Jethro Cave, the model, writer and sometime actor died 9 May 2022. While speculations abound, personally, speculations be damned. Frankly, this one hurt just like Stella Tennant’s news tore through my insides on 23 December 2020. He always looked incandescent, even if he didn’t. While male modeling can often unlock the doors to hell for select young men, let’s dance with yesterday to recall why Jethro Cave, the model, mattered.
At the time Jethro Cave was lazily labelled ‘interesting’ or ‘androgynous’ by people connected to fashion. In truth, he was fantastic. His primordial hipster style was fantastic. His unwashed, uncombed, side swept hair was fantastic. And his Gumby earring was particularly fantastic.
Cave represented the vanguard of revolutionary male models from the late-aughts. That collective featured Cole Mohr, Luke Worrall, Ash Stymest, Josh Beech. Cave was photographed by Hedi Slimane for his influential Fashion Diary website, which predicted Tumblr. He strode the runway for Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga’s first catwalk that featured some of those male models above. He channeled the results of when music genres collided, fashioning ‘Baggy with Grunge’ looks for McQ by Alexander McQueen in 2010. He was the rogue model who acknowledged Michael Jackson’s passing at that Comme des Garçons show in summer 09 with a single tattoo flash. He was really fucking fantastic.
These past few days, I have often thought about Jethro Cave as Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff - extreme elevations and cruel debasements included. His photographic quality represented a hardscrabble vision of glamour. There was a spectral quality to Cave’s posings - whether they be taken by … or… - certain ambiguities arose, as undercurrents echoed boy, male and female. It did not seek external validation, or acknowledgement, it just was. His power was in refracting the dark side of this industry while it could not comprehend his message.
RIP Jethro Lazenby. Thank you for being complicated.