A still from Derek Jarman’s cult film ‘Jubilee’, 1978.
It was our greatest honour to assist Jordan with the sale of her personal collection.
The auction took place on the 23rd June 2015 - her 60th birthday.
At the time, Jordan stated: ‘This collection represents the very essence of me and reflects a very rare occurrence - that of two parallel forces coming together to become something unique. I see it now, that these clothes and myself were meant for each other and because of this I regard them as dear old friends that are to be loved and admired. Never before have I contemplated parting with my "old friends" and it has been a difficult decision for me to make, but the overriding feeling is that after 40 years I feel I need them to see the light of day and be treasured by someone else’. And when interviewed for I-D many years later in 2019, she re-affirmed her decision: ‘I had no sadness about selling them -- I felt I was doing the right thing and real proper collectors and museums would have them and they would be taken care of and people would enjoy seeing them’ (I-D/Vice, 16th April 2019).
Through these clothes we get a glimpse into a very special period of Jordan’s life and also arguably one of the most anarchic, influential and ground-breaking periods of fashion of the late 20th century.
Above: Jordan c.1977 (photograph: Simon Barker), wearing her self-customised Westwood/McLaren t-shirt, ‘Let It Rock’ labelled, 1974-75 (Sold for £8,500 hammer, 2015)
In 2015, the phone rang in the Kerry Taylor Auctions office: ‘It’s Jordan. THE Jordan’. ‘The High Priestess of Punk’ wanted to clear out her closet. Our jaws dropped. Jordan’s collection intimately charted her rise as the original ‘punk’ and her career with Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren between the cardinal years of 1974 and 1982. Aged only just 19 when she began working for the creative couple as shop girl extraordinaire, model and mayhem-maker, Jordan remains eternally the definitive face of the Punk movement.
Her uncompromising personal style - with spiked, tinted hair, cubist face paint, overtly sexy bondage or fetish gear - made her the living embodiment of Punk, arguably more so than even Vivienne Westwood herself. In Jon Savage’s book ‘England’s Dreaming’, Jordan is described as ‘the first Sex Pistol’. She was admired and imitated by a whole tranche of discontented teenagers living in a Britain plagued by power cuts, miner’s strikes, IRA bombs and streets filled with rubbish. It was Anarchy in the UK.
The Punk scene in London, 1970s. Images via ‘What Punk Britain Was Really Like’, Britain on Film, BFI.com
Jordan was already a walking art form before she met Westwood & McLaren. She grew up in Seaford, East Sussex and aged 14 was excluded from school for having a pink mohawk: ‘I had a row with my headmaster. He said, “I can’t have you looking like this. You’ve got red and pink hair. You’ve got a mohican. They’ll all start copying you.” I told him, “No one’s going to copy me. Look at them. They’re laughing.” They made me wear a headscarf when I walked between lessons’ (The Guardian, 10th November 2017). It was around this time that the young Pamela decided to change her name to Jordan - liking the idea of having just a single name instead of two. She took the name from ‘Jordan Baker’ of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ - a strong, modern female character, who is described as having ‘that cool, insolent smile turned to the world’. By 16, she was front row at a David Bowie concert - recalling that having seen her in the crowd, Bowie ‘walked over and asked if he could have my earrings. I said no. I liked Bowie, but I liked the earrings more!’ (The Guardian, 10th November 2017).
Her first job after leaving school was at the ‘Way In’ boutique at Harrods. Her typical ‘look’ at the time was green-tinged white face foundation, green lipstick, a back-combed, peroxide beehive, black leotard and dance tights (she loved ballet), teamed with a Teddy Tinling tennis skirt. In the Autumn of 1974 she started working for Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood at ‘SEX’, 430 King's Road. The shop specialized in fetish wear made from rubber and leather. Jordan remembers watching the infamous large pink vinyl ‘SEX’ lettering going up on the shop-front and an old hospital bed with a rubber sheet being placed inside.
Jordan standing outside ‘SEX’ on the King’s Road. Photographed by Shelia Rock
As her work-wear became more brazenly overt, so her train journey to work became something of an adventure in itself. After abuse and threats from fellow (mainly female) passengers, she was advised by British Rail to travel in First Class, at no extra cost to herself, in the interests of her own safety and the tranquility of other passengers. Jordan recalled British Rail being ‘really sweet about that’.
During her time working at ‘SEX’, Jordan became perhaps the most notorious ‘shop girl’ in history - an intimidating presence who would discourage people from buying the wares: ‘I wasn’t prepared to sell things that looked awful on people just because they had the money to buy it… It would have been bastardising something beautiful just for the money’ (Dazed, 2016). A young Boy George was in awe of her: ‘She dressed like a modern Tiller girl, carried a whip and hissed at customers… Hers was a very modern sales technique’ (Take It Like A Man, Boy George, 1995).
Pictured, from right: Vivienne Westwood, Jordan, Chrissie Hynde, writer Alan Jones, unknown, and Sex Pistol Steve Jones, in ‘SEX’, c.1974. Photograph: David Dagley.
‘I’d not been working there long when this shot [above] was taken; it was for a magazine article about risqué shops. The photographer only came to get some interior images, but the six of us in this shot happened to be there and I suppose we took over. It was spontaneous. What I’m wearing – the racoon makeup, the PVC skirt – was what I’d turned up in that day. Vivienne was insistent the pictures should capture some spirit. Punk was about inspiring people to rip up rules and push boundaries. That’s what we were trying to convey. I’m not sure why I lifted my top, but it felt right, and still does. There’s nothing sexual about it. It’s empowering: a young woman who is comfortable in her own skin. After, I went back to serving customers. It was all fairly matter-of-fact’ (The Guardian, 10th November 2017).
Jordan photographed in a ‘wet look’ ensemble in SEX, circa 1975. Jordan’s Westwood/McLaren leather fetish ensemble, 1975 (Sold for £2,800 hammer, 2015).
In an excerpt from Jordan’s memoir ‘Defying Gravity’, Vivienne Westwood recalls the early days of SEX: ‘The first week when we were in the shop, Gene (Krell who ran Granny Takes a Trip) came… and introduced himself. He became my best friend. One day, Mick Jagger was in his shop and he said, “Go down there and have a look in that shop.” Mick Jagger stood in the doorway and went back to Granny’s, just a block away from us. Gene said, “How was it?” And he said, “Oh, it’s great.” But he didn’t actually dare come in. It’s true, that’. The opening of SEX is the brazen marker for a new dawn in British fashion- the final, lingering petals of the ‘flower power’ 1960s have given way to the spikes and chains of the early 70s Punks.
Another extraordinarily rare piece in Jordan’s collection was her Westwood/McLaren ‘Anarchist’ shirt from 1975. One of the very first they ever made, it pre-dates those made for the Sex Pistols.
Jordan’s ‘Anarchist’ shirt - one of the first ever examples made by Vivienne Westwod/Malclom McLaren in 1975 (Sold for £13,000 hammer, 2015).
Jordan wore this shirt when she appeared in the first ever live TV performance by the Sex Pistols on Granada TV's 'So It Goes' programme hosted by the impresario and journalist - the late Tony Wilson - on the 28th August, 1976. She recalls that Malcolm McLaren encouraged her and the band to behave outrageously. Accordingly, Jordan appears on screen wearing the ‘Anarchy’ shirt with a tight leather skirt, shimmying and stomping her way on stage in white stiletto-heeled ankle boots whilst hurling chairs at the band! The clip went on to be included in McLaren's 'Great Rock n' Roll Swindle'. When asked by Tony Wilson why she dressed so outrageously she replied sweetly, 'why did Picasso paint pictures?' Granada TV were extremely unhappy about the swastika arm-band, in particular.
Jordan wears her ‘Anarchist’ shirt whilst throwing chairs at the band and stomping on stage during the Sex Pistol’s first ever live television performance on 'So It Goes' , Granada TV, hosted by the late Tony Wilson, 28th August, 1976.
Jordan lent the shirt to her friend Simon Barker (of the ‘Bromley Contingent’) to wear for the band’s notorious first ever TV interview on BBC's 'Today' programme, December 1st, 1976. Jordan was ill and unable to go herself. The group and their entourage were interviewed by Bill Grundy, but unfortunately for him it was broadcast live. The foul-mouthed Sex Pistols were abusive, offensive and generally misbehaved and the BBC switchboard was jammed with complaints.
Simon Barker wearing Jordan’s ‘Anarchist’ shirt during the Sex Pistol’s first ever live television interview on the BBC's 'Today' programme with Bill Grundy, 1st December, 1976.
In 1976 ‘SEX’ was re-launched as ‘Seditionaries - Clothes for Heroes’. In 1977 Jordan is photographed alongside Vivienne for Vogue wearing her black cotton bondage jacket. The beehive was gone, her hair becoming much shorter and spiked. Jordan recalled that she only perfected her face-paint later that same year which was a ‘combination of Mondrian and the Kau tribe of Northern Sudan’.
Jordan photographed with Vivienne Westwood in 1977. She is wearing her Westwood/McLaren ‘Bondage’ jacket. Jordan later lent the jacket to Adam Ant to wear when he performed the song 'Plastic Surgery' in Derek Jarman's 1978 Film 'Jubilee' (Sold for £5,000 hammer, 2015).
Left: Jordan in British Vogue, December 1977. Right: New Musical Express magazine, 1977. She appears to be wearing the same bondage jacket (image via punkroker.org.uk).
In addition to working in the shop, Jordan gave a powerful performance as ‘Amyl Nitrate’ in Derek Jarman’s 1978 cult film ‘Jubilee’, singing ‘Rule Britannia’ dressed as the national warrior, wearing a sheer Union Jack vest, green sheer stockings and suspenders, accessorizing with a burlesque feather fan.
Jordan performing as ‘Amyl Nitrate’ in Derek Jarman’s cult film ‘Jubilee’, 1978.
Between 1977-78, she also managed Adam & The Ants, often appearing with them on stage to sing ‘Lou’ in her ‘Venus’ t-shirt. An extremely small number of these customized t-shirts were produced - each one was handmade by Vivienne on her kitchen table. Each is unique - no two are alike. Laborious and time-consuming to make, it seems that only one or two were made per year. The t-shirts were dyed black and customized with rubber tyres, horsehair, zips, chains and studs. Jordan added the badges to hers herself.
Jordan singing on stage with Adam Ant, photograph: Simon Barker/ The ‘Venus’ t-shirt (Sold for £22,000 hammer, 2015).
Of course, the use of the word ‘Venus’ on her shirt was entirely appropriate and sardonic as Jordan’s own ideals of beauty were radically different to those of mainstream Britain in the 1970s, which of course was the whole point. A personal favourite, the ‘Venus’ t-shirt is one of Jordan’s most iconic and memorable garments. She wore it frequently and is photographed in it on numerous occasions, including in the company of two uniformed Police Officers outside the Nashville Club, Shepherd’s Bush, and singing on stage with Adam Ant. The last time she fondly recalled wearing it was backstage at ‘Live Aid’ in 1985 when David Bowie kissed her.
Jordan in the company of two uniformed Police Officers outside the Nashville Club, Shepherd’s Bush.
'"They once tried to arrest me for being indecently dressed in public". And what was the sweet girl wearing at the time? "Stilettos, stockings with huge holes, see-through knickers and see-through bra." Ah, I see.' - NME magazine, 16th April, 1977
An interview with Jordan in the New Music Express, 16th April 1977 discusses her ‘obsession with fashion’, suggesting that her outfits would ensure she was never attractive to men: ‘Underneath the thick black lines and heavily rouged cheeks there might well be a stunning female trying to get out…it’s so hard to tell my dears, for Jordan does such a good job of covering up any good features she may possess’. The writer makes a point of highlighting that she doesn’t have a boyfriend. Unfazed, Jordan recalls her schooldays: ‘I was very much an outcast at school. If it was ‘kiss, chase’ they’d run away from me. No boy would touch me. Still, I didn’t really want their attention. But I was very hard up for people on my wavelength’. The author concedes that the outspoken girl with the eyeliner and beehive hair is ‘something of a star’.
By 1978 the Sex Pistols had disbanded and Jordan, Westwood and McLaren had become increasingly disillusioned with Punk, as it had now been embraced by the mainstream. The King’s Road was thronged every Saturday with people in bondage gear sporting towering Mohican hairstyles. Vivienne herself desired new challenges above and beyond a new t-shirt design. Jordan changed her look yet again by piling up her hair in to deep-red curls, which she teamed with red contact lenses and a demure shirt with Peter-Pan collar. Her style had moved on and so too did the shop. In 1979 the shop is again re-launched as ‘World’s End’. Vivienne’s first major collection was ‘Pirate’, Autumn-Winter 1981-82. In June 1981, Jordan married guitarist Kevin Mooney, and the bride wore a complete Pirate ensemble, including a pair of Platypus shoes.
Jordan and Kevin on their wedding day, June 1981. Jordan is wearing a complete Westwood/McLaren ‘Pirate’ ensemble with a pair of ‘Platypus’ shoes
Jordan’s Westwood/McLaren ‘Platypus’ shoes, worn on her wedding day (Sold for £950 hammer, 2015)
In March 1982 ‘Nostalgia of Mud’ was opened but closed the same year: ‘‘I left London and Sex – by then called World’s End – in 1984. I was 28 and a little disillusioned. There was terrible sexism in the music industry, which I had no desire to be part of anymore. It felt the right time to move on. But I never stopped believing in the ethos of punk. Those years showed me, if you just have the courage, you can be anyone you want to be – I still believe that as much as I did in 1976. In that way, I’m the same person today as that 20-year-old in the picture’ (The Guardian, 10th November 2017).
Jordan photographed c.1975, and in Spring 2021 (Jordan Mooney Instagram)
During an interview given in 2016, Jordan recalls: 'People said, "You must be so brave, looking like that out in the street"…it was nothing to do with bravery. Quite the opposite. It was about feeling comfortable and at one with yourself. I always liked dressing my own way…A lot of the major music moguls were extremely sexist. An A&R guy once said to my face: "This is not a woman’s job. You should be cooking and laying on your back". I didn’t want to be there anymore, so I came home to Seaford'. Jordan went on to devote her life to the care of animals, becoming a veterinary nurse and breeder of her beloved Burmese cats: 'Things had become too hectic. It sounds really corny, but normality saved my life… I wanted to work in something meaningful, so I got a job at my local vet’s. I’ve now been there for 22 years. It’s not pushing bits of paper around. It’s a real job where you can make a difference to how animals are cared for. Punk showed me you could be whatever you wanted to be, and that’s the way I’ve lived my life. I haven’t changed. A lot of my old teachers still live locally and bring their animals in. They remember all the trouble I got in at school…Now these teachers say, "Oh, I always loved how you looked." A bit of history has been rewritten' (The Guardian, 7th May 2016).
Left: Jordan at work as a veterinary nurse, 15th February 1994. Right: and in 2016, photographed by Alan Powdrill
Jordan as ‘Amyl Nitrate’ in Derek Jarman’s cult film ‘Jubilee’, 1978
Photographed in Dusseldorf, 2020, by Natasha auf’m Kamp (Instagram)