This article belongs to the story Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols.
The shop SEX is inextricably bound up with English punk and the Sex Pistols and stands as the most important inspirator for punk fashion and the fashion coming after punk. Without SEX there would be no Sex Pistols and without the Sex Pistols there would be no punk as we know it today.
In November 1971 Malcolm McLaren and a friend started up the shop Let It Rock on 430 Kings Road in the Chelsea area of London. They sold second hand clothes and clothing designed by McLaren and McLaren’s girlfriend Vivienne Westwood. In 1973 the shop was renamed to Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die. Westwood’s designs were changing, safety pins entered the equation. The shop turned into a hangout for young kids, among them employees like Jordan and Glen Matlock.
In the spring of 1974 the shop was renamed once again, this time it was named SEX, the most (in)famous incarnation of the building. Beneath the pink letters “SEX” that were strapped above the entrance the words “Craft must have clothes but Truth loves to go naked” were painted. Next to fetish and bondage clothes and tools, SEX sold fashion that would both help introduce and clothe the punk movement. A lot of the customers (and employees) were dressed up in clothes from the store. After a night of clubbing the clothes were then returned to the shop, ready to be sold. The designs were fresh and shocking and often contained social and political commentary and broke down taboos.
The shop was frequented by a lot of youngsters, including all members of the Sex Pistols (Johnny Rotten even auditioned in the shop). Jordan was one of the main signboards, her dressing up in the shop’s creations was substantial to the aesthetics of punk and fashion. Others that hung out were people like Chrissie Hynde (later The Pretenders), Adam Ant (later Adam And The Ants), Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin (later Siouxsie And The Banshees), Sid Vicious (replacement for Glen Matlock in the Sex Pistols) and the so-called Bromley Contingent, a nickname for the followers of the Sex Pistols.
SEX created an atmosphere of revolution, for McLaren and Westwood a sequel to the student rise in Paris of May 1968, which had left a lasting impression on both. McLaren decided to manage the Sex Pistols, giving the McLaren/Westwood designs (inter)national exposure. The band often performed wearing those designs.
But it didn’t end there. Jamie Reed got involved with the Sex Pistols and designed all materials that were used for covers, publicity and marketing. The letters seemed as if they were directly taken form ransom notes (as used by kidnappers or terrorists).
In December 1976 the shop was renamed to Seditionaries: Clothes For Heroes, only increasing the influence of designer Westwood in particular. In the autumn of 1980 the shop was renamed for the last time. It was named Worlds End, providing the exterior with a clock running counter clockwise.
Without the SEX shop the Sex Pistols members wouldn’t have met, Malcolm McLaren would never have managed the band, punk fashion and esthetics would never have turned out the way that it did, McLaren would probably have never started making music himself and Vivienne Westwood’s influential career wouldn’t have unfolded as it has, and this doesn’t address the many friendships and bands the shop has inspired.
The truth is that without SEX the Sex Pistols wouldn’t have existed and English punk would have turned out completely different, if it had existed at all.
What came next?
The Sex Pistols disbanded in January 1978. In April 2022 Jordan (real name Pamela Anne Rooke) passed away, she was 66. Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood separated in 1980, ending their business relationship in 1985. Malcolm McLaren got into music himself and made a number of influential albums, like Duck Rock, and singles. He died on April 8, 2010, he was 64 years old. Vivienne Westwood turned into a world renowned fashion designer, still making heads turn with her punk attitude, using her influence for her political convictions and charity work.
430 Kings Road is still owned by Vivienne Westwood and is still called Worlds End.
The importance of SEX, Malcolm McLaren’s role, the designs by Vivienne Westwood and Jamie Reed can not be overstated. They are all forever linked to punk, and with everything that followed.
SEX 430 Kings Road London (1974-1976) image: nytimes.com
Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols image: sexpistolsofficial.com
Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood – Christmas 1976 image: twitter.com
SEX label image: et-caetera.com
SEX customers 1976 image: theguardian.com
SEX shop + card & Kings Road – 1971-1980 and onwards afbeeldingen: art-sheep.com
Vivienne Westwood & Malcolm McLaren – Iconic designs image: metmusuem.org