What We Used To Wear – Army Shirts

(A look back at some of the things we used to wear in the 70’s)

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2022

I’ve no idea what possessed us to wear a lot of the stuff we used to wear, however, I’m very clear about the origins of one 70s fashion trend….. step forward Bryan Ferry who against all conceivable odds managed to make the GI-Joe-look, cool.

English singer Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music, pictured in military style costume with backing singer Jacqui Sullivan at the Montcalm Hotel, London during the Siren tour, October 1975. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

At the time, Roxy and Ferry were at the peak of their powers with a catalogue of critically acclaimed albums and a raft of memorable singles, all produced in the space of three productive years.

Like Bowie, Ferry was a bit of an image-chameleon, constantly updating his look and persona, for each album & tour.
A glam Space Cowboy one minute, a Hollywood Matinee Idol, the next.

Since his breakthrough in 72 with Virginia Plain, Ferry’s style had always been pretty distinctive, but not that accessible, and when he appeared on our screens in September 1975 to deliver ‘Love Is The Drug’ wearing a pair of khaki trousers (that we later found out were called chinos) a pristine khaki military shirt and an eye-patch (as he’d genuinely injured his eye), he finally introduced a look we could invest in…. kind of.

The TV clip showed the ladies in the audience swooning as Ferry swayed, hands in pocket, to the opening bass-line hook of ‘Love Is The Drug’.
A vision in khaki, before you knew it, a few of us were dashing off to our local Army & Navy stores in an attempt to emulate the suave Geordie.

Army & Navy stores were no strangers to teenagers in the 70s, shopping for parkas & gas mask bags and even the odd bit of camouflage but the staff couldn’t believe their luck when the army shirts that had been stuck in a corner gathering dust for years were suddenly selling like hot-cakes.

In a classic case of supply and demand, the prices for said items rose dramatically in the space of a few days.

We’d been influenced by Ferry, but we’d no idea what had influenced him to go for the US Military look, maybe it was at the behest of his latest muse, the Texan Jerry Hall who Ferry was dating and who had just featured as the latest ‘Roxy Girl’ on the cover of their new album – ‘Siren’.

According to Hall, her father had fought in the US military alongside General Patton so perhaps Bryan was dressing to impress.

Being a Roxy fan I went to see them on their Siren tour and was struck at how many wannabe Ferry’s there were in the crowd.

Sure, we had picked up on the army shirt look but others had gone the whole hog…. white dinner jackets, bow-ties, Ferry haircuts, the complete look even down to his trademark pencil-thin moustache (and that was just the girls!)…. there were even a few diehards brandishing eye-patches, not realising the poor guy had glaucoma.

As a trend the military look came and went pretty quickly, indeed, if you popped into your local Army & Navy store a few months later it’s likely you would have seen a rack full of discounted khaki army shirts gathering dust in the corner again.

That would be the last we’d see of Ferry’s changing personas for a while as he broke up the band, broke up with Hall and pursued the life of a dashing country squire…. leaving us poor buggers behind, looking like the cast of M*A*S*H

6 thoughts on “What We Used To Wear – Army Shirts”

  1. Military gear is still fashionable here. An early boyfriend of mine was a sailor. An ex-hubby was a Marine Corps Master Sergeant. My current “significant other” was a Seabee. I love fatigue pants, have three military field jackets and a genuine vintage Navy peacoat that is as old as I am (tag is dated 1966). A woman was selling her father’s coat on eBay and it had been stored in her attic for 30 years. It is pristine and spotless with a Shopkeeper chevron (crossed keys) on it. I even have a pair of tactical boots.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to agree Paul! Once I got into Roxy Music, I couldn’t help but think Bryan Ferry was pretty much the epitome of “cool” for a guy . I had a shirt something like the Ferry one, without the patch, didn’t get it specifically to copy him but at the time I liked the look and they were popular.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Those shirts are too cool! Never had an army shirt but had plenty of (and still buy) military style jackets. They never seem to go out of fashion do they?
    In the early 80s Birmingham we had an army and navy surplus store near us, which I used for my rock band fashions at the time, as well as camping gear for festivals and boots and waterproofs for my day job. Last time I visited Brum it was still there… what a cool shop!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The military-style uniform (not costume!) worn by Bryan Ferry on the Roxy Music “Siren” tour was somewhat like those worn by American officers in the 1940’s and 50’s (WWII era and later). The shoulder epaulets would show rank and the tie tucked into shirt was authorized when no jacket was worn, or for practical reasons when around machinery, food, etc. As usual, Ferry “wore it well”.

    Liked by 1 person

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