing it up a bit. You want to obtain a thin fringe that is not too blunt or monolength- Debbie’s hair is easier to get when you have got different layers.
When styling, try and get as much volume both in the roots and the length of the hair as possible- dry out instead of down. Use a texturing spray (preferably one with sea salt) to separate the layers and give a slightly messy look. Avoid using sculpting clay as this will make the ends heavy and be too defined- Debbie didn’t sport any hugely defined styles- it was footloose and fancy free.
This depends on what ‘era’ of Debbie you particularly want to capture but whichever you decide you’re probably going to need to master the ‘smoky eye’. I know, I know…easier said than done. I’ve been attempting to ‘master’ a smoky eye for the best part of 15 years and still struggle to avoid looking like Nosferatu after a bad night’s sleep. To stand any kind of chance, invest in a good smoky eyeshadow palette full of glittery browns, greys and silvers. Consider your eyeshadow in threes- you want one lighter colour for all over your lid; a darker one to blend into the crease and one to blend in the outer corners. Make sure you’ve got black eyeliner and a finger ready- you’re going to be smudging it all with your fingertip (remember not to touch walls, white bedsheets or your mam’s best doilies until you’ve washed said fingers). I would definitely recommend using a kohl pencil rather than liquid eyeliner for this as it smudges better. Lavish a bit of mascara on to complete the look. If you really want to get that ‘doe eyed’ look then put some white eyeliner or a silver eyeshadow in the inner corners of your eye to give the illusion they are bigger and sparklier than they are.
If you are not naturally blessed with cheekbones that could slice cheese then never fear- fake it til you make it! Some basic contouring principles will help here but to do it you will need two different shades of blush- one darker and one lighter. Suck your cheeks in so your cheek bone is exposed and brush a darker shade underneath the bones. Then use the lighter shade to brush over the apples of your cheeks. This should make them much more defined. Debbie alternated between rosy pinks and peachy corals so go for whatever colour combo you prefer.
Lip wise you want to stock up on some sticky gloss as Harry favoured the shiny lip look. In terms of colour, she has had it all- peach to hot pink to pin-up red. Whichever shade you choose, line your lips giving a bow shape in the centre and then colour in with lipstick and slather over a generous layer of gloss. Sticking your lips out in a sultry pout is, of course, optional.
Clothes: This is the really fun bit- you can wear pretty much anything! Hooray! Harry’s career has such longevity that she has gone through many different style phases and has probably worn just about everything (except maybe Uggs and shell suits) but here are some of the best:
Leather: Growing up in Noo Yawk and all, Harry rubbed shoulders with your Ramones; your Warhols and your general trendy Avant Garde types. And leather was all the rage in 70s/80s NYC and a good fitted, black leather jacket could be worn by anyone. You can dress it up or down but to make it truly Harry-esque, ad a couple of badges on the collar and wear open. Leather trousers were also a favourite and if you’re really daring you can go DOUBLE LEATHER but don’t blame me for any sweat rashes you get on your arse.
T-shirt dresses: The good ol’ t-shirt dress has been in and out of our lives for decades and I for one am a MASSIVE FAN of this look. Basically, get a big t-shirt and wear it like a dress! Simples! Harry did it all the time, sometimes cinching it in at the waist to accentuate her figure; sometimes just letting it hang loose but short. It’s a versatile, comfy look and you can make it your own by using any t-shirt you want. Plain? That’s fine. Band t-shirt? Yep, all good. Star Trek? Game of Thrones? Harry Potter? Er…..yeah, go on then. Fuck it, we’re punks.
One shoulder tops: Common in her 1979-1981 phase, Debbie liked to show off a bit of the ol’ shoulder skin. She has donned every incarnation of a one-shoulder top- sequins; animal print; silk etc. You can make any top a one-shoulder affair by stretching out/cutting off the neck line and puling down on one side. An easy ‘rock-chick-in-Summer’ look. Or for showing off some cool tatts.
Accessories: Debbie was actually quite minimal when it come to additional trinkets in her outfits, so this is where you can really make the look your own and take her foundations one step further. If you really want to go true Debbie Harry though, get yourself some statement sunglasses and a pair of simple heels (she often wore heels as she’s only 5 foot 3).
So, there’s a whistle-stop tour through one of the most iconic women of the 20th century! But remember, style is meant to be fun so only wear what YOU want to wear and have fun!