Fashion: The Style Police: Tales from the trailer park

Forget about boho chic and urban wear, Blondie's back in town and that can only mean one thing: trash glamour is making a comeback. James Sherwood reports

She's got a pout that makes model Esther Canadas look like a thin- lipped spinster. Her roots look blacker than a diseased tooth. She wore a corset over a vintage Sex Pistols T-shirt, skin-tight pedal pushers and black killer stilettos on national television. Oh, and she's 53. Rest easy. The BBC hasn't given Style Challenge another outing. Rapture and a thousand Ave Marias, because Blondie is back at number one after a 20-year intermission.

Debbie Harry's return is all the more fabulous because it proved the fat, middle-youth A&R men wrong. Like Hollywood, the music biz firmly believes women have a sell-by date. Blondie's was 1980. Cher's was about 1974. Well, eat your vintage Adidas trainers because these two old broads are back. Fashion is obsessed by both. But whereas Gucci's spring/summer '99 collection is code-named "the Seventies Cher look", it's the '99 version of Blondie that's informing street fashion.

We are in an era of wild fashion tangents. You know Style Police's take on utility clothing. How exciting can Velcro and a drawstring get? You know we think floral haute boho is a no-no. You also know we're excited by colour. But there's also been a mystery rogue element that Style Police hasn't been able to pinpoint, a streak of bad taste too nasty to ignore.

It started with a pair of Freelance turquoise leather stilettos in Browns Focus. Then we clocked the Miu Miu advert of the snakeskin stilettoes with pink leather trim and toe cap. Just as we were about to dip the quill pen in cyanide, the Style Police hotline trilled. It was one of the girls in the Armani design studio in Milan. "Give me bad taste. Give me a bit of excitement. Give me those Miu Miu cha-cha heels," she shrieked. Within the week, London make-up artist Liberty Shaw told me she'd flog her Francois Nars - the Gucci of cosmetics - for a pair. Then, leafing through a copy of Boyz, we read Blondie declaring, "I never wanted to be truly glamorous. I always wanted to be a little on the rough edge of things. I like to have an undercurrent of non-respectability."

And there you have it - we've all got too respectable. It took a 53-year- old woman - better make that diva - to tell us where we went wrong. Blondie still has that face: a cross between a Siamese cat and a geisha girl. But unlike Cher, she hasn't smoothed the rough edges. She's made them rougher.

The former Playboy bunny and mascot of Studio 54 now looks 54 minus 1, but fabulous. Her look is a little bit slutty, a little Seventies rock chick, and a lot black leather bondage. The peroxide hair and slash of red lipstick say "I don't have to try too hard". This woman can make elements of bad taste look good. She makes the rest of us look bland as we sprint towards 2000 in sportshoes and too much Microfibre. As high priestess of trash, Blondie answers the one question we've all had this season: "Why so serious?"

You get the distinct impression she's too cool to acknowledge her status as the icon of trash glamour. "Why are we together again?", Debbie Harry drawls. "Why, of course, because I want to recapture my youth, jerk around in front of thousands of people and make lots and lots of money." Lady, you've been away too long.

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