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Chrissie Hynde + Kate Simon in Malcolm McLaren’s Sex Pistols Smoking Boy T-shirts

//Photographer Kate Simon and performer Chrissie Hynde (lifting the front of her mohair jumper from Sex), London, 1976. (c) Joe Stevens//

This photograph – taken by Joe Stevens in early 1976 in Fulham, west London – is featured in the exhibition Just Chaos!, which opens tomorrow (May 7) at Marc Jacobs’ Bleecker Street NYC bookstore BookMarc.

The T-shirts worn by Simon and Hynde were among the first variants of a limited edition designed by Malcolm McLaren to promote the newly formed Sex Pistols. A few were also sold in Sex, the environmental installation/shop operated by McLaren with Vivienne Westwood at 430 King’s Road in World’s End, Chelsea.

“Malcolm dropped the shirts off at my Finborough Road studio; they were freshly silk-screened from a limited edition,” says Stevens, then working for the NME and living with Simon (who was employed by rival music paper Sounds). “Chrissie was living in a squat and cleaning offices for a living. She’d drop by the pad to take showers. I’d hear her singing in there and realised she had a wonderful voice.”

McLaren produced the designs with the express aim of promoting the new group. “This was my first attempt at making a Sex Pistols T-shirt,” he told me in 2006. “I wanted to create something of a stir.”

The central image of the naked boy posed with a cigarette came from a copy of Hans Herbert Hubermahl’s paedophilic underground magazine Boys Express purchased by McLaren in Brixton, south London.

Working with sidekick and screenprinter Bernie Rhodes – later to manage The Clash – McLaren created a series of design variants, some emblazoned with the stencilled group’s name and the silhouette of Pistols’ bassist Glen Matlock’s guitar.

“Bernie was a bit frightened by the nude boy print,” McLaren recalled.”It was too much for him. He used to perspire as he printed at the kitchen table, as if somebody was about to break down the door, arrest him and charge him with being a paedophile, and haul him off to prison. That would have been all my fault.”

Rhodes confirmed this to me in 2007; he was still furious at McLaren for having involved him in the escapade, failing to see that this was one of a series of artworks aimed at making public the seamy sexual underbelly of Britain’s repressive society.

In the event, McLaren coerced Matlock, at the time a student at Central Saint Martin’s art school, to use the college printing facilities to produce the original run.  “We didn’t make very many, 40 or 50 at most, and they were in quite small sizes,” said McLaren. “They were supposed to be sold in the store but at first I gave them away to people who looked cool.”

There’s no denying that he achieved the desired effect with Hynde and Simons. Says Stevens: “The shirts were supposed to be for me but the ladies kept them.”

Time to coincide with the staging of Punk: Chaos To Couture by The Costume Institute of the NY Met, Just Chaos! is curated by another photographer, Roberta Bayley, and includes her own work from the period, as well that of Stevens’ and photos by others such as Lee Black Childers, Bob Gruen and Godlis.

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3 Responses to “Chrissie Hynde + Kate Simon in Malcolm McLaren’s Sex Pistols Smoking Boy T-shirts”

  1. derek dunbar
    on May 6th, 2013
    @ 12:10 pm

    I still have the original boy t/shirts in all forms from the very first printed up to the HAZCHEM BOY Malcolm did with me and SIX in 1996-98
    send em your email and I will forward some photographs to see the progress of this boy concept ……….Derek

  2. London punk demi-monde Polaroids from Jonathan Ross: The return of Chrissie Hynde + Kate Simon with Tamasin Day-Lewis, Gina Louthan, Ruth Marten, Judy Nylon, Patti Palladin, Jon Savage and…John Betjeman « Paul Gorman is…
    on May 8th, 2013
    @ 8:12 am

    […] to receiving Joe Stevens’ photograph of the pre-Pretenders Chrissie Hynde and photographer Kate Simon in Malcolm McLaren’s Sex […]

  3. Judy Nylon in McLaren’s Smoking Boy shirt with Nick Kent in Granny’s and Brian James in leathers, 1977 « Paul Gorman is…
    on Jun 2nd, 2017
    @ 9:56 am

    […] to photographer Joe Stevens and worn at times by her musician friend Chrissie Hynde. As related here, when McLaren came up with the design and its variants to promote his new charges the Sex Pistols […]

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