I’ve been ruminating a lot lately on the vast decline in defiant youth subcultures and tribes and about the differences between street style today compared to that in the 1980s.
These days it seems you can’t move without tripping over style blogs allegedly cataloguing street style or rather girls dressed nicely, at best on trend. Each fashion week location is heaving with photographers and bloggers capturing ‘street-style’ or rather, dresser-uppers-for-the-day clamouring to be caught on digital. A weak stab at 5 seconds of fame. Because that’s about it. The vast majority of current street style looks may be nicely put together by some of the more adept individuals concerned, but in actuality are an attempt at half-cocked celebrity rather than stamping an identity. There appears to be a desire to blend in and be noticed for the designer touches rather than the wish to stand-out. Where’s youth’s revolt gone? Where the desire to be different? To literally wear your heart and persuasions on your sleeve through fashion? Shrinkage in true style is surely occurring.
Back in the 1980s, there was obviously a rather different set of political and socio-economic circumstances. Thatcherism was at its height, AIDS was about to wreak havoc, MTV Europe was just launched (1981) and it was prior to a celebrity obsessed, multi-channel media weighted audience. Plus, the internet and digital media didn’t exist as we know it.
Street style and distinct tribes exploded in line with a verdant, creative time in the music scene whether one identified with Punk, New Wave, New Romantics, Ska, New Mod’ism, American Retro (with the rise of labels and stores like Johnsons, Western Styling & Flip) through to Goths and Twee jangly guitars. There was a look and a style paired alongside each genre and with that, youth added their own individual stamp of identity. Street style was king. Hoardes of new and established designers took their cue from club looks including Katharine Hamnett, Vivienne Westwood, Body Map, PX, No Yes! Helen Storey, Rachel Auburn, Demob, Boy and Sign of the Times. Niche labels and market type set-ups that promoted individuality like Hyper Hyper and Kensington market ensured a profusion of looks. How unlike our identikit homogenised high street today.
There’s a rekindled interest in 1980s style and club culture largely as this group have now come of middle-age but are still key players whether in music, fashion, entertainment, literature or media.
The legendary club, Kinky Gerlinky, and the characters and personalities it attracted has now been documented into a lavish new book independently produced by Louis Vuitton’s Menswear Director, Kim Jones, via his own Slow Loris Publishing imprint. The book about club hosts Michael and Gerlinde Costiff is packed full of previously unpublished images of Vivienne Westwood, Divine, Leigh Bowery, Trojan, Derk Jarman, Sid Viscious, Hamish Bowles, Boy George, Stephen Jones and John Maybury – plus a host of clubland faces from the colliding worlds of fashion, art and nightclubs throughout the ’80s and ’90s.
This is a paen to underground culture just as Iain R Webb’s new book release, ‘As Seen In BLITZ’. If you weren’t lucky enough (or old enough) to be around to be part of the scene, part of the hedonism and inspired by the styles and characters, then buy the book(s).
Some of us have fonder, larger than life memory snippets of much more creative, heart-racing, exciting clubland times. These book(s) are great reminders. We didn’t realise just how special it all was at the time.
“Michael & Gerlinde’s World: Pages from a Diary” is available from Dover Street Market.
Also look out for the V&A’s ‘Club To Catwalk – London Fashion in the 1980s’ exhibition from 10th July 2013-16th February 2014