A Look Back at Little Richard’s Groundbreaking, Extravagant Style

Today, the music industry is mourning the loss of Richard Penniman, better known as Little Richard. The rock-and-roll icon died Saturday morning in Tullahoma, Tenn. He was 87 years old.

The musician’s lawyer Bill Sobel told FN sister publication Rolling Stone the cause of death was bone cancer.

Known best for his songs like “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Tutti Frutti,” the singer-songwriter defied barriers in the music industry as well as the world of fashion. His bold taste, flamboyant style and stunning on-stage ensembles caught the attention and inspired the likes of Elton John and Prince in pioneering a fantastical on-stage style.

Born in 1932 in Macon, Ga., the singer rose to prominence in the 1950s after signing his first record deal with RCA in 1951. Throughout the following decade, he stayed true to his eclectic taste and ornate fashion pieces. In August 1972 for example, the musician arrived at Heathrow Airport ahead of an upcoming performance at Wembley stadium in a peek-a-boo bell-bottom jumpsuit under a leather jacket, finished off with heeled back leather boots.

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Little Richard arrives at Heathrow Airport for his concert at Wembley Stadium, August 3, 1972.
CREDIT: Bill Howard/ANL/Shutterstock

Two decades later, little had changed as Little Richard made an appearance at the “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” film premiere in 1998. His ensemble included a split-tone red and black set located in beads and embellishments. Not only did his red and black striped shoes match his look, they too were covered in glittering sequins for a signature jazzy touch.

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Little Richard at the premiere of “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” in 1998.
CREDIT: Dave Lewis/Shutterstock
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A closer look at Little Richard’s red and black boots.
CREDIT: Dave Lewis/Shutterstock

Beyond his music, Little Richard had a reputation going for his embellished, jewel-topped outfits. From the 1960s to the 1980s even up until the past few decades, he favored glittering pieces when it came to his on and off-stage persona.

In 2004, he performed at the Liberty Bowl halftime show in an ombré sequined-collared shirt with an equally baroque jacket. Then in 2012, he graced the crowds again at the legendary BB King’s in New York in a studded blue blazer with matching pants and a cropped jewel-encrusted shirt.

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Little Richard performs during halftime at the Liberty Bowl on in Memphis, Tenn., Dec. 31, 2004.
CREDIT: Mark Humphrey/AP/Shutterstock
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Little Richard at BB King’s in New York, June 14, 2012.
CREDIT: Splash News

Wherever he went, Little Richard managed to turn heads both with his musical abilities and untouchable appreciation for the luxuriant and the beautiful. He will forever be remembered as an icon of his own standard.

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Little Richard at a press conference in Los Angeles, Aug. 11, 1981.
CREDIT: Randy Rasmussen/AP/Shutterstock

Click here to see more of Little Richard’s groundbreaking, over-the-top looks through the years. 

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