Like anybody, I've worn things that ought to bring a shudder of embarrassment if I catch a glimpse of the photos. Dungarees. Hawaiian shirts. Leather tie. Braces. Drainpipe jeans. Floral waistcoats. (Not all at once, I hasten to add.)
But, since I've rarely been a casual employee of fashion, let alone a slave, I can usually brush aside such indiscretions on the basis that I didn't really make a conscious, calculated decision to make those purchases. Most appeared in my wardrobe by a sort of retail-related osmosis, the only thing pushing me towards any kind of proactivity being the fact that the alternative was public nakedness.
The only time I've ever felt particularly part of a fashion gang, and made appropriate purchases, was in around 1987, when I used to hang around on the fringes of a bunch of people who were into rare groove and its associated genres; essentially, old soul, funk, Latin and jazz records, and a smattering of house and hip-hop, played in ramshackle warehouses and basements, in atmosphere that combined louche irony and sneery elitism. (I discussed the scene in more detail here.) There was a uniform of sorts, and damn, did we adhere to it. Odd that most of us were still celebrating our recent freedom from institutions that tried to force us into uniforms but hey, this isn't an exhibition at the V&A.
This is the way we wore:
• Black Doc Marten shoes or boots, but not the knee-highs favoured by Goths and gay skinheads; possibly brogues or brothel-creepers at a pinch. Black, white or Argyle socks. NO TRAINERS. Trainers were naff. People who wore snow-washed Wranglers wore trainers. We didn't even wear trainers when we were dancing to Run DMC's 'My Adidas'.
• Blue, black or (if you had the legs) white Levi's 501s, rips optional, provided it wasn't too obvious that you'd done them deliberately (a difficult trick to pull). Or black or khaki chinos.
• Plain white cotton shirt, or black polo-neck. Option of plain white t-shirt in the summer. ALL TO BE TUCKED IN. Worn with black or navy blazer/suit jacket, or Levi's denim jacket, or MA-1 flight jacket. For smart occasions, an ironically flamboyant - but not consciously comedic - silk tie could be worn.
• Headgear was optional: black trilby or red spotted bandana; beret at a pinch.
• Females could wear any of the above: in addition, they had the options of tight black skirts and cream-and-blue striped Breton tops.
The thing is, I don't feel the slightest bit embarrassed by any of this, except maybe the bandana. Can anyone else look back at what they were wearing about 20 years ago and think, "Yeah, I looked pretty good"?