Category Archives: What We Used To Wear

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