Tag Archives: GI Joe

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

frankie & johnny.

(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – February 2021)

Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts

Oh, what a couple in love

Frankie was loyal to Johnny

Just as true as the stars above

I’m sure my mother’s taunting of this verse was not meant as a homophobic slur. We hadn’t invented homophobes back then. I think she just thought the pairing of names of her third born and the wee boy across the road was cute and had an air of innocence about it.

I was 2 when we moved into our newly built semi detached house in the quiet suburbs of Bearsden although I have no recollection of that. My first memories were of sitting staring out at the new builds across the road – a carbon copy of ours and the 6 houses at our end of the street.

My second memory was going, with my Mum, to visit the new occupants from across the road. The elderly Mrs. P and her next door neighbour the younger Mrs. A with her 2 offspring were in attendance. Mrs. P ushered Frankie, his sister Susan and myself into the kitchen and perched us on high chairs in the kitchen at various work surfaces, plastic mugs of cordial in hand. We nervously looked  at each other, the floor, the ceiling, the kettle until little Susie burst into tears and rushed into her mothers arms in the living room. A few more minutes passed, more nervous glances then Frankie cracked and retreated next door. “That went well” I said to the kettle before giving it a few more minutes before joining the throng.

Frankie was one month older than me and we became best friends and rivals firstly at Bearsden Primary, a miles walk away (who let’s 5 year olds walk alone or even in pairs these days) then at Castlehill Primary virtually on our doorstep.

I went on holiday to Arran with his family and slept 3 in a bed head to toe with little Susie making up the trio.

I witnessed the births of his 2 younger siblings when they returned home (I didn’t actually see them popping out obviously) though I did witness their breast feeding with feelings of wonder mixed with ‘should I be watching this’. We’re talking the 60s here !

The woods at the back of Frankie’s house was our playground and tree climbing with our boy dollies (I had Action Man, Frankie the inferior GI Joe) was the game, or dare. We were always competitive. Frankie always had the bottle to reach the higher branches until GI Joe slipped from his grasp and plummeted to the ground. The sight of Joe’s head and arms spring into his chest like a frightened turtle was quite harrowing for 7 year old boys. Action Man lived on. We were always competitive

One summer a group of us somehow acquired boxing gloves. Stripped to the waste sparring on the front lawn led to an all out slog-fest and Frankie got me a good one (below the belt I might add). I of course burst into tears and retaliated with a similar blow to the solar plexus only to discover with my head down and eyes full of tears and snot I’d punched Knut an innocent Swede and bystander. I have to say I have never laid a hand on any Scandinavian since ! We were always competitive.

We were a curious couple with an interest in how things worked. Our houses had light switches both down and up for the stair lights. I wondered what would happen if both switches were engaged simultaneously. I also convinced Frankie that his place should be the venue for our experiment.

Before I continue, I learnt early on that you should always get on the good side of your friend’s mothers. Always polite and servile even obsequious – the cute kid from across the road. It’s served me well in later life with dinner ladies, cleaners, tea ladies and the like. I’ve greatly benefited from these woman and have seen the wrath of these people if crossed.

So with Frankie upstairs and me down, “1.2.3” click click. “1.2.3.” click click “1.2.3.” click BOOM !

“I think it’s time for you to go home John, love”

“FRANKLIN !!”

The 50s and 60s brought many new products including melamine cups –  a hard unbreakable plastic material (or was it ?) Keen to show off his mothers new tableware, Frankie dropped a cup from shoulder height onto the linoleum kitchen floor were it bounced a few times before resting on the floor intact. He repeated the action with arm stretched above his head and exerting a bit of force. Same result. Further experimentation was needed. We headed upstairs to his parents bedroom, opened the window and let the tumbler drop to the crazy paving below. Still intact.

One more go. Frankie leaned out the window, I held his legs and with all his strength he hurled the cup 2 floors below. SMASH ! Hurried footsteps clattered up the stairs.

“I think it’s time for you to go home John, love”

“FRANKLIN !!”

The family A had just returned from holidaying in the Channel Isles and Frankie was keen to show me his acquisition from the return flight. A sealed sachet of English mustard. Not a common sight in those days especially in Snoresville. “If I put it in my palm and smashed it with my fist it will squeeze out everywhere” said Frankie. “Yes……or we could tell you’re wee brother it’s ice cream……….” says I.

Thump ! Splat! Aaaah  !!

“I think it’s time for you to go home John, love”

“FRANKLIN !!”

Frankie finally won our growth spurt challenge by 1st year towering over my 6 feet. We walked to school at Bearsden Academy about a mile away (who let’s 13 year olds walk alone or even in pairs these days) but our interests were taking us down different roads. Frankie joined up with the fitba’ gang were I tried my hand at basketball. In 2nd year the family moved away only about a mile down the road. We would nod in the playground if our paths crossed then school was over and they never did again.

We’re friends on social media now some 50 years on but we don’t chat. He goes by Frank, me John.

Maybe one more prank experience.

“I think it’s time for you to go home John”

“FRANKLIN !!”