You Look Like a Morrissey Fan

You Look Like a Morrissey Fan


On Nov. 10 and 11, the British pop singer and cultural icon Morrissey played two sold-out shows at the Hollywood Bowl. I attended both shows, admittedly with reservation: Morrissey, my longtime favorite singer, lyricist and hair icon, is making headlines again for his questionable comments, this time about Muslims, migrants, multiculturalism and men behaving badly.

I write very openly in my book, “Mozlandia: Morrissey Fans in the Borderlands,” that I have been a Morrissey fan for decades and have no plans to stop. But my fandom ebbs and flows. These days, it ebbs. So, when Nov. 10 came around — Morrissey Day, no less, as declared by the Los Angeles City Council — I needed something to remind me of why this man, deep down, still mattered to me and the thousands of fans who packed the Hollywood Bowl that day and the next.

Morrissey performing at the Hollywood Bowl in California.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times

How to get in the mood? I play some vintage Morrissey, circa 1992, the year I most associate with my own fandom, when his songs from “Bona Drag,” “Kill Uncle” and “Your Arsenal” were the only ones I wanted to hear. “Every Day Is Like Sunday” still stirs my emotions. And “Glamorous Glue,” bratty and brassy, struts along. The music I know and love from 1990s Moz plays on, and my excitement grows. I sing along to “Our Frank” and “The Last of the Famous International Playboys” and start to dress for the concert.

I put on my “Moz Angeles High School” T-shirt, Levi’s and black Doc Martens. I slide some pomade into my freshly faded hair and comb it up into a little pompadour. A black and red scarf from Manchester’s indie-league football club atop a black Dickies jacket with its sole Moz button that declares “I AM NOT A MAN,” the title of one of my favorite songs from Morrissey’s 2014 album, “World Peace Is None of Your Business,” completes my outfit.

I look like a Morrissey fan.

Tobias Gonzalez, 18, and Thomas Gonzalez, 16, are brothers. Thomas says Morrissey makes him feel like he can find comfort in being himself.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times
Custom-made gold earrings.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times
Dalan Griffin, 27, first heard “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” by the Smiths at 15. He has been to 50 Morrissey shows since.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times

As I trudge up the path to the Hollywood Bowl with my traveling companions, I watch the thousands of fans making their way up. Moz fans are not unlike the decked-out Dodgers fans swathed in their team’s colors, scripts and logos on game day. (Often, they’re the same people.) And they’re not so different from the paisley purple-clad Prince fans, or the Michael Jackson fans who rock a single white bedazzled glove, a sequined bomber jacket and a tipped-forward black fedora. Moz fans, too, have a code that identifies them.

In his 2013 “Autobiography,” Morrissey wrote about his fans in their “fastidious attire” of “‘Viva Hate’ emblems; art-hound Ts, tank tops and bags graffitied in Morrissey-code.” He invented this code, and fans receive the message.

It’s plain to see in these photographs, where the iconography of Moz appears in unexpected, occasionally covert combinations: scarlet red lips, sharp eyeliner and gold hip-hop-inspired bamboo hoop earrings. Brown skin indelibly inked with Morrissey’s name, face and lyrics. Oscar Wilde and Old English lettering commingle with leopard prints, faded denim and Dickies jackets stitched with Smiths patches. And everywhere I look, I see great hair.

Crystal Gonzalez, 37, grew up thinking Morrissey was cute. It wasn’t until after her parents died that she really got into his music. Last year, she and her fiancé, Sergio, got engaged at one of Morrissey’s shows.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times
Jane Galloway, 56, and her son Taylor Galloway, 27. They first saw Morrissey during a two-night stint at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. The tickets were a high school graduation present for Taylor.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times
Gabriel Del Luna, 49, traveled from Mexico City to see Morrissey in Los Angeles. Mr. Del Luna lives alone and says Morrissey helps him feel at peace with the solitude.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times
Mike Frenes, 49, has been a Morrissey fan since 1991 and feels that he and the singer share a personality.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times

Morrissey’s quiff is his signifier. In Limerick, Ireland, the popular Manchester Night party at Dolan’s beckons its resident Smiths and Morrissey fans to dance the night away in their best quiffs, NHS spectacles, gladioli and Morrissey T-shirts. In Portland, Ore.,; Fresno, Calif.; and Hollywood, fans adorn themselves with T-shirts, jewelry, badges, buttons and other merchandise that feature Morrissey’s iconic image: angular jawline, prominent brow, close-clipped sideburns and tall quiff.

Many Morrissey fans, myself included, pay homage to him by wearing our hair like his, or by invoking the 1950s style typically associated with Morrissey and his band. Our shiny, full black hair looks fabulous swept up in pomaded pompadours or pinup-girl curls, looks that remind us of pachucos and pachucas, of motorcycle rebels and rock ’n’ roll stars. James Dean and Ritchie Valens meet Frida Kahlo and Selena.

I am with my people.

A fan wearing a hand-painted Morrissey jacket in Paso Robles, Calif.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times
Ricardo Savo, 20, grew up in Calexico, Calif., and has family members from Mexicali, Mexico, who travel to see Morrissey in Los Angeles. CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times
Julian Chavez, 31, produced the book “To Me You Are a Work of Art,” a collection of Morrissey tattoos. “I can’t imagine my life without him in it,” Mr. Chavez said. “He means so much, it’s more than just music. He stands up for the voice of the voiceless.” CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times

“We look to Los Angeles for the language we use, London is dead,” Morrissey sings in his 1992 hit “Glamorous Glue.” He sang this song on Morrissey Day, and judging by the fans’ response, Los Angeles — especially the fans — looks to Morrissey for the language it uses. We speak in the idioms of the Smiths and Morrissey, swapping lyrics like lovers’ letters or fighters’ fists. We style our hair, paint our faces, tattoo our skin, don Doc Martens and Dickies and denim stitched with Smiths patches, rainbow flags and Union Jacks.

Precious Alfaro, 22, got into Morrissey when she was 5, thanks to her older sister’s influence. She has seen Morrissey play 17 times since she was 11.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times
Ms. Alfaro’s Morrissey tattoo.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times

The social outcast, outlaw outsider; the maligned and marginalized and misunderstood; the unrequited lovelorn and dispossessed depressed have all found meaning in Morrissey’s music and lyrics, Smiths and solo, over the years.

For the moment, making my way to my seat and floating in the sea of Moz Angeles fandom, I forget the headlines about the man we’re all here to see. After all, Morrissey implores us to “stop watching the news” on his new song, so I heed his call for now. I’m ready for history to be made at the Hollywood Bowl on Morrissey Day.

Anneleen Huysman, 37, from Brussels. She first heard Morrissey in 1998.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times
Donna Grant, 71, and her son David Grant, 50.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times
Gail Goodroad, 44, from the Philippines, first heard “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” on the radio when she was in fifth grade. Her mom wasn’t so happy about it.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times

I look around and take in the scene. It’s a crisp autumn evening in the Hollywood Hills, and electricity is in the air. Morrissey is here. And so are his fans, wearing their love on their sleeves, shirts and skins. It’s showtime and we carry on, waiting for the man who sings us to sleep.

The crowd at the Hollywood Bowl.CreditRyan Lowry for The New York Times

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