French singer, songwriter, poet, composer, artist, actor and director Serge Gainsbourg was kind of like the Kanye West of his time—you know, a creative genius. A jack of many trades. A genre-hopping musician, both in the spotlight and behind the scenes. His lyrics utilized styles of wordplay that would make most rappers (and even self-described word-nerd copy editors—we checked) scratch their heads. (Mondegreen? Spoonerism? Check Gainsbourg’s Wikipedia page for definitions.)
Gainsbourg also managed to sweep some of the best-known bombshells of the 1960s and ’70s off their feet. Check out his 1968 ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ duet with then-ladyfriend Brigitte Bardot above, for example. The song is based on a poem entitled The Trail’s End, written by Bonnie Parker herself just weeks before her Depression-era crime spree with Clyde Barrow came to a grisly end. Gainsbourg’s apparent fascination with American culture is interesting—especially as we find ourselves paying homage to all things French, with our limited-time French Fling Pop-In Shop. (And, as Monsieur West is zealously requesting croissants and collab’ing with minimalist French label A.P.C.)
Below, find some favorite photos of Gainsbourg and guests—all via the essential repository for all things vintage and jaw-dropping: The Impossible Cool.
Perhaps he was not classically handsome. And legend has it that he passed out drunk after taking Jane Birkin to some questionable venues on their first date. But what Gainsbourg lacked in other areas, he made up for in his keen ability to wear a suit like he was born in it. Check out those fitted shoulders, wide lapels, and devil-may-care shirt collar.
Brigitte Bardot, Gainsbourg’s partner in crime in the song above, cleaned up pretty nice, too.
…But who wore it best? Invented in England, perfected by the French—Gainsbourg makes a trench coat look almost as good as Bardot. Note his expert use of accessories: gloves, smoke, icy stare.
Not a bad run: After breaking up with Bardot, Gainsbourg rebounded with English singer/actress Jane Birkin—but’s that’s a whole other story. Here, he rocks the “jacket-as-cape” look about 40 years before the current crop of street-style stars attempted it.