The Wordsmith

Patti Smith with Robert Mapplethorpe

I recently read Just Kids Patti Smith's memoir of her relationship with the late artist/photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and of their life together in the New York of the 1960s and 70s. It was wonderfully evocative of the music and art landscape of that particular time, dominated by the doyennes of Andy Warhol's Factory, Max's Kansas City and the Chelsea Hotel. I thought it was an absolute knock-out and wasn't surprised to learn that it won the National Book Award for nonfiction in November 2010.
Before she was a rock star Patti Smith was a poet, inspired by other poets, and apparently not just by their work but also by their style and appearance.

Arthur Rimbaud

She worshiped the eighteenth century French poet, Arthur Rimbaud, and describes the shopping she did before undertaking a pilgrimage to his birthplace and grave in Charleville, France.
On the Bowery I found an unconstructed raincoat of kelly green rubberized silk, a Dior blouse of houndstooth linen, brown trousers, and an oatmeal cardigan, an entire wardrobe for thirty dollars.

"Horses" album cover shot by Robert Mapplethorpe

To prepare for the album cover of her first album she wrote,
I went to the Salvation Army on the Bowery and bought a stack of white shirts. Some were too big for me bit the one I really liked was neatly pressed with a monogram below the breast pocket. It reminded me of a Brassai shot of Jean Genet wearing a white monogrammed shirt with rolled up sleeves. I cut the cuffs off the sleeves to wear under my black jacket adorned with the horse pin that Allen Lanier had given me
To this she added black pegged pants, black Capezios, and her favorite ribbon.

Jean Genet shot by Brassai

Her famous shag hairstyle which she cut herself was inspired by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones

Keith Richards circa 1970

In the 1980s Patti left New York for a new life of marriage and children in Detroit but when her husband, musician Fred Sonic Smith suddenly died in the mid-1990s she came back to the city. This is a great interview she had around that time with Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore.

Patti with director Steven Sebring

In 2008 director Steven Sebring made a documentary about Patti called Dream of Life and since then, thanks to her prolific writing and performing, she is back in the public eye. Her clean and simple style of man-tailored apparel pieces is also back in fashion (did it ever go away?)

Celine S2011

Jason Wu, Pre-Fall 2011

Paul Smith S11

Paul Smith S11


  1. LOVE THIS... just seeing it now.

    My very favorite Patti inspired show ever was Alexander Wang, back in Fall 08, when the film was released. You can match so many images......




    and on and on and on


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