Style Brad Pitt, the alien

Brad Pitt, the alien

Andrea Tuzio

Yesterday I told you about the new Spring 2022 campaign by Jacquemus starring the rapper Bad Banny. In the colorful, joyful and gender fluid shots of the campaign there seems to be a clear reference, or maybe a real homage, to one of the most iconic, impactful and controversial shootings of the last 30 years, the one dedicated to Brad Pitt and shot by American photographer Mark Seliger for Rolling Stone in 1999.

Let’s make a premise right away. I used the word “controversial” simply because, at the time of the publication of the shoot, there was an uproar about the contrast between Pitt’s physical masculinity and the clothes and accessories typical of women’s fashion.
At the end of the ’90s, the concept of fluidity and the desire to overcome certain gender-related conventions were not exactly topics that fashion and society were trying to question. Few prominent figures tried to overturn the status quo – see Dennis Rodman who we talked about here

The story behind the now infamous Rolling Stone shoot is peculiar, and given the clear appeal in Jacquemus’ latest campaign, I decided to tell it by putting together the pieces of a not-so-well-known story.

In 1999 Mark Seliger was chief photographer for Rolling Stone – he held the position from 1992 to 2002 – and earlier this year Seliger and Pitt met in the lobby of the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles.

The two had worked together several times before, and Pitt, who is always very creatively involved on his work, tells Seliger, “I have a really weird idea”.

“The strange idea” of Pitt was to wear mainly clothes, but also accessories, typically as a woman but not as if it were a disguise, but as if he were an alien from another planet heedless of the prejudices and unaware of the comments that would surely arise after the publication of the service.

At the time, Pitt had just finished filming David Fincher’s Fight Club, released in September of ’99 (the shoot was a month later), in which he plays the alter ego of Edward Norton’s character/protagonist, Tyler Darden. For the film, Pitt had worked a lot on his body – as had Norton – increasing its structure by practicing boxing, taekwondo and wrestling, shaving his hair and having his incisors chipped on purpose by his dentist, to be more believable in the role. This look would have certainly made a fistfight (we’ve talked about Fight Club, right?) with Pitt’s idea of wearing purely feminine clothes, and this pleased Seliger as well.

In the interview that later accompanied the shoot, Pitt stated that he wanted to present himself as “some alternative to modern living” and about the looks chosen he added: “There’s nothing to talk about. I couldn’t just sit there and be pretty guy again… I think that dress looked pretty damn good. Truthfully, I don’t know what the hell I was doing. It just felt better than anything else”.

The traditional media did not welcome Seliger’s shots very well, they were mocked in no uncertain terms. An attitude that well captures the situation in that historical period and that helps us to understand how far we still have to go to finally break down the preconceptions and stereotypes related to gender that today we really don’t need anymore, surpassed at great speed by the awareness and open-mindedness of the new generations. 

Twenty-three years later, that marvelous photo shoot by Mark Seliger starring Brad Pitt takes on a totally different value and almost resoundingly reflects the contemporary world.
It was a glimpse of time looking into the future while everyone was still busy looking at their toes. 

Written by Andrea Tuzio
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