ARTICLE DARK MONTGOMERY
PHOTOGRAPHY JAMIE MORGAN
Despite a lack of crossover success in the American pop market, model-singer Nick Kamen remains a style inspiration for fashion insiders who recall his blue-eyed, boy-next-door appeal and the bubblegum songs that epitomized the earnestness of ’80s-era MTV. Kamen’s introduction to the culture conversation was memorable: in 1984, Buffalo’s Ray Petri styled him for the cover of The Face magazine, photographed by Jamie Morgan, in aviator sunglasses, an orange turtleneck, a ski hat, and a well-placed Band-Aid, accenting the ensemble with frosted lipstick. Unabashedly over-the-top, the image put a vibrant stamp on that year’s Fall/Winter fashion, one that exerts a strong influence even today (see our cover story, styled by Robbie Spencer).
Kamen’s breakthrough, however, undoubtedly came the following year, when he strode into a ’50s-style launderette looking like a young Elvis Presley and stripped down to his boxers to wash his jeans. Directed by Roger Lyons, who chose a Marvin Gaye soundtrack, the 50-second spot for Levi’s 501s is now considered one of the most iconic television commercials of all time—and it catapulted Kamen to sex-symbol status, both at home in the U.K. and overseas. Aided by a print campaign further establishing him as the face of 501s, Kamen quickly parlayed his success into a career in music, releasing the single “Each Time You Break My Heart,” featuring Madonna on backup vocals (she is also credited with producing the track). While it cracked the dance charts, its success was modest. The staying power of his 1990 hit, “I Promised Myself,” was far greater.
By 1992 Kamen’s profile had diminished, and in recent years he has faded into obscurity. But a quick search on YouTube proves what many avid popwatchers have always known: Kamen is the essence of electric youth.
Buffalo images Fashion Ray Petri