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PIL's John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) brings his distinctive post-punk style to Club Nokia Tuesday night

April 13, 2010 |  2:01 pm

Sex pistols
It's unavoidable. When discussing circa-1970s British punk-rock style, seminal band The Sex Pistols will always dominate the conversation.

After all, these were the guys who first turned safety pins and green hair into fashion statements (with a lot of help from guru and manager Malcolm McLaren, who passed away last Thursday from cancer), and gifted disaffected youth the world over with a new, decidedly rebellious, uniform.

And no one wore the original punk-rock look with more style and swagger than lead singer John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten), who will appear with his post-Pistols band, Public Image Limited (PiL), at Club Nokia Theater on Tuesday night -- kicking off the group's North American tour.

As a Sex Pistol, the spiky-haired Lydon was perennially clad in platform creeper loafers, ripped and torn T-shirts (often emblazoned with the Union Jack flag), roughed-up military sweaters, leather pants dripping in chains and, later, loud plaid trousers turned up at the cuffs willy-nilly.

John lydon pil After dropping the "Rotten" act, Lydon suited up for life in PiL in 1978 in madly plaid suits (always artfully distressed), battered college professor-style loafers, striped socks, blazers and trench coats with major shoulder pads that tapered down, triangle-style, into slim, cropped pant legs (in the mid '80s), Max Headroom-style sunglasses and grandpa-style plaid sweaters. His hair was -- and continues to be -- a bird's nest of orange-blond spikes.

Little has changed about Lydon's look since the 1990s -- so don't expect a major fashion moment at the show -- but that's what renders him one of rock's most fashionable men. He boasts personal, not malleable, style. 

-- Emili Vesilind

Top photo: John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), second from right, with, from left, Paul Cook, Sid Vicious and Steve Jones. Credit: Associated Press / Fine Line Features. Bottom photo: John Lydon performing with Public Image Limited in December 2009. Credit: Duncan Bryceland / Public Image Limited