Friday, January 23, 2009

Tim's fashion tips

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"?

22 comments:

Rosie said...

photos!

please.

Boz said...

Doc Martins are making one of their perennial comebacks, I think, like Converse All Stars did a few years ago. A new DM shop has opened in Covent Garden.

Not right now. I'm not reporting live or anything. I'm wonderfully out of touch with the fashion zeitgeist.

Billy said...

I don't think I've ever tucked anything in.

Also trainers are okay as long as they're not combined with white towelling socks. *shudder*

Geoff said...

I bet you didn't look as good as Robert Elms has looked every year for the past 45 years.

FirstNations said...

yup. from the leather soles of my black wing-tipped shoes to the top of my blue, spiky hair, i was happening in a big big way.
hint: nothing says 'sexxxay' like using a bit of black felt tip pen around the eyes for that 'recently kicked junk' look!

Tim Footman said...
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Tim Footman said...

Rosie: Have sent out an SOS for pics. If I get any, they're going up.

Boz: I think DM's started losing it when they opened their own shop, and started diversifying into a lifestyle brand. DMs are shoes; Levi's are jeans; Ben Shermans are shirts.

Well I hope you've tucked something in, Billy, or you'd be arrested when you moved the urinal.

I didn't look as good as Robert Elms thinks he's looked, Geoff, but that's a different matter.

Never did felt-tip round the eyes, FN. But alternating scarlet and purple nail varnish, that was a phase.

Betty said...

... and then your look was ripped off by Bros. I bet they didn't have to listen to Cross The Tracks by Maceo And The Macks on a continuous loop either.

Vicus Scurra said...

38 years ago I had some jeans that had flares inserted in them that were the same material (oranges, purples and reds) as my headband. Not that I was any sort of exhibionist, you understand.
Since then I have seldom given a thought to my appearance - I can recognise a lost cause when I see one.

Art said...

Have read all post and comments, and am still hung up on the leather tie mentioned first. They make leather ties? in a non-sexual way?

Tim Footman said...

The only legitimate response to Bros, Betty, is that they weren't as cool as Curiosity Killed the Cat. Which is rather not cool.

What colour was your Afghan, man, I mean, Vicus?

Well, yes, Art. It was thin and pale grey (this was in about 1984). And I've just received an e-mail to remind me that my father also had one, but I'm not sure about the colour. If you can have cloth belts (eg Scout belts) then why not leather ties? Don't answer that.

Annie said...

No. I shudder when I remember what I was wearing last week.

Can't wait to see your photos.

Valerie said...

Hmm. 20 years ago my uniform was black boots or green Doc Martens, torn jeans, and a black muscle tee or tank top. Sadly, that quickly gave way to the miniskirted nonsense you can see in my photos from 1992. It takes so little time to lose one's cool.

Mr Murph said...

Time and false memory syndrome do their worst.

Drew thinks he was like Bob Dylan but actually he was one of the earnest black-hornrimmed short-haired nerds seen on "Don't Look Back".

9/10ths Full of Penguins said...
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9/10ths Full of Penguins said...

I was 11 twenty years ago and the only clothes I remember clearly were a selection of bright red tracksuits that my grandma insisted on buying me at least once a year. Due to the fact that I looked like a giant clawless lobster, I only ever wore them when we saw her. I didn't have the heart to tell her I hated them...

I still feel bad about lying to her...

Tim Footman said...

Rummaging in attics is heard across the land, Annie. (Attics: what we had before Flickr.)

Valerie: Sounds as if you'd have been welcome to join us on the floor and shake your tusch to 'I Believe in Miracles'.

But the nerds are cool, Murph. In a cool nerd way.

At least she bought them, 9/10, rather than knitting them.

garfer said...

That was the uniform in 1987, and you couldn't go far wrong (apart from wearing a bandana).

It enabled one to feel superior to nobheads in 'ice wash' blue jeans and trainers.

Black Levi's 501's were £50, which was a rip off.

patroclus said...

They had to cost £50 so Levi's could afford to pay talented actor Nick Kamen to take his strides off in a laundrette. It was all about the laundrettes in the late 80s.

patroclus said...

Or should that be 'launderette'? Argh, spelling crisis.

Tim Footman said...

But Garfer, second-hand ones were cheaper and cooler (unless you went to Flip on Long Acre, where I'm sure they were just new ones that they left on the roof for a few weeks, and charged more for).

Patroclus: you describe Nick Kamen as 'talented', and you're worried about your spelling?

Maria said...

Nice post