(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – February 2021)
… well, not exactly. Let me explain:
I’m no trend setter, I think it’s safe to say. I mean, I don’t see many other blokes my age roaming the not so mean streets of Houston, following my lead by rocking a similar hairstyle.
Neither am I one to blindly fall into the wake of whatever’s considered the current ‘new wave.’
However, the young me, the very young me, was a bit more impressionable.
I’d have been aged eight or nine when these babies made their appearance in the mid-Sixties. I doubt I’d even reached the dizzy responsibilities of Seconder in the Cub Scouts when I first noticed some of the other boys proudly sporting them during Inspection. Actually, I wouldn’t have noticed them at all if it wasn’t for the continuous bragging of those little smart a****!
You see, the uppers bore no real difference to any other run of the mill shoe. It was what lay beneath that made these shoes ‘to die for.’ (Sorry – that sounds just a tad too ‘cub scout camp.’)
Yes, the magic all happened below. Out of sight. On, and wait for it, IN the sole of the shoe. How radical was that?
True, some of the magic was dependent on certain geographical and meteorological conditions being met. It may have proved different for kids living in the more arid regions of southern England, but here in West of Scotland, we didn’t generally have to worry about a dearth of puddles, claggy mud and even snow.
However, the main attraction of these shoes was the small compass, secreted in a special compartment of the right foot’s heel. Genius!
Actually, the real genius here was not so much the design or designer, but the dude who by tapping into the sheer gullibility of eight year old lads, successfully marketed these inherently pointless yet novelty shoes to reluctant parents.
Wait, thinking of it, with thirty-two points on a compass, Wayfinders were anything but ‘pointless,’ but you get my drift.
I mean, seriously, what use was a compass to an eight year old? Unless your mother, in addition to your name, had sewn in the DMS (degrees, minutes and seconds) coordinates of your home address into the collar of your jumper, you’d be stuffed if you became lost.
What could you do? Even had you been awarded the Navigator Activity badge, without your home coordinates, you had only a one in thirty-two chance of stumbling back into your street. And the danger for those who hadn’t paid proper attention during the Pioneering Badge session, was they’d only retain two words: magnetic and north.
I count myself here as one of the stupid ones who would have ended up in Inverness or somewhere cold and bleak that was not really my intention.
But worse! What self-respecting young lad does not carry a bar magnet in their pocket? And that’s not a euphemism. You’d end up in Portsmouth, in a very confused state for goodness sake.
Another thing – what’s the point of animal tracks moulded onto the sole of your shoe? Should Bear Grylls come across an unfamiliar track when out in the wilds, I’m reasonably confident in suggesting he’d use a pocket manual or something to help him identify it – not take off his shoe to compare the muddy imprint.
I did, and still do, enjoy the thought however, of a trail of these prints being left in a snow covered country lane – and the befuddled look on a hungry fox’s little face when he finally realises he hasn’t actually won the lottery and chanced upon a whole winter larder’s supply of food.
Anyway, the concept of individuality was alien to me at such a young age, and like a sheep, I followed the trend. I did actually manage to badger my folks into buying me a pair of these stoaters, even though they were quite dear at the time.
(Sorry – my hands made me type that last paragraph.)
Over the next few years, my head was too full of football and nonsense to bother about fashion of any sorts. In 1971, though through my first winter at secondary school, leather, zipped ankle boots became de rigeur.
Surprisingly, considering the expense, my parents offered negligible resistance to my request for a pair. I was now part of the cool set at school. Deep puddles and wet snow – I laugh in your face.
If puddles and wet snow did indeed have a face, and they could laugh out loud, they would have been in stitches a few days later when they had exacted retribution for my callous disregard of their existence.
Somehow soaked through to my socks when I arrived home from school, my Mum placed the boots in front of the two-bar electric fire. Within minutes there was an acrid, burning smell. And it wasn’t the usual overcooked burning cauliflower scent I had become so used to. (Sorry, Mum.)
I rushed to the rescue of my beloved leather boots and was aghast to see a lava-like rivulet spread down the front of the left one.
Yup! These ‘leather’ boots were made of plastic. These Boots Were Made For Melting.
With a renewed respect for puddles and wet snow, I returned to school the following morning, ready to be slaughtered for unfashionable, fashionable boots. I wasn’t disappointed. Kids can be so cruel, you know.
My final foray into the world of fashion came a year or so later. Inspired by Glam Rock in general, the band, Sweet, in particular, and a distinct lack of personal height, platform shoes were my next ‘got to have.’ Purple ones. Or ox blood, I think was the delightful, correct description. Two toned ox blood ones, in fact.
Now I totally loved these. I looked well sharp and felt five feet tall.
But what is it with shoes, winter and me? Having worn these through the months of autumn, it had escaped my attention that the soles and more so, the heels had worn thin as the first snows began to fall. In fact, the heel rubber was non-existent. Well, what would I know … I hadn’t looked at the soles of my shoes since my last pair of Wayfinders.
Sat in double History, I was conscious of some surreptitious whispers and giggling from those sat behind me. To my horror, I noticed a puddle of water under my seat, just where I’d crossed my ankles for comfort.
The more I frantically pleaded that this was not the result of excitement at the prospect of reading about the French Revolution for the next hour, the more the mirth intensified. Even the teacher cast me some alarmed glances.
It was only at the end of class when I slipped and staggered out the room, leaving behind what remained of two, three inch, heel shaped blocks of compacted ice and snow, that my innocence was proved, and incontinence debunked.
Looking back then, perhaps I should have learned how to make better use the Wayfiinders compass. At least I would have determined at an early stage that my attempt at becoming a style icon would head in one direction only – and that was south.
John Allan: Bridgetown, Western Australia, April 2021
It must be over 20 years since I came to the realisation that it’s function over fashion, comfort over couture.
There are basically two seasons in this part of the world. Summer… where I adorn fabulous floral Hawaiian shirts and shorts. Winter…. when I rug up in sweatshirts and trackie dacks (tracksuit trousers).
My major dilemma is whether to have the elasticated waist below or above the beer gut. Shitty nappy look versus camel toe look.
Thong (flip flop), Croc, Ugg, Blundies (Blundstone or it’s competitor Rossi elastic sided boot) and you’ve covered all known Australian footwear.
I haven’t laced up a shoe for over 5 years.
Our early ‘look’ was of course solely in the hands of our parents.
Any baby photos I’ve seen of myself, I seem to be wearing a dress. More than that, there are layers upon layers of petticoats underneath. Now there could be various reasons for this….
It could have been a christening or some other type of formal ceremony. Or, perhaps after two boys, my Mum had prepared for a daughter.
Or lastly…. my parents were just taking the piss.
I can’t ever remember my parents holidaying in the Black Forest or being visited by any Tyrolean travellers but for some reason at an early and vulnerable age I was presented with a pair of lederhosen.
I was paraded in front of many a coffee morning to the oohs and aahs of neighbouring mothers. Certainly they were hard wearing and tough and with the bib removed and a long t-shirt, nearly inconspicuous until one of your mates clocked them. “What are you wearing ?”
Was this a continuation of the parental piss take ?
Ahead of their time, my parents would bundle 3 boys and assorted camping equipment into the family Cortina and head abroad. The check list must have read like :- tent, ground sheet, sleeping bags, lilos, calor gas stove, 3 kilts and brylcreem.
There are numerous photographs of my two brothers and I standing in front of the famous buildings and monuments of Copenhagen with shirt, tie, matching v-neck jerseys, slicked back hair and kilts.
Even complete strangers queued up to take pictures of us.
We were pimped out like Caledonian Kardashians. In fact as I write this there may be some demented Dane ogling at us on his mantelpiece as we pose in front of the Little Mermaid….
Photo opportunity or piss take ?
It wasn’t until the 70s that you were allowed to take charge of your own wardrobe…..No more man at C & A’s for me!
The groovy mauve (rounded collared) shirt, with the red, yellow and black tank top. Think Fair Isle Partick Thistle.
Loon pants so tight around the crutch that it lowered your sperm count. Indeed, most of the material was utilised around your ankles billowing atop of baseball boots.
For a jacket I had my Dad’s old RAF tunic sans original buttons (disrespectful otherwise).
Mum would give me a good look up and down.
“Are you taking the piss ?”
Most of my working life I was spared the noose of shirt and tie and wore uniform. As a student nurse I had to endure the itchy starchy collars of the dentist shirt…. a straitjacket like garment that buttoned up over you right shoulder.
One day I had to accompany a District Nurse into the community, so adorned jumper and jacket. I noticed one client being very reverential to me and calling me Father. I of course absolved her of her sins, told her to recite five Hail Marys and promised to christen her grandchild.
As a ‘Nurse Educator’ I had to supervise male medical students on several ‘work experience’ days. First lesson was to secure their ties, although it was always amusing to watch some gormless would be Doctor with his tie traipsing in a full bedpan like a thirsty puppy. A literal piss take.
Thankfully, common sense prevailed and nurses went about their business in scrubs. Like wearing pyjamas in the daytime………………….which I’m doing now.
Call the fashion police. It’s an emergency !
Fashion! Turn to the left Fashion! Turn to the right Oooh, fashion! We are the goon squad And we’re coming to town Beep-beep Beep-beep
In September 1973 I turned 16 and I was lucky to be offered a Saturday job in Burton’s in Sauchiehall St.
My pal, Pat, was giving it up to go to Jordanhill PE College and he would return to work at Burton’s over the Christmas holiday but more on that later.
I duly turned up on my first day scrubbed clean with a fresh haircut and my best (only) suit on.
The shop at that time had nine full time staff and I was one of five Saturday boys! It was a smallish two floor shop which today would be staffed by 3 or 4 warm bodies.
My first duty, which was to last for the next 8 weeks, was to fill out the Made to Measure forms while Joe the manager, Kit the assistant manager (in his 30’s) and JC in his 50’s did the actual measuring for the endless queue of eager customers.
A Bespoke Two piece suit started at £24.00 and there was credit facilities available.
On the form there were spaces for all the standard measurements required, like… Chest, Shoulder Width, Sleeves, Waist and Inside Leg.
On top of that, there were codes that you had to pick up quickly if you were to last the pace. Things like… DB – Double Breasted STP-Standard Turn Up BF – Button Fly etc
Kit measured the customers really fast and that’s when the fun started.
He’d shout out the standard stuff then throw in a code you hadn’t heard of before….. Inside Leg 29″ NB??
I scribbled it down anyway making a mental note to ask him what NB meant when I got the chance.
Next customer ‘Extra Coloured Stitching round Tulip Lapels!’ (Now don’t pretend you didn’t have a least one jacket with THEM!) Before adding TP!
I presumed the TP stood for Tulip?
This guy was CA, the next one was a largish gentleman… ‘FB’ said Kit All these codes! I was beginning to think I’d never get the hang of it…then the queue eased a bit and I was sent for a 10 min tea break.
I ran to the little staff room for a quick cuppa and took the opportunity to ask Kit what on earth these other codes stood for…. he checked back on my book and said well….
NB means No B*lls! TP means ‘Total Pr*ck!’ CA is Complete Ar**hole FB is ‘Fat B…… Well I think you can work that one out for yourself!
I stood there open mouthed and didn’t know if I should laugh or not! Two other new starts had heard our conversation and were similarly stunned!
Then Kit laughed and we all joined in! ‘Ssh’ said JC, who’d obviously witnessed this scene many times before, ‘Here’s more customers!’ I must’ve filled in another 15 Bespoke forms before lunch, fighting back the tears of laughter as Kit entertained us all with his secret coded banter.
I enjoyed my first day at Burton’s immensely and headed to Queen St. Station at 5.30 with my Pink Times under my arm and the princely sum of £2.96 wages in my pocket. Later that evening I was pretend fighting with my sister and broke a lamp! ‘That’ll be your wages gone for a Burton!’ quipped my Dad…hoho
After a few weeks Kit invited myself and a few other staff for a pint (I was quite a mature looking 16 year old) in The Royal Hotel which was above the shop. The Royal or Sammy Dows in Dundas St. became our regular haunts.
At one time I think all the shops at street level had been part of the hotel because there was a warren of corridors, doorways and hidden passageways in Burtons’ basement…. But more on them later.
The Christmas holidays arrived and I was asked to stay on and Pat returned too.
It was maaad busy but we still had time for fun, mainly initiated by Pat.
Joe, Charlie, Pat and I were working in the Ready to Wear department in the basement floor where ‘Crimplene was King!’
We didn’t have a cash register and had to place the cash, cheques and tickets in a cylinder and send it up to the cash office on the ground floor via a pneumatic system called a Lamson.
They used one in Paisleys, Goldbergs and most big department stores back then. The cashier would then write out a receipt and send the change back down. Quite an efficient system unless it was really busy…..which it nearly always was.
On a rare quiet moment Pat would place a previously caught spider (there were some monsters in the aforementioned tunnels) into the Lamson cylinder and press go……then count to 5….A blood curdling scream would be heard from the cash office! Followed by ‘Ya Wee Bassas! from Izzy the fiery redheaded cashier.
Three days before Christmas I had my first experience of an after hours shop party. It was quite a tame event (I would attend much wilder examples in the next 40 years working in retail….but that’s for another blog)
We had sandwiches and sausage rolls. McEwan’s Export and Lager for the guys, a nice malt for the older staff and Blue Nun & Rosé in the wicker basket bottle for the ladies – the ladies were Izzy, her new assistant cashier Kate and her sister and Big Maggie, the full time cleaner, who was as hard as nails but had the proverbial heart of gold.
Maggie lived in Garthamlock, a quaint, picturesque village north of the city. Pat and I actually went to her Hogmanay Party that year! But that story is definitely NOT getting told here!!
The January Sale began and brought lots of returns of unwanted gifts. Burtons didn’t give refunds which led to quite a few disgruntled customers.
One particularly angry and inebriated guy, who’d been in for ages arguing with Izzy and Kit (no contest) asked to use the staff toilet and was refused. The staff stored their coats and personal belongings next to the toilet so requests were always refused. Later, however, he returned when it was really busy and managed to slip unnoticed into the toilet area and peed in the Manager’s hat!! Joe was not amused!….
Around mid February my daily wages went up by £1.00 to £3.96 but they were backdated for 12 weeks. Good old USDAW union!
I was rich! I had £16.00 in my skyrocket! It was time to put a deposit on a new suit! Staff got 40% discount on two suits per year (25% Off thereafter) so I only paid £29.00 instead of £49.00 which was still expensive for 1974.
This is the Jacket from that very suit!
The Executive Range (of course!) with the additional detail of wide lapels, coat buttons and large flap pockets.
The trousers had a wide, three inch high waistband and twenty eight inch flared bottoms!
I always wondered what codes Kit chose for me!?!?
But first things first, off I went to Sammy Dows for a couple of pints!
As soon as my Highers were finished in early May 1974 I worked full time again until August and Pat joined us for the summer.
In the basement there were two fitting rooms with lockable doors, chairs and a shelves with an ashtray. Yes you could smoke in shops in those days! Total madness!
Apart from the obvious risk of fire with all that inflammable crimplene around, you couldn’t get the smell of smoke out of any of the fabrics! But I digress….
One day a guy was trying on trousers in the changing rooms and came back out and said he’d just leave it for now. Nobody went near the cubicle for at least an hour but eventually a customer did go in and cried out in disgust…there was a giant ‘jobbie’ in the ashtray!!
I don’t know if it was the same guy who had urinated in the Manager’s hat? (There was no DNA testing in 1974!) But if Big Maggie had got hold of him there would’ve been ‘A Murdduurr’ nine years before anybody had ever heard of Inspector Jim Taggart!
The shop’s window displays were dressed every week by John. He was a very gentle and artistic man who nowadays would be classed as having learning or social difficulties or ‘On the Spectrum’
The windows were old fashioned and you had to open the lockable panel and step up about 3 foot, onto a platform. When the aforementioned panel was locked, the window was closed off from the sales floor.
One Friday evening Joe the manager was in a hurry to get home so at 5.27 he locked the window panel, switched off the lights, set the alarm and we were all outside by 5.30……or were we?
The window lights were left on at night and John was still in the window working and didn’t realise that everybody else had left. He was trapped! He tried to attract passers-by but everybody was rushing home or more likely, rushing to the pub to kick off the weekend.
Poor John was waving franticly and pressing his face up against the glass trying to get anyone’s attention! Those that did notice him must’ve thought it was some kind of new, arty farty, active window display and kept on walking, shaking their heads.
He was stuck there for hours but eventually managed to convince someone to find a policeman who then phoned his station and tracked down the key holder….cue a very annoyed Joe who had to curtail his Friday night to rescue him.
Poor John! It must’ve been very distressing for him but the next day he pretended to just laugh it off.
In June it was our branch’s turn to host the quarterly Managers Meeting. The meeting would be held in a downstairs room behind the sales floor. Joe was clearly on edge and got Maggie to organise tea, sandwiches and cakes for the eight visitors.
‘It’s an oppurchancity not to be missed!’ Pat declared!
He duly put on an XXL Overcoat left over from Winter and I stuffed the shoulders with thick display felt. He then got the arms from a window dummy and held them so that the hands reached his knees, he topped it off by wearing a stiff platinum blonde wig perched jauntily on his head! Pat is 6 foot tall but the wig added at least another 4″! He looked like Benny Hill’s giant, long lost, deranged great uncle!
The meeting had been going for about 30 minutes when the door burst open and in waltzed Pat to the utter astonishment of the group!
‘Wellhullorerr Guys!’ he said and saluted with his false right arm before quickly crossing the room and disappearing into one of the ‘hidden corridors’ behind racks of stock where I was waiting to ‘disrobe’ him!
We were swiftly back on the sales floor before our puce faced manager raced down the back staircase shouting ‘PAT! FOR F*CKSAKE!’ He glared at the two of us and we knew we were in for it later!
We did indeed get a stern telling off but Joe was laughing as he did it. Turned out he couldn’t stand a couple of the managers and actually told them he’d set it all up to jolt them awake during the endless boredom of Quarterly Reports!
The next big event was The Glasgow Fair Friday! This is the Friday before the last fortnight in July when all the Glasgow factories closed for their holiday! Everybody was in a celebratory mood as the ‘workies’ clocked off at lunchtime and headed to packed pubs with 3 weeks wages burning holes in their pockets.
‘Whit ye gettin’ yer burd fur her FAIRN?’ asked Charlie. This was the first time I’d ever heard that phrase and I needed it explained to me.
Apparently it was customary to buy your partner a gift on Fair Friday. I can’t remember what I bought but it was probably a box of Milk Tray hastily purchased from the kiosk at Queen St. Station!
The pubs closed at 2.30pm but the workies still had to buy their ‘holiday claes’ before going home to pack.
Eight very merry, boiler-suited men came bouncing into Burtons and proceeded to form a Conga Line through the middle of the shop grabbing short sleeve shirts, casuals (polo shirts) and light coloured trousers as they high stepped their way past the racks and rails! It was the funniest thing I’d ever seen!
Then on their return journey, rather than queueing at the cash desk they started lobbing scrunched up fivers and tenners at the cash desk’s glass partition. Izzy was far from happy! The manager was delighted though as Pat, Charlie and I scooped up the cash and tried to tally it to the assorted clothes each dancer was carrying. Most of them paid more than they should have but they were all very happy and without breaking stride handed us tips before Conga-ing down a sun lit Sauchiehall St.
I continued to work Saturdays and all available holidays even after I left school and then went to Glasgow Tech to study Accountancy. There was a lot more Burtons’ laughs and nights out and in!
I left Glasgow Tech after a year and started full time in Burtons Buchanan St, before transferring to the trendy, new, shiny Top Man branch in 1978…..
(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – February 2021)
“What yow staring at, ponce?”
Denise was talking to a lanky boy with a feather cut and zits as we queued on the concrete slope that led from the back of Birmingham’s Bull Ring to the Top Rank Saturday morning disco.
“Piss off slag.”
“Piss off yourself.”
“Alroite – keep yer ‘air on. I wuz only was being noice.”
The lad turned his full charm on me.
“D’yow fancy a snog when we get in?”
Wearing American Tan tights, my feet sweated and slid on six-inch rubber wedges. I adjusted my black Wet Look belt; tightening it a notch or two to accentuate my positive assets; not that I had any yet, mind. My mum still made me wear a vest at night to insulate my washboard chest against the perils of life before central heating (perish the thought). At sixteen, I was on the cusp of something tangible that I didn’t yet understand; fired up with the frisson of youth and hormones (or ‘harmones’ as my Southern Belle mother called them) that stirred somewhere deep in my veins.
Edging forward in the queue, Denise and I were eager to dance the rub-up, which we had practiced in her through-lounge (and had at first confused with rubbing-in, during short-crust pastry lessons in cookery) to Judge Dread’s lewd reggae hit, ‘Big Six’. It was supposed to be a sexy bump and grind dance. We did our best – not easy on Bri-Nylon carpet with her mum looking on from the Draylon settee:
“Goo on Bab. That’s it. Yow’ll get the ‘ang of it.”
The queue finally began to shuffle forward and the smell of sweat and fags seeped and beckoned from the door. We finally disappeared into the murky, mirrored, cavernous pit – whereupon I slid off my platform shoes, landing spread-eagle on the dance floor which sparkled with its huge mirror ball and flashing, strobing coloured lights. No one bothered about epilepsy in the ‘70s.
“Yam alroite? Twat – come on, Oi’ll ‘elp yer.”
Denise pulled me back up onto my ankle-breakers to align our hips for the rub-up as Bob Marley wailed “Stir It Up”. The lad with zits drooled from a sweaty corner,
Suddenly, a spotlight threw its circle on us. We had won the Dance Competition! This was 1976 and we were the dog’s bollocks!
The Summer of ‘76 was the hottest summer anyone could remember (they obviously hadn’t tried a summer in Georgia where the humidity reaches 90+ F in the shade). I lay in the back garden with Denise on my mum’s best towels, in-between patches of fossilised dog shit – which nobody ever considered actually picking up in the ‘70s – and brown, scorched grass as we listened to Radio 1 while slathering on neat olive oil to sunbathe.
We were ostensibly revising for our ‘O’ Levels; books nonchalantly strewn on the ground to give the illusion of academia as we rotated like pigs on a spit. As the sun beat down, Andrea True Connection purred, ‘More, More, More’. The Industrial Revolution, Simultaneous Equations and French verbs didn’t get a look-in. When the brown envelope hit our vestibule door mat with my exam results, Dad looked at my three ‘O’ Levels and Grade 1 CSE:
“Well honey, you can always be a nurse.” (Ever the optimist.)
“No Dad, I can’t.”
“Why, sure you can Kid – why you’d be a great nurse!”
“I didn’t take any Science, Dad.”
“What the hell difference does that make?”
Dad was cool. I had been smoking Embassy No. 6 out of my bedroom window for some time; cramming mints and wafting through clouds of Coty ‘Wild Musk’ to disguise the smell of nicotine.
. Emboldened with the spirit of youth and a new push-up bra, I decided that I would light-up in the lounge to test the waters. At sixteen, I was feeling grown up and ready to take on the world!Sitting on the edge of my mother’s French antique love-seat, I struck a sophisticated pose and edgily lit a cigarette, blowing smoke rings purposefully into the room. Dad – padding around in his BVD’s – looked at me with a wry smile:
“How long you been doin’ that Kid?”
“Oh ages,” I replied; trying to keep my hand from shaking in this game of nerves.
“Well, just don’t overdo it Kid – everything in moderation.”
That was it! No BIG argument! With the skill of a seasoned diplomat, Dad had crushed my teenage rebellion in a single, calm stroke. I stubbed out my cigarette, sauntered back up to my room and took the padding out of my bra. Downstairs, Dad chuckled softly to himself as he lit his pipe. I forgot that Dad had been in the US Navy during WW2; it took a lot to shock him.
And then it happened: I woke up one morning to find that I had developed a chest. I wasn’t as well-endowed as Marion Priest who developed way ahead of the rest of us girls – but enough to eschew the padded bra. Marion would surge into the Form Room and declare, “Oi’m gunner be a mounted policewoman!” – amid much snickering and crude inuendo from the boys.
Driving me to Duncan Prat’s sixteenth birthday party, Dad noticed my cheesecloth blouse was unbuttoned a tad too far.
“Honey, one of your lungs is hangin’ out; better stick it back in before you get into trouble.”
Embarrassed but pleased to finally have ‘lungs’, I buttoned up and duly unbuttoned upon arrival at the party but Duncan didn’t notice – he was busy showing off his medallion. His name suited him well. As an aside – it was at this party where I met a boy named Virgil who was incontinent. I was once in the back seat of a car wedged between a stunning girl called Tiggs (“with her long blond hair and her eyes of blue”) and Virgil, when I became aware that my denim skirt was warm and wet. When we piled out of the car, Tiggs laughed casually: “Well, we all knew that Virgil is a piss artist!”
I was desperate to have a pair of denim hot pants like the girl on the cover of a K-tel LP my mother bought for one of my parents’ embarrassing ‘hip’ parties; you know the type – it had cover versions of ‘BIG HITS’. Mum put up quite a fight but I won this particular battle. Despite the 1970s making fashion victims of all the young dudes, denim remained the must-have item. It was even used to sell aftershave, “Denim – for the man, who doesn’t have to try, too hard.”
I obsessed over a denim dress in Miss Selfridge – or was it Chelsa Girl – that cost four quid and buttoned through the front with tie backs. I felt sure I would look like the Lamb’s Navy Rum girl in it. I bought it – and I didn’t.
I thought the Summer of ‘76 would never end but as with all good things it did. As September rolled around I finally left the God Awful School and headed to pastures new; a girl’s grammar school known locally as the Brothel on the Hill to enter the ‘Sick’ Form… now there’s a tale.
(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – February 2021)
The Summer of Love in 1967 may have swept America coast to coast, but not in our house. Flower Power didn’t wash with Dad, who got uptight just thinking about the louche morals of “those goddamn hippies”. He held Mick Jagger personally responsible for the breakdown in American society, along with Elvis Presley and his snake hips.
As men landed on the moon, Vietnam raged and the assassination of Martin Luther King rocked the nation, Mum and Dad decided to up-sticks from our all-American life and seek a better one in Jolly Olde England. Without so much as a by-your-leave they boarded a plane with me, aged ten, and my two teenage brothers. We touched down in Birmingham, West Midlands in the autumn of 1970, for our new life as Brummies.
1970s Birmingham was an exciting place to be a teenager, especially having lived in rural Virginia, where the most exciting thing that happened was the time a bull escaped from a farmer’s field and charged up State Street.
I discovered Glam Rock and boys at the local church Youth Club disco in 1974, wearing a tank top with flares and strawberry flavoured lip gloss. The lads sported Oxford Bags and feather cuts as they hovered in nervous groups around the edge of the hall, before summoning the courage to sidle up to me and my group of friends: Becky, Shaz and Julie.
Teetering on our rubber wedged platforms, we giggled wildly and closed rank in a tightly formed pack around our suede tasselled handbags; dancing in unison to ‘Tiger Feet’ and ‘Jean Jeanie’ as we feigned indifference to these “spotty oiks” and the invitation to have a shag – whatever that was. Arm-in-arm, we stomped across the dancefloor together to the serving hatch, where the vicar was on hand to serve us with four packets of cheese and onion and bottles of Vimto. We went en mass to the toilets to apply more lippy and talk about the boys, “He never!” “He DID!” The music stopped abruptly at 9pm when the cleaning lights beamed down like search lights (as indeed they were); but not before the lads tried their luck once more with a last dance (I say this loosely) which involved various lewd moves to the chorus of ‘Hi-ho, Silver Lining’. Good job the vicar didn’t notice.
David Cassidy stole my teenybopper heart when he was in the Partridge Family – but he wasn’t quite disco, was he? When Marc Bolan burst onto Top of the Pops in 1971 – all tight satin trousers, glitter and black eyeliner singing ‘Bang A Gong’ – Becky and I became ‘children of the revolution’ overnight and ditched David Cassidy like a brick outhouse. So fickle is Youth.
The dark church hall helped hide our blushes and the boy’s thin facial hair. Sweat dripped from the walls and trickled down the back of our Lurex jumpers, especially after getting ‘Down, Down’ to the Quo. One of the lads finally asked Shaz for a dance:
“No ta – yam aroight Bab; yow betta dance with me mayte. I’m a bit sweatay.” He never recovered his poise – or his ‘Coo-ca-choo’
My crush on Darryl Smith, with his David Essex bedroom eyes and dimple, went unrequited. I watched him from afar at the disco, with girls hanging on his every word and lipstick on his big lapels.
While space-hopping nonchalantly one afternoon along the central reservation of the dual carriage-way near my house, I spotted Darryl across the road, hanging upside down from the metal railings outside his parent’s newsagent shop. This was my big chance! I bounced across the road, fell off the space hopper and took a spectacular nose dive. Darryl fell off his railing, helpless with laughter, “Barmy slag!”
With tears welling, I gathered the shreds of my dignity along with my space hopper and trudged home, vowing to hate boys for ever. Becky came round and we played our precious handful of 45’s on the stereogram, chomping aniseed balls and plotting our revenge: “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.”
Make-up in the ‘70s was gloriously garish. I smeared on half-moons of iridescent green cream eye shadow and a slick of Mum’s ‘Burnt Sienna’ lipstick before offering to nip to the shops on the off-chance of running into Darryl Smith. Becky sat on the bath and watched with disdain:
“Moi mum says that if we were meant to wear moike-up, we’d be born with it on!”
“That’s rubbish,” I retorted; squeezing a blackhead in the mirror, “My mum doesn’t make a move until she’d plucked and tweezed and slapped half-a-ton of pan-cake foundation on her face – and two coats of lippy.”
My mother once remarked to me after recoiling at Becky’s bushy eyebrows;
“All that girl needs is a good pluck!”
As my fifteenth birthday approached, I cajoled Mum and Dad into letting me have a teenage party. At the church disco, Becky and I got up the nerve to invite some of the lads. They turned up with a handful of warm beers shoved in their socks. Dad was on patrol – even sprucing up for the occasion with a clean undershirt and a dab of Brylcreem. My Southern Belle mother retired upstairs in her blue quilted dressing gown, taking the small black and white rented TV and the dog with her. Setting up a couple of Watney’s party barrels in the kitchen to make lemonade shandies, Dad took charge of the bar for the night; shrewdly frisking the boys at the door in his usual, friendly American manner.
“Hey boys – what-cha got there? I’ll just take those and put ’em on the bar. Better take it easy.”
Becky and I compiled a playlist of singles with a mix of fast records for dancing and slow ones for snogging: ‘Kung-Foo Fighting’ by Carol Douglas; ‘The Bump’ by Kenny and Minnie Ripperton’s ‘Lovin’ You’. One record really pissed Dad off: 10cc’s ‘Wall Street Shuffle’. I played it one morning at breakfast, sparking an almighty row as I sang along glibly through my cornflakes:
“Are you waiting for the hour when you can screw me,‘ cause you’re big enough!”
“Andrea – turn that Dadgum trash off!”
“Oh Dad – you’re so square!”
As the party got underway one of the boys turned the overhead light off in the back room, where several teenaged kids groped and snogged on Mum’s precious velvet sofa, behind the door and in the dark recess of the alcove behind the cheese plant. Dad – sensing ‘trouble’ – stepped lively and flipped the light switch on in a haze of Old Spice.
“Hey kids – kind-a dark in here – can’t see what we’re doin’… puttin’ the lite bub on.”
There were tuts and groans as the lads filed back into the kitchen for one last flat pint before leaving; nobody would ‘pull’ tonight. I was mortified, yet quietly relieved to have reached my fifteenth in-tacto.
Mum came down after it was all over; gliding into the living room in her blue quilted robe. There was no evidence that the ‘lite bub’ had been switched off or that her velvet sofa had been debauched.
(Copyright: Andrea Burn , February 2021)
Andrea Grace Burn is an Anglo / American writer, comic, storyteller & broadcaster.
(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)
I’m not sure when I started having a say in what I wore off field.
On field I knew what football kit I wanted (although I never got it), what football boots, what training kit, etc.
No surprise then that my first flirtation with fashion was football related.
I remember seeing a picture of the Liverpool footballer Steve Heighway in a football magazine wearing a nifty ensemble, cutting the page out and asking my parents if they could get it for me. They took this on board, quite pleased for once that I was taking an interest in clothes but of course came back with something quite different. This was 1970 and understated clothes like Steve’s were not de riguer of the day.
I learnt a valuable lesson at an early age, do your own shopping!
1970 was a seminal year, the transition from primary to secondary school, the start of going to youth clubs and school discos and parties with girls in attendance, so how you looked, suddenly became ‘a thing’.
In 1970 everything was BIG. The collars on shirts, the lapels on jackets, the width of trouser hems and especially the width of ties, the amount of fabric used in that period must have been colossal.
Also, the colours were mental; the gaudier the better, bright oranges, vibrant purples, lavish lilacs, shitty browns, nothing was off limits.
Great looks if you’re a pimp working your ‘ladies’ on Times Square but not so cool for a 12-year-old on the mean streets of Bearsden.
I had a big mop of curly hair when I was younger, in later years everyone thought it was a perm which was annoying, particularly c.1978 when everyone did have a perm (and a moustache) so I look back now and wonder if my parents had been influenced by watching too many Blaxploitation films when they were choosing my clothes.
Thankfully mixing with older kids at secondary school and playing boys club football against teams from other parts of Glasgow gave me a wider perspective on fashion and fuelled my interest. Some of the trends that followed were national (you could always tell by watching TOTP), but some were very Glasgow centric.
First came the skinhead look which consisted of Doc Martens (or Monkey Boots), Oxford shirt or Fred Perry polos. Wrangler jeans and a denim jacket or a Harrington Jacket. We cut our hair short, but not that short and we never got into Ska or Reggae or any trouble come to think of it. We were the politest, softest skinheads you could meet, a complete discredit to the culture.
Next came our suede-head period, which was a favourite of mine and partly inspired by going to see the film A Clockwork Orange. The component parts consisted of Levis Sta-prest trousers, Ben Sherman gingham check shirts, Bass Weejun loafers (penny loafers) and a Crombie coat, with a full-length umbrella as an accessory.
This was a smarter look altogether and our parents seemed to be both pleased and befuddled, as we left the house in our formal attire, brandishing umbrellas on a perfectly sunny day.
Skin & Suede-head fashions were nation-wide but with regional twists, Levis Jeans rather than Wrangler in some parts of the country, etc.
However, there were a couple of really interesting Glasgow trends that followed, based on the principals of made to measure customisation, and the sheer gallus nature of the local punters.
I remember seeing my first Arthur Black shirt and being mesmerised, I hadn’t seen anything like it. It was the coolest thing I had ever laid eyes on; it also had the bloke’s initials embroidered on it, genius!
Arthur Blacks Shirts and Slacks was an establishment in St Enoch Square where handmade clothes were produced to your own specification. They specialised in western yoke shirts and at Arthur’s you could choose your own colour combinations as well as how many buttons, pleats, zips, epaulettes and pockets you wanted.
As you can imagine there were some weird and wonderful designs and it also reflected the wearers personality from plain and sensible to wacky and weird. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of images in circulation but there’s a couple below to give you an idea, although they’re from the wacky category.
Following on from this, a wonderful shop called Argyle House in Buchanan St, offered a similar service specialising in knitwear. My pride and joy back then being a wool turquoise, full zip cardigan with a Royal Stewart tartan yoke and my initials PF embroidered on it, I wore it to school one day and a teacher pulled me up and said there were two O’s missing – quite funny for a teacher…
Of course, these artisan classics didn’t come cheap, and Mums & Nans from Clydebank to Rutherglen were busy trying to work out how to knit their own versions with varying degrees of success.
The shirts and jumpers would later be copied for mass production and sold in boutiques like Krazy House and City Cash Tailors in Glasgow and worn by the likes of Bay City Rollers, which of course was the sign for us to move on.
In 1974 we started going up the town to discos, with Clouds and Shuffles being the main ones for our age group back then.
At this point the influence of our pop idols had started to kick in and we were wearing platform shoes, patchwork jeans or high waist ‘oxford bag’ trousers, with Simon shirts and long woollen cardigans or satin bomber jackets. There were also a few ‘influencers’ I think they’re called now, guys like my pal Hughie Kinnaird who always had the right look back then.
Interestingly the cardigans, bomber jackets and trousers were often purchased in girls’ boutiques as they weren’t available elsewhere (Chelsea Girl or Miss Selfridge in Lewis’s department store, both on Argyle Street) we were bamboozled at first trying to work out the sizing, asking the assistants for an age 15 as they only had 8’s, 10’s, 12’s and 14’s available, we were soon schooled.
There’s a pic below of me in Blackpool, September weekend 1974 wearing part of this ensemble. I’ve no idea why I’m wearing a hat with the hat ribbon worn as a scarf/tie, but I can only think that the years of being dressed as a pimp by my parents had a lasting and damaging effect.