Category Archives: Fashion

from hair to eternity.

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – April 2022)

It’s funny how hair styles can define an era and popular culture. 

The war-time 1940s were synonymous with austerity: pin-curls, victory rolls and snoods for women which kept their hair out of harm’s way when they worked in munitions factories.

The 1950s saw a younger, more rebellious generation sweep away utilitarian styles in favour of more glamour: from bouffant to the poodle-cut  made popular by film stars such as Lucille Ball. Men kept their hair short throughout the post-war era until the 1950s, when rock and roll introduced more textured styles such as the quiff and pompadour.

Then came the ’60s with its Flower Power, anything-goes zeitgeist; but not at my house.

Mom

My parents were far more conventional when I was growing up in America’s Deep South in the ’60s.  Not one to “let it all hang out” my mother kept her long, black hair scraped up in a large bun rolled over a foam doughnut-shaped hair form; held aloft by hundreds of hair pins and a cloud of Elnet hairspray which seemed to follow her around; like the cloud of dust around Pig-Pen in the Peanuts cartoon. 

I can still smell it.  As for that hair form – it had a life of its own and seemed to crop up in unexpected places. I was scared of it.

Dad was old-school and favoured short back and sides, slicked down with a dab of Brylcreem, which gave it a high glossy sheen and controlled his unruly, curly forelock. He looked like Frank Sinatra (his musical hero), or one of those guys in Madmen.

Dad in The Sixties

Dad and I would sing along to the Brylcreem ad on TV,  “A Little Dab’ll Do Ya,” which became our special song for the rest of his life.

My grandmother kept  her beautiful white hair in a permanent wave during her weekly trips to the beauty parlour and sometimes her hair changed colour from white to mauve, which kept us all on our toes.

When my brother was about twelve and hitting new pubescent strides, he did something radical and grew out his crew-cut which my dad had insisted on, into a longer style inspired by the Beatles. My grandmother gave him five dollars to “get a decent hair cut” which he spent on records and came home with his mop intact.  Having survived our grandmother’s scorn, he had a narrow escape outside the local ice-cream parlour when some kid threatened to cut his hair off with a  knife! Life in Appalachia could be tough.

If we were going to church, Mom would slick our hair down with a dash of spit on the palm of her hand; she was even known to wheel out the Elnet for that perfect, sleek finish. I can see my brother now, ducking and diving with a mischievous grin as he tried to dodge the spit.

As a very young child, my mother kept my hair short with a fringe but as I grew, Mom let my hair grow and had fun styling it. I had low bunches, high bunches, ponytails, pigtails, plaits across my head or rolled in coils above my ears like Heidi – and buns for ballet!  And don’t get me started on French Braids! They HAD to be just like Dorothy Gale’s in The Wizard of Oz (MGM 1939).

Andrea had a feeling she wasn’t in Kansas anymore. (She never was.)

When Mom washed my hair she would twist it – stiff with shampoo – into ‘sheep horns’, ‘dog ears’, ‘rabbit ears’, ‘kitten ears’ and ‘unicorn horns,’ which I thought was funny but I’m sure was a ploy to get me to sit still long enough to have my hair washed.

 My grandpa used to say, “Why sugar – you look just like Minnie Pearl with your hair in pigtails.” Minnie Pearl was a comedienne and star of the Grand Ol’ Opry; who to my knowledge did not wear her hair in plaits. Mom insisted that I  looked nothing like Minnie Pearl, despite the fact that we were vaguely related to her. Minnie Pearl (real name Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon) was my mother’s father’s brother’s wife’s niece. Work that one out!

By the time I was nine, my hair was waist length and to my mother’s despair, “tangled at the drop of a hat.” She called them “rat’s tails.” Exasperated with my fine, knotted hair, she once took me to her hairdresser, where he held the crown of my head with one hand (getting a purchase on my scalp) and raked a fine comb through the wet tangles, at which point I screamed and Mom marched me out, telling him that he had “absolutely no understanding whatever of how to tackle tangles – or children!”

Andrea age nine with hair that provided endless hours of fun for her mum! (Who needed a Tressy doll when their daughter grew hair this long?)

The point was, my hair was in my mother’s hands, quite literally. The length and style were her choice. She even rinsed my hair in warm vinegar to make it squeaky clean, but boy did it stink! The only hair conditioner you could buy then was Creme Rinse which Mom considered an extravagance.

One of the first records I bought was ‘Hair’ by The Cowsills (1969), written by Galt MacDermot with lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni; a cover of the original song from the musical ‘Hair’. I thought it was really “groovy” and “far out man”, as I sang along swinging my “shining, gleaming, flaxen, waxen” locks. It was the dawning of the age Aquarius and my first and only foray into psychedelia. Cool.

As the ’60s gave way to the ’70s and my family moved to Birmingham, West Midlands, I became aware,  for the first time, of how hair could get you noticed. Watching Top of the Pops one Thursday evening in 1971, I was mesmerised by Rod Stewart’s feather-cut as he strutted around on stage singing Maggie May. Dad said Rod’s hair looked like a cockerel: well, that was the whole point!  And we all knew that David Essex’s trademark dark, shaggy curls were going to make him a star.

I begged Mom to let me have a feather cut – or a Lion Cut, like Jayne Bolton’s  at school –  but I was met with near hysteria from my mother who said these “fancy hair-dos were just plain ugly.” Good job she had a set of Carmen rollers; I spent hours in front of the bathroom mirror trying to perfect the Farrah Fawcett flick a la Charlie’s Angels – and half a canister of Elnet. My flick was nothing compared to Rachel Sadler’s, whose blonde tresses were sprayed into magnificent, solid waves.

One day, aged fifteen, I decided to take matters into my own hands and get my hair cut – only shoulder-length mind – but it was a significant moment. My dad greeted me in the hallway and burst into tears, “My little girl has cut off her beautiful hair! She’s all grown up!” Embarrassed beyond belief, I marched through the house swinging my new shiny bob tied back with a cotton bandana.

“Oh Dad, of course I’m grown up! Duh!”

A trip to the cinema in 1976 to see ‘A Star is Born’ starring Barbra Streisand changed my hairstyle for the next decade. In the film, she wore her blonde tresses in a soft curly-perm which I thought was the most exciting, sexy looking hair I’d ever seen. Luckily for me, Steiner hair salon in Birmingham city centre were advertising for perm models, so I took a seat, lit a cigarette and strutted out four hours later with a halo of tight curls and an afro comb.  I looked perfectly ridiculous and nothing like beautiful Barbra.

On a trip back to the States with my dad to visit my grandparents in the summer of ’78, I stepped from the plane in my high-heeled sandals and perm, which immediately caught the attention of my conservative, Southern grandmother.

Dad, Andrea …and perm.

“Your shoes are just tacky and your hair – well, there’s nothin’ I can do about your hair!”

She had a point.

As disco stirred-up a veritable Night Fever on dance floors in the late ’70s, my curly-perm took on even greater, pretentious proportions; it even had its own routine! Beneath the mirror balls and strobing lights of Birmingham’s clubs and wine bars, my hair held centre stage, glistening with gold  spray. As I sashayed along Corporation Street one afternoon to the bus stop – my perm radiating sophistication – I was approached by a sleazy photographer offering me work as a model for ladies underwear. My perm bubble was burst.

Andrea’s True Disco Connection.

The ’70s gave way to the ’80s, heralding my Liza Minelli era with a short crop which went to my head and announced my arrival at university to study Performance Arts, where I felt emboldened to take to the stage as a jazz singer with a new, sassy confidence.

Andrea – Life is a Cabarellnet.

By the mid 1980s trends were changing as the age of BIG hair arrived, influenced by TV shows such as Dynasty and executed with a tonne of mousse and attitude.  With hair as wide as my huge shoulder pads, I strutted around the office in power suits and towering heels  that Alexis Carrington Colby would have been proud of; until my hair caught fire as I lit a cigarette.

A pixie crop followed –  it was a lot safer.

These days, I keep my fine, grey hair short and think of my mother as it still tangles at the drop of a hat.                                                               

(Copyright: Andrea Burn)

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

What We Used To Wear – Patchwork Jeans

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

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, March 2022

I can recall badgering my parents to buy me a pair of Wrangler jeans in 1971, a plea which fell on deaf ears, my Mum came home with a pair of brown cords from C&A, because she thought…. “they were a bit smarter!”

Maybe it was this early trauma that spurred me on to work in the jeans/denim industry for most of my adult life.

I did eventually get the Wrangler jeans I wanted in 1972, in what became an early example of… ‘If you want a job doing, do it yourself’.
Off I went to Arnott Simpsons department store in Glasgow to purchase them, weighed down with pocketfuls of change saved from my paper round earnings.

I can still remember the shiny Western labelling, the leather branding on the back pocket and the smell of unwashed denim.

I couldn’t wait to get home to try them on.

I have to admit that my enthusiasm diminished a tad when I realised that my new jeans were stiff as a board which meant you had to break them in… a bit like the wild stallion on the jeans label, which in retrospect was a fantastic piece of subliminal branding.

The first couple of times I wore them was agony, it felt like someone was rubbing sandpaper behind my knees… I missed my comfortable, soft brown cords!

I found out later that this was a rookie-mistake and that I should have washed the jeans first to remove all the excess starch but I’d probably have ignored this advice anyway, I’d waited long enough.

By 1974, trends had moved on a bit and like my old monkey boots, abandoned in a cupboard somewhere, dark, rigid, unwashed denim was now a thing of the past.

In its place were faded, lived-in jeans that looked like they’d been worn on a sun-kissed road trip from Laurel Canyon to Woodstock, whilst the wearer was listening to the Doobie Brothers.

Truth be told, the look we were going for was Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin (but maybe without the extra padding!) whilst the girls had their own fashion inspirations from that era.

The big problem with attaining that worn-in jeans look, circa 1974, was that you had to do the hard yards yourself…. stone-washing hadn’t been commercialised yet, so if you wanted to get your jeans to look like you’d lived in them for 10 years, you either had to live in them for 10 years or launder them several times a week, and who did that?

This led some to experiment with bleach, usually with disastrous results.

Back then most of us obtained our jeans from the usual outlets… department stores, mail order catalogues or boutiques but then an amazing thing happened, a specialised jeans shop opened in 1974 – Slak Shack on Hope St, near Glasgow’s Central Station.

It was a denim Mecca offering a variety of jeans, jackets, shirts and dungarees with one item standing out from the rest …. patchwork jeans.

Yep, new jeans made up of ‘old jeans‘ that had been cut and sewn together again.

Yep, ‘Old jeans‘ like the ones we’d been frantically trying to recreate by washing them every 5 minutes, plus the Slak-Shack strides were baggy which was the current trend and it didn’t even matter that there was only one leg length – LONG – because we were all teetering about on platform shoes now!

As soon as word got out about this fashion essential we all headed to the Shack, who struggled to cope, with demand rapidly outstripping supply.

The really cool thing about those original patchwork jeans in my book was that due to the customised way they’d been produced no two pairs were the same, so you could spend ages sifting through the stock to select your preferred pair.

Also, because the jeans were produced by using pre-used denim they were wonderfully soft and comfortable…. as if you’d been wearing them for 10 years.

Like most fashion crazes, other retailers and manufacturers soon cottoned on to what was in-demand and within a few months there were cheaper, nastier versions hitting the streets.
However, for a wee while in the autumn of 74, these personalised strides were like currency in Glasgow and Slak-Shack was the bank.

The Slak Shack Team

What We Used To Wear – Satin Bomber Jackets

(A look back at some of the things we used to wear in the 70’s)
Paul Fitzpatrick: London, March 2022

Satin Bomber Jackets

I had a beer with a couple of old mates recently and as well as catching up on life we started reminiscing, as you do, about ‘the good old days’.

We were talking specifically about the early days that bonded us, of going to nightclubs and bars when we were 16, the daft stuff we used to get up to and sadly about an absent friend.

In amongst the blether one of the lads reminded us of a story I’d long since forgotten and which prompted me to do this piece.

I’m not sure where the ‘look’ came from exactly but in Autumn 1974 a crowd of us decided that heading into a Scottish winter, wearing satin bomber jackets would be a good idea.
Maybe it was the influence of Glam Rock or Mr Jagger strutting his stuff on TOTP but whatever it was it certainly added a bit of glamour to our wardrobes.

Primarily there were two bomber jacket themes available.
American Collegiate or decorative Oriental… you pays your money and took your choice.

We had a mix of both in our little clique and thought we looked the part as we made our way on the blue buses into Glasgow to find bars we could get into before descending upon Clouds (soon to become the Apollo) nightclub.

This one night pre-Clouds, we popped into a Chinese restaurant for a quick fix of spare ribs where one of the waiters took an interest in our jackets and made a point of going round the group to explain what the embroidered Chinese motifs meant….

Ah, the symbol on your jacket is a Tiger this represents tremendous courage & great bravery

Then on to the next one…

“The symbol on yours my friend is a Fire Dragon, this signifies outstanding virtues like honesty & patience

He continued, explaining the meaning of each motif until he came to one jacket, took a double take and started laughing, he scurried off before returning, colleagues in-tow, pointing at the jacket… where upon they all started laughing too.

As fate would have it, the jacket in question belonged to our pal Cubby who always dressed immaculately and who took the term ‘pride in your appearance‘ to a whole new level.

To say he was slightly taken aback would be a huge understatement.

You see, Cubby, meticulous as ever, had deliberated long and hard before selecting this jet-black satin bomber with elaborate oriental embroidery.
Every buying decision he made was considered and this one was no exception. The jacket in question had been hand-picked to ensure it looked just right with his patchwork jeans, Simon shirt and highly polished footwear.

Flummoxed, he asked the waiter to explain what was so funny, but this just made him laugh more…. and the more Cubby pushed for a response, the harder he laughed.

We went back the following week hoping to find out what was so funny but as soon as the waiter saw Cubby and his jacket again, he started sniggering.

Befuddled, Cubby refused to go back to the restaurant whilst he was wearing the jacket, and we never did find out what had them rolling in the aisles of the Lucky Star.

The satin jackets prevailed for a few more months with our parents stating the obvious “you’ll catch your death of cold” every-time we ventured out the house.

The nature of trends dictates that eventually most ‘looks’ filter down into the mass-market and when we started to see cheaper versions of the jackets being sold and worn, we knew it was time to move on to our next fashion faux pas, whatever that was.

So, satin bomber jackets are the first entry into our equivalent of the ‘Victoria & Albert Museum of – What We Used To Wear‘, with further examples of 70s attire and footwear to follow.


Thanks to Jim Martin for rekindling the memories of those good times spent with himself, Mick Irvine, Hugh Kinnaird, Brian Cuthbertson, Joe Hunter and others.

Always in our thoughts – Brian ‘Cubby’ Cuthbertson

a plastic scandal.

Many years back, towards the end of the Tang dynasty in fact, a court dancer named Yao Niang bound her feet into the shape of a new moon (whatever that would have looked like) and danced on her toes before China’s Emperor Li Yu.

The practice grew in popularity, and for best part of a thousand years, Chinese women, mainly with peasant upbringings, would similarly bind, and basically deform their feet. It was not always a voluntary action, and mothers would bandage their daughters’ feet this way because tiny, ‘lotus’ feet were considered very alluring and enhanced the poor girls’ ‘marriageability.’

Here in the West, we were of course horrified to hear such tales. We could never inflict such pain and discomfort upon our own children. Oh no, no, no!

And yet we did. At least our parents did. Yes, that’s your parents, dear reader. And mine. They tortured us not through some misplaced social belief or controlling instincts. They did so for reasons of thrift; because they were tight!

They bought us, and forced us to wear ….. plastic sandals!

Most likely sourced in Woolworths, our gullible parents fell for the claim that products from the store’s own Winfield brand were ‘the mark of quality.’

Nonsense.

They did leave a mark though, I’ll give them that. Both physical and mental.

First up, even if you were an uncool ten-year-old and made to wear wee ankle socks, the tops of your feet would still be left with a lattice shaped impression when you removed the sandals. The shape of the buckle strap could remain for hours!

On returning indoors to watch Hector’s House, you’d change into your cozy little Thunderbirds or Sindy slippers. The bliss was not long lasting however – you’d experience a sharp, burning  sensation as you padded about the house and the skin around your ankle creased into the indentation left by the collar of the sandal.

This was because, and it’s not exactly rocket science, sandals being summer wear, were worn when the weather was generally warm. Feet swell in the heat, and at a damned sight faster rate than plastic does. Duh!

Somebody, not least our parents, should have realised that perspiration and a plastic inner sole are not a clever mix: that little feet would randomly slide around the albeit restricted confines of the sandal while the ankle was already set in following another, more conventional and safe direction.

Remember the excruciating pain of your toes sliding up into the sandal’s toe cap as you stopped walking at pace? It was times like that you regretted locking yourself in the bedroom when your mum said she was going to cut your toenails with the kitchen scissors. Lesser of two evils and all that.

 I say ‘walking at pace’ because the external sole of this footwear offered possibly even less traction, rendering attempts to run almost impossible – certainly foolhardy.

You know that Jon Bon Jovi chap? The rock star. Well, his band’s best-selling album was written and recorded based on the true-life trauma of being forced to wear plastic sandals as a kid.*

Too chuffin’ right these things were slippery when wet. We were suburban kids. We played in burns and streams. Possibly, our parents had too, but plastic sandals weren’t a ‘thing’ when they were young.

They had never experienced the excruciating pain of scraping the skin from your shin bone as you slipped, trying to make the jump onto the big sharp stepping stone in the middle of the of the stream. Neither had they been subjected to the ridicule of friends as you played out the rest of the afternoon with a bloody lower leg and a wet back side!

I should also add that I grew up in the West of Scotland. It rains frequently, even in summer. Pavements and paths are never dry for very long. And our parents wondered why we’d go through a box of Elastoplast every week?

Here’s another thing: perhaps you were lucky enough to go on a family holiday in the summer. Perhaps though, you were unfortunate enough to end up in a place with a pebble / shingle beach. Rustington in Sussex springs to mind – about two miles east of Littlehampton. On the face of it, the idea of plastic sandals is actually quite sound, when your folks would dig in the windbreaker and set up ‘camp’ for the day at the point on the beach furthest from the sea.

“In case the tide comes in, dear. It’s ok though, you can walk to the water in your plastic sandals. Heck! You can even wear them in the water. That’s the beauty of plastic – you can’t do them any damage. Aren’t Winfield such clever people? Aren’t you so lucky to have your own natty brown pair? Off you go, dear. Have fun.”

‘Have fun?!’ I think it was about this age that I developed a cynical sense of irony.

Neither was it true that plastic sandals couldn’t be damaged – the strap would always be the first bit to go. So now, instead of just tentatively tottering across the beach like somebody seventy years older, you’d walk with a pronounced limp, trying your best to keep the now flapping sandal on your foot.

After endless minutes of playing in the cold sea, you’d opt for the surely more pleasant option of something to eat (the ‘chittery bite,’ we called it.) Further anguish would inevitably follow when it was discovered to your horror that the day’s ‘chittery bite,’ was actually just a pilchard sandwich. With lettuce.

On exiting the sea though, the weight of water in your little size five sandals was extraordinary, though this soon dissipated as you watched water gush from the sandal slats like that produced by the bilge pump on the QE2.

(NOT the QE2)

And so began the quest of traversing the pebbles back to ‘camp,’ your feet slip sliding inside the sandals, one of which would be just hanging together in no more, while the sandals themselves would be slithering in every direction on the stones.

You’ve seen the films of newly hatched turtles heading for the sea? This was it in reverse.

Neither were these abominations that passed as appropriate footwear of any earthly use in the unlikely event of prolonged dry weather. Each grain of sand, dry soil, dust, whatever, reacted like a mini ball-bearing when stuck to the soles of plastic sandals.

It meant relying on a speedy getaway from any situation, like, just say, stealing apples, which some bad boys and girls did, was somewhat injudicious. Precious seconds could be lost as your feet sought solid grip with the ground in kind of Wile E. Coyote style.

What the Chinese did to millions of young girls was dreadful; abhorrent. But even though it took almost a millennium, they did officially ban the practice in 1912.

However, although Woolworths and their ‘quality brand’ Winfield disappeared from our High Streets back in 2015, others have stepped (limped) up and now produce, market and sell this dangerous footwear, camouflaging the discomfort and pain by calling them ‘jelly shoes.’

And that, my friend, is nothing short of a plastic scandal.

(* This may not be completely accurate. Or at all.)

_________

making a hash of things.

Silence.

Our parents would often demand it, but soon as they got it, they became suspicious. Worried, maybe.

And so it would be. I’d be playing quietly and thoughtfully in my bedroom on a wet and miserable day, and Mum would poke her around the door:

“You’re awful quiet,” she’d say, the distrust in her tone strikingly obvious even to a ten year old. “What are you doing?”

“Building a fort,” I’d reply in all innocence, draping a bedsheet over the two stools I’d earlier hauled up from the kitchen. Another blanket would be hanging over a couple of empty boxes, retrieved from the garage. “So’s I can repel the hordes of marauding raiders who are trying to steal my pots of gold.”

My vocabulary and imagination were infinitely better than my construction skills.

“That sounds like fun, dear.”

And it was.

For that’s how we rolled in the late Sixties and Seventies. It was the era of making our own fun.

It was the era for making everything.

From a very early age, my sister and I were encouraged by our parents to become involved with tending the garden.’ Modern day slavery,’ is how I think it’s now referred to.

We’d each be allocated a little plot to tend. We’d have to plant seeds, grow flowers and vegetables and learn the ethos and rewards of hard work.

I hated it! Rona’s plot always looked way tidier than mine. ‘Outside’ was for playing in, not working, was how I looked at it. I was rubbish.

Our garden wasn’t all that big, but my dad had it organised to maximise the space, and so we had a few rows of redcurrant bushes. These produced loads of fruit every year and of course my sister and I would be roped into the ‘harvest.’

With the berries collected, mum would then boil them and add ‘stuff’ then pour the mix into what looked like an old sock hung from the washing pulley in the kitchen. The smell was so sickly sweet, I wanted to barf for days on end.  Gradually though, over the next day or so, the liquid would drip into a bowl, then scooped into jars onto which a handwritten sticker was adhered.

‘Redcurrent jelly’ it said – as if we needed reminding.

To get away from the smell, I’d try to spend as much time as possible in the living room. But that wasn’t easy either. I’d have to tip toe through acres of tracing paper spread over the floor. And listening to the television was well nigh impossible. The volume controls back then barely went to ‘five’ never mind ‘eleven’ and so offered no competition to the constant ‘takka takka takka’ of the Singer sewing machine as mum rattled out another bloody home-made trouser suit for wearing to the neighbour’s Pot Luck / fondue party that coming weekend.

Crimplene was the favoured material, I believe.

I think I’m right in saying that girls at my school were offered sewing, if not dress making as part of their Home Economics course. Us blokes weren’t given the option – just as at that time, girls were not thought to be interested in woodwork and metalwork.

My four year old cousin, Karen, certainly wasn’t interested in my woodwork, that’s for sure. I made her a boat, all lovingly painted and everything. It sank in her bath. Sank! It was made of balsa wood for goodness sake!

It takes a special type of cretin to make a balsa wood boat that sinks.

And metalwork! Whose whizz-bang idea was it to have several classes of fourteen year old boys make metal hammers to take home at the end of term? The playground crowds quickly scattered that afternoon, I can tell you.

My effort was dismal.  

“Thanks very much,” said my dad, in a voice just a little too condescending for my liking as I presented it to him. But that was okay. We both knew I was total pants at making things.

Having evidenced my cack-handed attempts at simply gluing together several pieces of labelled and numbered bits of plastic to form the shape of a Lancaster Bomber, his expectations were naturally low.

I know – how hard can it be to assemble an Airfix model? To be honest, while I enjoyed looking at those my dad made on my behalf, I had more fun from letting the glue harden on my fingers and then spend ages peeling it back off to examine my fingerprints.

Yup – THAT’S how much I enjoyed making things.

It came as no surprise then, that Santa never brought me a Meccano set. By the age of ten, it had become obvious spanners and me would never get along – no need for me to screw the nut.  

For a while, I did consider there was something wrong with me. Every other kid I knew was into making stuff. It was The Seventies – it’s what children did; it’s what they (I’d say ‘we’ but I’d be lying) were actively encouraged to do.

The top children’s television programmes told us (you) so. They even showed how make stuff.

I tried that once. A Christmas decoration it was. A decoration to hang over the Christmas table; made from coat-hangers; and candles. And you’d light the candles. It would be joyous.

“Hark!” The herald angels would sing.

“FIRE!” The herald angels actually screamed.

I know NOW I should have used fire-proof tinsel. I’m almost sixty-three. I’m not stupid. But then I was ten. And impatient. Ten year old boys cut corners. And anyway, how was I supposed to make a surprise for the family if I was to give the game away by asking my folks if they had / could get some fire retardant tinsel?

At least they still got a surprise of sorts.

Valerie Singleton, John Noakes and Peter Purves had a lot to answer for.

Other than pyrotechnic Christmas decorations, they encouraged us to make models with Lego; less structured and more wobbly ones with plasticine; scrap books; hammocks for dolls; cakes for birds; puppets from old socks; pencil cases from washing up liquid bottles and even cat beds from washing-up bowls.

I did try, truly I did. But I was hopeless. A lost cause. Never has anyone said to me,

“Wow! That’s awesome!” when I’ve showcased my handiwork.

Just the other day, I prepared a meal. I threw some leftover corned beef, potatoes and onions into a pan and fried them through. I didn’t think it was burnt as such, but my wife screwed up her face and stared at it rather disapprovingly.

Without even the merest hint of irony she looked up and said …. well, I think you probably know what she said!



**********

wanted! your ’70s button badge photos.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2021)

What button badges did you pin to your clothing / bags back in The Seventies?

What were your favourites, and why?

We are looking to post a short article on the subject of BUTTON BADGES and would love your input.

Photos (either of the original badges if you still have them, or taken from the internet) and brief comments can be posted to our Facebook Group page (***) or submitted by e-mail to:

submissions70s@gmail.com

We shall then collate the photos and comments to produce a gallery / collage for the Blog.

(***) The Facebook Group is ‘Private’ so please submit a Request to Join if you have not already done so.

Here are the two favourites of mine that I still have:

No surprises here! I wore this with pride on my school blazer for quite some time.
This one of my many ‘punk’ badges from the late ’70s … but the only one I can now find.
I remember wearing this on my suit lapel while working in Bank of Scotland …. and being asked (told!) to remove it by my manager.
Yeah – it’s in poor taste, but we just sought to trigger reaction, didn’t we?

The Jean Genius

If you’re a Bowie fan you probably have a selection of his albums, tapes, cd’s and downloads in your music collection…. hit-after-hit stretching across six decades from 1969’s Space Oddity to 2016’s Blackstar.

For a few years though, until his WOW moment on TOTP in 1972, as implausible as it sounds, Bowie was on course to be a one-hit-wonder…. just like Thunderclap Newman with ‘Something in the Air’ or Norman Greenbaum with ‘Spirit in the Sky’

Then along came Ziggy Stardust and the rest as they say is history.
Bowie went on to become arguably the most influential artist of the 70s….. continually reinventing his sound and persona and influencing the tastes of a generation along the way.

As an example of the latter, on October 1974 David Live was released, it was a decent album showcasing Bowie’s transition from Glam to Soul with a great version of Eddie Floyd’s ‘Knock on Wood‘, but what captured my attention as much as the music was the powder blue suit DB wore on the cover.

Up until this point Bowie’s wardrobe had consisted of elaborate Japanese jumpsuits, kimonos and leotards.

Distinctive, perhaps, but not the kind of thing you could buy in Top Man and wear to Shuffles night club on a dreich Saturday night in Glasgow!


Bowie’s cool new look was something we could relate to on the other hand, so on our next pay-day, a few of us travelled to Glasgow city centre to Jackson the tailors to order our own made to measure version of the tin-flute Bowie sported on the David Live record sleeve.

After a few weeks the suits were ready and when we hit the town that Saturday night we all felt ‘gallus’ in our high-waisted trousers, and double breasted jackets, as did half the male population of Glasgow, who seemingly all had the same idea!

I was pretty much hooked from the minute I saw Bowie perform Starman on TOTP in 72 and stayed a fan all the way through his career.
I loved his 70s personas and of course the music, particular the Thin White Duke period which frustratingly he never talked much about… owing to the fact that he had absolutely no recall of making the Station to Station album!

In fact he was so bonkers and strung out during this period (75-76) that he reportedly kept his own urine in a fridge.
This in part was due to a falling out with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page….. Bowie became paranoid that Page (well known for dabbling in the occult) would engage some form of black-magic against him if he got hold of his bodily fluids.

Based in LA and weighing in at a meagre 7 stone, his diet at the time consisted of milk, peppers and heaps of Colombian marching powder.
It’s well documented that Bowie fled this life of excess to regain health and sanity in Europe, specifically Berlin, and by the release of Heroes in 1977 he was in a much better place, both physically and mentally

Bowie 75
Bowie 77

I actually came into The Starman’s orbit very briefly in 1983.

I was working at Levis and we were developing a campaign to promote our 501 Jeans, which at the time, we couldn’t give away in the UK, in fact the only European country who sold them in any volume was Sweden.

UK retailers didn’t want to stock them as they were more expensive than regular Levis jeans and they reasoned that consumers didn’t like the American fit (low waist, straight leg).

Nonetheless, our chiefs in San Francisco had planned a global strategy around the 501. It was the original 5 pocket jean and the main point of difference for the brand in the US, where Levis was coming under threat from designer brands like Calvin Klein…. so we had no choice but to try and make it work in Europe.

A team was put together tasked with coming up with innovative ideas to support the 501 campaign in Europe and as a first step we came up with the simple idea of getting contemporary icons to wear 501’s by highlighting the fact that it had been the jean of choice for James Dean & Brando in the 50’s and guys like Springsteen were now wearing them.

It was a classic ‘seeding’ strategy which more or less consisted of gifting product to opinion leaders (musicians, actors, sportsmen, models, etc), in order to get the product seen on the right people.

It’s a concept that can work pretty well if all the planets align.

As an example…

In early 1983 we sent some Levis denim jackets to an up and coming band coming out of Dublin called U2. The lead singer Bono cut the sleeves off his jacket and wore it relentlessly.
The band released the albums War and Under a Blood Red Sky and 83 became U2’s big breakout year hence Bono was everywhere… wearing his self-customised, sleeveless Levis jacket

As an example of seeding at work – around this time met I Charlie Nicholas in a Glasgow bar as we had a mutual friend, when Charlie heard I worked for Levis he asked me if I could get him a Levis denim jacket “to cut the sleeves off… same as Bono“.

Charlie wasn’t the only one with the same idea and within months, retailers started selling out of our denim jackets, sales tripled and we eventually had to increase our jacket production and develop our own sleeveless version.

The other avenue we explored was official sponsorship… ‘let’s get influential artists to wear and promote Levis by sponsoring their tours’.
Everyone does this now but it was a new concept back then.

This was trickier than you’d think… some people in the room actually thought it would be a good idea to approach the gods of double-denim, Status Quo and there were a couple of Gary Numan fans in there as well… however to most it was clear we needed someone with gravitas, credibility and a wide appeal.

After some debate and research we discovered that Bowie was scheduled to launch his Serious Moonlight tour in support of his new album – Let’s Dance, so after some discussion he became the prime candidate.

To be honest we weren’t over optimistic that he’d go for it as he wasn’t big on commercial ventures but he liked the brand and the sponsorship helped to finance the tour… so the mighty DB came on board.

The concept worked so well that we repeated it over the next few years with tours and one-off events, but the tipping point for the brand in Europe came when we launched the famous 501 Laundrette ad with Nick Kamen in 1985, which also propelled ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ to number one in the charts.

Ironically, the same retailers who claimed they couldn’t sell 501’s in 1983 were now begging for as much stock as they could get their hands on….

Levis 501 ad
Bruce Springsteen and the E street band – Wembley 4th July 1985

Sting’s first solo tour 1985
Ultravox’s Lament tour 1984

One of the conditions of most tour-sponsorship deals is for the acts to meet customers post-gig however we knew Bowie was never going to do meet and greets.
Sting and Ultravox on the other hand were contracted to meet customers and prize winners briefly after their gigs, which they mostly did with good grace, particularly Midge Ure who was extremely affable.

My brief Bowie moment came when he popped into our London office to pick out some jeans and shirts, he looked incredibly healthy and was friendly and charming. He signed a few bits and pieces for some of us including a tour programme and the Let’s Dance album (pics below ) before making his exit.

In truth, I struggled a bit with the 90’s Bowie, particularly the Tin Machine period but I got back on board in the noughties…. a return to form, spring-boarded by his stellar Glastonbury performance in 2000 when he decided to give the people what they wanted…. a set-list made up of his best songs.

Although I’d been a big fan in the 70s I had never seen Bowie live and the first time I saw him perform was when we took some customers to see his Serious Moonlight gig at Murrayfield in Edinburgh in June 83.

The next time I saw him perform live was the most memorable.
It was at the Hammersmith Odeon in October 2002, his first return to that venue since the shock July 1974 retirement announcement when he ‘broke up the band’ live on stage…. to their complete bemusement.

“Not only is it the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do. Thank you.”

It helped that we had fantastic tickets for that show, centre stage, six rows from the front.
I’ve no idea how long Bowie was on stage for but it must have been close to 3 hours… he played 33 songs starting with Life on Mars, finishing with Ziggy Stardust and included a song he’d only ever played live once before… the majestic Bewlay Brothers from Hunky Dory.

I also saw Bowie the following year at Wembley arena on his last live date in London.
He seemed so fit and healthy at 56 but six months later whilst still on the same gruelling ‘Reality’ tour he had a heart attack on stage in Hamburg and that proved to be his last ever gig.

He released an album in 2013, The Last Day, which raised hopes that he was fit and well but it all went quiet again, and then out of nowhere a new album – Blackstar dropped 3 years later on his 69th birthday, this was the encouraging news we’d all been waiting for… maybe we would even see him play live again?

He died two days after its release on the 10th of January.

There was much outpouring of grief when the news broke, he meant so much to so many people and it’s probably the only celebrity that I’ve ever felt sustained grief over.
I had grown up with Bowie from age 13, my kids had grown up listening to him, he’d been a fixture in my life for 45 years, and suddenly he wasn’t there any more.

But even in the end Bowie did the most Bowie thing ever, bowing out on his own terms with an innovative, out-of-the-blue, jazz-infused album that we knew nothing about until the day of its release.

If you listen to the lyrics it’s an album made by a man who wasn’t ready to leave us but knew he wasn’t going to be with us for long.
To this day I still find it hard to listen to that album…….

‘Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried’
“I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar”

All hail the Starman, we’ll never see his like again…..

My Bowie top 20 changes all the time, but for anyone who’s interested here’s this weeks selection….

these boots were made for …

(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.

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

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.

If I breathe in, I can just about squeeze into them today!

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.

National Lampoons European Vacation – Allan style…

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