Dude looks like a lady

Steven Tyler’s Favorite Mistake: Blowing Money on Clothes

On dressing like a lady.steven-tyler-my01-kutruzzula

Steven Tyler in Sept. 2011 doing what he does best., Kevin Mazur / WireImage-Getty Images

I’ve always gotten in trouble for doing what was in my heart. I grew up jumping out of the highest tree and diving off the highest diving board, and every year I climb up a couple more feet to get to the biggest thrill. It has gone from being on roller coasters to being in Aerosmith. Without thinking too much, I just jump.

So I’m very grateful for this favorite mistake: designing clothes with my designer Francine Larnis. All those early clothes in the ’70s were her designs and my designs, but that story has never been written.

My style started right in the beginning of the band in 1971 because it was all hippie stuff and I couldn’t afford anything. Francine suggested that we go to a fabric store, so I went with her and picked out this fabric and that fabric, and spent like $20 on seven yards of something I could never afford. We didn’t have any money at all—we didn’t even have money to eat back then. She had a sewing machine, and out of the goodness of her heart, Francine would design clothes for me. When Aerosmith did the next gig, I gave her the money that I made from that.

The clothes you see now started with that girl Francine, by me looking at her and going, Should I do it?, and her going, Why not? Early on, it wasn’t Mick Jagger—it was Janis Joplin who was my biggest influence. I always thought that who I am was inspired by Janis. She just was it. I saw her beads and bangles in the ’60s when hippies came into play, and I loved it. It was me taking what Janis did, wearing it as a boy, and saying, “I don’t care, it’s what I like.”

From that, it created a style. My daughter was saying, You’re not wearing that, are you? You look like a girl! My response was, You know what? Here it is, here I am. When I found a good shirt, I wore it to death until it turned into a rag, and I hung it from the mike stand. Then I turned that into a scarf, and that scarf turned into something else. At first, it hurt so much to think that someone might feel that it wasn’t cool, but I went, F–k it. I didn’t care what people thought. I think that came from my Italian core of not being a quitter and to just stay with it.

Later, the press would all say, Dude looks like a lady, and they wouldn’t know what to think, but my favorite mistake was taking a risk and designing those clothes with Francine. I always had doubts, but I realized early on that the greatest things are unknowns. It’s so beautiful to take a risk and find out later how it all turns out.

Interview by Kara Cutruzzula

Career Arc


Takes fashion cues from Janis Joplin before he’s famous.


“Sweet Emotion” becomes the band’s first Top-40 hit.


Sells 5 million copies of Permanent Vacation in the U.S.


Aerosmith is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


The band will release its first album in eight years and kick off a tour in June.

I chose to write about this article for my next blog post because I thought it was a funny look at the cross-gender subject we have been discussing in class. After reading articles and watching movies in class about the gender roles specific to male and female, I realized that gender roles/lines can be very skewed. In every culture there is a different outlook on what is expected of men and women and what is considered normal for how a man or woman should act or dress. In America’s pop culture it seems that gender roles are very blurred. Through male performers wearing makeup, to women dressing in tuxedos, what is considered to be “normal” behavior of males and females is not apparent in this society.

Steven Tyler is a perfect example of a male performer crossing gender lines. He is a very famous celebrity, and an example of how gender roles have been skewed and blurred. He not only has been a rockstore for many years, but he has been considered a “sex symbol” for many people even though he is said to dress like a “woman”. Even in the article his own daughter says the she thinks he dresses like a woman.

For some the way Steven Tyler dresses may be seen as gay or homosexual, but from the outside it seems he is not like that at all. He has had multiple children, so for him it seems the way he dresses is just a preference or for show.  From his long hair, to his scarves and earrings Steven Tyler could really be seen as feminine.


In the video above you get a quick glimpse into why Steven Tyler has the style he does. For him it has nothing to do with sexuality, but more about what makes him feel comfortable. It is also a way to stand out while performing on stage. And if anything it is a way for him to get noticed.

I think this could be said for alot of famous performers in the industry today, such artisits as lady gaga have become famous because of their out landish wardrobe. It seems that for most performers, the way they choose to dress is artistic expression. This is different from drag queens, and transvestites we saw in the video we watched in class, because for them dressing as a female was a way of showing the sexuality, and gender they wish to possess, or feel they were supposed to possess.

 So should we focus more on the actual clothing or the sexuality associated with them? This is a question not easily answered, and a question that varies through different socities. In the modern world it still seems as if society is still set in the ways of the past, with gender roles set up in specific ways. But as generations change, gender roles have also changed. From my parents generation to my generation, it is extremly apparent the changes that have been happening with gender roles. There is now a sense of flexibility, and acceptance of things that are outside of the “norm” of gender roles. It is now more acceptable to dress as a woman if you are a man, and dress as a man if you are a woman. 

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One Response to Dude looks like a lady

  1. Steven Tyler is an interesting example of blurring gender lines in stage performance – another good one would have been David Bowie. When looked at this way, as 70s rock stars they really were ahead of the curve because it wasn’t until the 80s that androgyny became really fashionable: think Prince, hair metal, etc.

    This is relevant to anthropology once you realize that the performance of self through fashion is not something that’s limited to stage performers. We all express ourselves through our clothes. They same something about who we are (or who we wish we were) and our place in society. Expressing gender is certainly a big part of that.

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