A handful of drag histories have been written throughout the years, but the majority have focussed only on cis, male drag queens. This isn't accurate – from the trans women resisting police brutality to the Hollywood starlets laying the blueprint for hyper-femininity, there's a world of drag that's been forgotten or erased.
Now journalist Jake Hall hopes to remedy that with the launch of their new book, The Art of Drag. Delving deep into the very beginnings of drag to the present day and beyond, the guide features colourful illustrations by hugely talented queer artists – Helen Li, Sofie Birkin, and Jasjyot Singh Hans.
The book isn't just a history of drag as we know it today, but a deconstruction of its various elements – performance, theatre, politics, freakiness, charisma or influence – and the timeline stretches back to Ancient Greece.
The vibrant illustrations enhance this rich history, from Kabuki theatre to Shakespeare, the revolutionary Stonewall riots to the thriving New York ballroom scene. The book also comes with fascinating glimpses into the future of drag with insights from top personalities including The Vixen, Crystal Rasmussen, Sweatmother and Don One.
In the book's introduction, Jake writes: "While cross-dressing has been around for hundreds of years, it wasn’t 'drag' until an 1870 edition of the UK's Reynold's Newspaper printed a fabulous- sounding event invitation: 'We shall come in drag, which means men dressed in women's costumes.' It is now one of the world's most glamorous, hilarious and rebellious art forms. Not only does drag set out to subvert society's norms, it delights at poking fun at the world around us. Every day, artists across the globe dig deep into their dressing-up boxes, using lavish costumes and make-up to magic up larger-than-life alter-egos that dazzle and amaze. It's exciting, liberating and deliciously queer, so it's no wonder that drag has fast become a global phenomenon."
The Art of Drag by Jake Hall is out in September.