Playground fashion: 98-2003

A lot has been written over the years with regards to the fashions of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, whether the author is reminiscing on  platform boots, their older sisters skinhead boyfriend in his 18 hole DMs or their first Lacoste polo looted from Switzerland on a European away trip. What hasn’t been so well documented is the different fashion crazes for those who have grown up more recently.

There arguably hasn’t been a proper youth movement since Britpop, all number of reasons have been put forward for this from apathy to the internet. However, whilst there wasn’t tribalism with the same ferocity in the 90’s there were still all manner of different cliques and fashions, some fleeting, whilst some maintained longevity, some were area specific whilst others were more mainstream, many of them tipped their hat to the styles of yesteryear whilst some were unique to our generation.

What follows is some recollections of the school playground fashions at my secondary school in Hanwell, West London in the 1990s/early 2000s:

Despite the procrastinations of some that the big GAP across the front of the fleece hoody stood for ‘Gay And Proud’, in years 7 and 8 Gap hoodies were ubiquitous as the X Brain Yo-Yo and a pack of Pokémon cards (I never collected them) amongst the fashion conscious fraternity. During the classroom catwalks of non-uniform day, boys sported the navy blue, whilst it was baby blue or pink for the girls. These were generally combined with Nike or Adidas tracksuit bottoms tucked into football socks and white trainers (Our playground was probably the only place where Tony Pulis would have been considered dapper).

Whilst the word Chav had yet to be invented by the well to do to sneer at the working classes from their ivory towers, there were still those who felt themselves above the plebeians in their tracksuit bottoms, they expressed this by listening to Limp Bizkit, Korn and Slipknot. Wearing ridiculously baggy jeans and skateboarding shoes, they dressed like disaffected American youths, we called them Goths and Grungers, although in reality they had little to do with grunge and nothing to do with the Goths of the 80s.

As we moved from the previous millennium to this biftas were blazed in the Bunny Park to the soundtrack of So Solid Crew, Pied Piper and DJ Luck and MC Neat. The gold teeth, Valentinos and dreads of the garage clubbing scene however hadn’t reached zone 3 but Avirex Jackets, Iceberg Jumpers with massive pictures of cartoon characters and Evisu jeans became popular with the estate boys (although they were mainly from Wembley market).

Evisu Jeans de rigeur around Ealing circa 2001

The Strokes released Is This Is It in 2001, and The Libertines followed it up in 2002 with Up The Bracket saving guitar music from Coldplay, Travis and Starsailor. The rebels without a cause, listening to Nu-metal cottoned on eventually and swapped the ridiculous flares for ripped jeans and converses, looking like members of the Ramones in the process.

I loved both bands but distrusted the grungers and steered clear of the look, rude boys who bore little resemblance to those of the 70’s and 80’s went in for quilted Barbour jackets, days off for teacher training meant trips to the Barbour outlet in Austin Reed on Regent Street and half the playground seemed to be in a Liddesdale or those terrible knock offs with NY on the pocket instead of Barbour, I had and still do have an Eskdale in Black. Nike TNs or Air Maxs were the popular trainers of the day, although thankfully I had neither as looking back they are both ghastly. Nike caps with earflaps were de rigeur and I still have mine somewhere, equally as popular and even more ludicrous were accessories from the Disney store, as hard kids wore gloves and scarves with Tiger and Piglet emblazoned on them.

Around this time I started to go away games more regularly and I lost focus on the playground fashions, instead casting a keen on the clothes on the terraces, becoming obsessed with Lacoste, Stone Island etc, however for a while the fashions of the playground were king.

By Callum West

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Lurid Colours and Questionable Designs: Football Kits of the 1990s

Football shirts, any fan worth their salt realises that they should be worn exclusively by those under 14.

Furthermore, they realise that grown men with a player’s name and number or worse still a hilarious nickname on the back of their shirt are symptomatic of large swathes of modern football fans, endemic throughout the modern game.

Despite being badly made in sweatshops, generally by one of two multinational corporations, these synthetic adverts for other multinational corporations, which do little to flatter the figure of the average fan, retail for nearly £50 each.  On the whole identical, with little – aside from colour – separating say the Nike Manchester United kit from their design for Barcelona, they are equally likely to be seen in shopping centres in South East Asia as they are on a Saturday in the stands.

However, whilst there has never been a time when it has been acceptable for football shirts to adorn the backs of grown men on the terraces, there was a time when they were less uniform and not identikit. When our heroes who took to the field in them of a Saturday afternoon also sported moustaches and mullets and the sponsor wasn’t a multinational company but your local scrap metal dealer. Each club didn’t issue three new kits season and West Ham’s kits were aptly manufactured by Pony.

These kits worn by Pavel Srnicek, Tony Daley, Ruel Fox, Jason Dozell and all manner of other Merlin sticker book superstars came in all number of lurid colours, in a variety of questionable designs. Chelsea travelled in tangerine and graphite, whilst Everton played away in Pink. There weren’t identical tiger stripers on the arms of Fraser Digby – keeper at Swindon Town – and that of Hans Segers in the Wimbledon goal. Neither of their kits were made by Nike, but by the internationally renowned Loki and Ribero respectively. They were gharish, they were ghastly, they were great.  Here’s to the shit football kits of the 1990’s.

Some of the Worst/Best examples of 1990’s kits.

Efan Ekoku is pictured here representing Norwich in 1993/1994, seemingly Jackson Pollock or a Pigeon with severe diahorea has been left to add the final flourishes to their traditional yellow shirts. Local Building Society ‘Norwich and Peterborough’ provide proper 90’s sponsorship.

Anyone who thinks that the tangerine and graphite kit was Chelsea’s worst of the 90’s doesn’t remember the goalkeeping shirts Dmitri Kharine combined with his trademark jogging bottoms. Throughout his spell at the club he wore gharish design after gharish design. This contains all the hallmarks of a classic 90’s Kharine kit, looking like a cross between a seat on the tube and a pair of curtains you might see on Neighbours.

Hull took the field in this beauty between January and May 1994. A contender for perhaps the worst kit in football’s history it looks more like a top which an ageing lady of ill repute may sport with fishnets and leather boots on a night out in the sponsor Pepis, which I’m assuming for the purpose of this metaphor is a questionable local night spot, than the shirt of a football team.  First prize to anyone who can identify what animal that is the print of too.

This kit from 1992, being modelled by Birmingham City’s Nigel Gleghorn, could only have come from the early 90’s, looking as it does, like either a sofa you could win on the Generation Game or a dress that a contestant on Family Fortunes may sport.

Worn by Sunderland goalkeepers between 1994-1996, this appears to be at least 15 different kits sewn together, all of them utterly disgusting.

By Callum West

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Premier League Preview

And so it begins, as fans ready themselves for another 9 months of horseshit and hamburgers, expensive pints and kick offs moved by Sky, whilst managers scramble around for a last minute addition to plug the hole in the defence or to add a bit of creativity to the midfield, the first fixtures of the new Premier League season loom large on the horizon.

There isn’t much like that first game of the season feeling, little else could make a Sunday in Stoke seem so appealing, little else that could make people get up especially early on a Saturday after a heavy night on the Friday to make sure they get to the bookies in time for the accumulator, the cafe for a fry up and still be in the pub for opening.

Many supporters will be wondering whether their new signings will be able to do a job, whether they’ll stay up, whether they’ll challenge for the title, which expensive forward their new manager is going to pick, some will be dusting off the lucky Lacoste they wore when their team beat Liverpool last season, whilst others will be deciding on which pair of trainers go best with their new CP jacket or whether the weather is good enough for shorts and boat shoes.  Most will be looking forward to the buzz of beers and banter with the boys, talking shit, having a laugh even if the lager is overpriced, watered down and in a plastic glass.

For that is half of what football is about, whilst you may pin your dreams and aspirations on eleven fellas on ridiculous wages who you can hardly relate to, it is as much about your mates, the pubs and the laugh, the atmosphere, the songs,  it’s about your new trainers, and going away in a new coat that no one else is wearing. It’s not about the spectacle or seeing a superstar if it was you wouldn’t do it every week, it’s not a product and we’re not customers and that’s why we’ve got the buzz back for the start of the new season despite ridiculous ticket prices and Sky hampering travel to away games.

Whilst this excitement will wear off on a wet and windy winter Wednesday in Wolverhampton, and you’ll wonder why you’re doing it all over again, you still will, and the next year you’ll do it all over again, whether your team win the league or get relegated, because the start of the season is always a clean slate filled with hope and booze, so roll on Sunday in Stoke.

By Callum West

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‘Think I’m Ghetto Stop Dreaming’ – The Streets : A Retrospective

A few festival appearances over the next couple of months will bring down the curtain on the musical career of Mike Skinner as we know it, for the Streets it is all over bar the shouting.

In the musical landscape of the new millennium where instant success is demanded and bands are dropped with alarming regularity few have matched The Streets’ longevity and even fewer the continued quality of his output.

Emerging from the UK Garage scene of the late 90’s/ early 2000’s which blurred the boundaries between house, hip hop and drum and bass, The Streets long outlived contemporaries in the genre by continually evolving (from the geezer in search of excitement on ‘Original Pirate Material’ through to the reflective man fast approaching 30 on ‘Everything is Borrowed’) whilst having his finger on the zeitgeist, and maintaining the Kinks-esque knack of writing songs about Britain and everyday life. From the buzz of youthful experimentation with illegal substances on ‘Weak Become Heroes’ to the death of a loved one on ‘Never Went To Church’ Skinner’s best work deals with a broad spectrum of subjects which the listener can relate to.

This reached it’s peak on 2004’s ‘A Grand Don’t Come for Free’, he became the bard for young men up and down the country, soundtracking their lives, dressing like them, living like them, splitting up with birds, trying to pull other birds on islands in the sun, whilst the albums number 1 single, ‘Dry Your Eye’s Mate’ becoming the soundtrack to another unsuccessful tournament for the England football team.

It’s follow up ‘The Hardest Way To Make an Easy’ dealt with the fallout of becoming a celebrity, from sleeping with famous girls ‘When You Wasn’t Famous’ to the come down from drug binges on the records stand out track ‘Prangin’Out’ which featured former Libertine Pete Doherty. It is easy to see this album as The Streets’ ‘Be Here Now’ the excess of drugs are smeared across the album like the remnants of a line on the back of the CD, and what else could explain the orange suit he took to wearing at the time. However, unlike Oasis, the album that followed marked a change in direction, from brash and lairy to introspective and contemplative. Skinner described ‘Everything is Borrowed’ as a “peaceful coming to terms album” compared to “guilt-ridden indulgence” of its predecessor.  Released to mix reviews and the less commercial success than any of his previous albums, it is nevertheless a striking work.

After releasing songs via twitter following ‘Everything is Borrowed’ 2011 saw the release of his final album ‘Computers and Blues’.  Seen by many as a return to form, second single ‘Trust Me’ is up there with his finest work. The protaganist of the first two records is back, if somewhat wiser and a little less lairy, and with it being the last album it seems apt that The Streets has gone full circle.

Here’s five great records by The Streets.

Weak Become Heroes

It’s Too Late

Blinded By The Lights

Prangin Out Ft. Pete Doherty

Trust Me

By Callum West

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Death of The B Side

In the modern world of mp3’s and iTunes music has never been more instantly accessible, however the rise of downloading has been to the detriment of the CD single and with it the final nail has been hammered into the coffin of a musical institution, the b-side.

Double sided records were first pressed by Columbia in the early part of the twentieth century, however, the idea of different emphasis being placed upon the either side didn’t emerge until the 1950’s when sales of singles and the idea of the charts became big business for the music industry and labels began instructing radios to play the A-side of the release (Although occasionally DJ’s have preferred the B-side and they have become the hit: Gloria Gaynors – I will survive, The Everley Brothers – Unchained Melody and Maddonna- Get Into The Groove were all initially intended to be B-sides).

Despite some notable exceptions, they were initially covers of other hits or extended, intstrumental or accapella versions of the A-Side, and the heyday of the B-side didn’t began until the punk movement in the late 1970’s. Lasting through to the collapse of Britpop in the late 90’s. A peculiarly British phenomenon, during this time bands like Elvis Costello and the Attractions, New Order, The Smiths and Oasis all produced B-sides in this time that are held up by their fans as some of their best work (Indeed The Oasis B-side album The Masterplan is held up as one of their finest). Not designed for popular consumption, or the casual radio listener the B-side enabled the band to shake of the shackles of success and let the creativity flow.

The B-side also represented value for money, with the record industry in fine fettle, labels were keen to reward fans for their purchase, a quickly thrown together cover, or a half arsed remix that were to become the norm wouldn’t do.

However with the advent of the internet, this slowly changed, in the late 90’s sites like Napster emerged and record sales began to dwindle.Although some bands in the early 2000’s, notably the Libertines, released popular B-sides which became fan favourites like those of their predecessors, in general bands and labels seeing the shift within the industry had put less time and resources on B-sides, cobbling together remixes or acoustic versions of the single. Although the music industry successfully sued Napster they couldn’t halt they inevitable, CD singles had become old hat, music was now changing from a physical product to a digital download.

As the new millenium wore on the music industry took heed of the old adage if you can’t beat them join them the B-side was doomed. With the release of the iPod fans shuffled through albums, picking and choosing songs to download at will, The BBC cancelled Top of The Pops and the singles chart became all but redundant, record shops stopped stocking CD singles altogether and without singles there are no B-sides.

Here’s a few great B-sides.

Oasis – Fade Away (B-side to Cigarette’s and Alcohol)

New Order – 1963 (B-side to True Faith)

The Smiths – How Soon Is Now (Originally B-side to William It Was Really Nothing)

The Jam – The Butterfly Collector (B-side to Strange Town)

The Beat – Stand Down Magaret (B-side to Best Friend)

By Callum West

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Football: Celebrations

Chelsea fans celebrate in Turin

Being a successful side has many positive aspects: regularly reaching finals and winning trophies, watching internationally renowned stars playing in front of full houses – it’s a lot more appealing than following West Ham. However there are drawbacks, ticket prices, tourists, the sanitised atmosphere are all regularly cited as problems of football at the highest level.

Another perceived problem is the increasing lack of proper goal celebrations, with muted cheering and polite applause seemingly the status quo throughout the division. Worse still some clubs have taken to playing music following goals so the masses in their replica shirts can do a celebratory jig before launching into a half arsed ‘who are ya?’ at the away fans.

However, the fans are not always entirely to blame. When you’re playing Wigan at home, they’ve bought a hundred or so fans, and you’re heavy favourites to win, an expected goal isn’t going to provoke pandemonium. Success breeds expectancy and complacency, whilst the best celebrations come from tension.

Equally all seater stadiums can restrict your celebrations somewhat, whilst the unaccountability of gung-ho stewards and over-zealous policing of fans, especially those supporting the away side has seen fans thrown out simply for ‘over celebrating’ their team score.

Fans of some clubs have tried to address the issue of understated celebration, at Manchester City goals are met by fans turning their back towards the pitch, linking arms and bouncing in unison, in what has become known as the Poznan – named after the Polish side who introduced it to Manchester in a Europa League clash last season.

However, this is the antithesis of what a goal celebration should be about. Indeed the Polish side, and the many other European Ultras who bounce in a similar fashion, don’t do so in celebration, rather it is a show of unity when their side are behind, and moreover the incorporation of aspects of European Ultra culture into British fan culture always seems a bit forced and unnatural. The best celebrations are spontaneous and unorganised, a mass expulsion of the emotion that has been building up during the match, an outpouring of unadulterated joy where it’s ok to embrace strangers or end up collapsed in a heap three rows in front of your original position, not an organised ritual.

Nevertheless, despite the muted applause greeting goals against the likes of Bolton, the orchestrated bouncing at Eastlands and the charmless authoritians in hi-visibility jackets, the mental goal celebration is still there occasionally. Anyone who saw the Birmingham fans celebrations at White Hart Lane when they thought the goal they’d scored would keep the up can bear witness to it, as can anyone who was Stamford Bridge when Fernando Torres broke his duck against West Ham. The delirium of a last minute winner or a goal against your rivals is still the same.   

 Although, they’re more infrequent with success and sanitisation it is the buzz of these moments that makes football, football, for the match going fan. That shared bond in the instant of ecstasy when a Norwegian left back heads into his own net in the last minute can never be felt in your armchair in front of Sky Sports and long may that continue.

By Callum West

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Postcard Records

Madonna, Flashdance, Duran Duran, Stock Aitken and Waterman and Living on a Prayer. For the clientele of shit suburban student nights in soulless high street bar chains, this is what 80’s music has unfortunately come to represent – the chance to get legless on cheap booze and sing along without irony to Bon Jovi in shoulder pads and legwarmers.

Marketing men have repackaged it as the decade that fashion forgot, conspicuous consumption, and awful pop music, whilst talking heads on retrospective documentaries chuckle with embarrassment as they talk about Wham and HI-NRG. However, the reality is quite different, the 80’s were as musically diverse and productive as the more lauded decades that proceeded it. Away from the pop and power ballads, Ska, The Style Council, The Smiths, New Romantic, Post Punk and Acid House all helped soundtrack a decade of great social upheaval and social unrest.

Independent labels such as 2 Tone and Rough Trade played an important part in shaping the musical landscape, as did Postcard Records, who despite only releasing 13 songs were integral to the rise of what became indie music.

Formed in a Glasgow tenement flat in 1979 by teenage student Alan Horne, the label was initially a vehicle to release records by Orange Juice. Fronted by Edwyn Collins, they had some of the sensibilities of punk bands but were altogether more articulate, intelligent and witty and were equally influenced by Americana and Motown. Indeed, when Postcard declared themselves ‘The Sound of Young Scotland’ it was in homage to the Detroit label’s famous motto.

Despite only a thousand copies being pressed, Orange Juice’s debut single ‘Falling and Laughing’ became a critical success, lauded for it’s fey, camp, witty lyrics, tight bass and jangly guitar, which would become the trademark of bands that emerged over the next fewer years such as The Smiths.

Following the early success of this and Orange Juice’s next single Blue Boy, other bands were signed and released singles. Postcard had become the epicentre of Scotland’s independent music scene. Edinburgh post-punks Josef K, were darker, but equally literate (they’re named after the protagonist in Franz Kafka’s The Trial), whilst Australian label mates The Go-Betweens (who now lived in Scotland) released quirky pop.  Aztec Camera, like Orange Juice from Glasgow, were the fourth band to be signed by Postcard. They were the musical vehicle of teenage singer-songwriter Roddy Frame and released beautiful, well crafted, multi layered pop songs, such as the b-side to their first Postcard release ‘Just Like Gold’, ‘We Could Send Letters’.

By the end of 1981 though, it was over, despite the relative success of their 13 releases the label had run out of money, they were declared bankrupt. Alan Horne later explained: ‘We were all very enthusiastic and very naive and we rushed right into the middle of it all before we knew anything. We had never seen the inside of a record company before.’

However, despite being short lived, despite only having a miniscule catalogue of records, Postcard’s influence was huge, musically they had a massive effect on the contemporary indie scene, they influenced the Smiths and inspired the acts that signed Sarah Records in Bristol. They put Scottish music on the map and defined the Scottish sound which can still be heard in the music by the likes of Camera Obscura. Perhaps most importantly though their DIY ethos has become the blueprint for independent labels everywhere, Postcard showed the music world, you can make beautiful, well crafted songs on a shoestring budget.

Heres some of Postcards best releases:

Josef K – Sorry For Laughing

Orange Juice – Simply Thrilled Honey

Aztec Camera – We Could Send Letters

 By Callum West

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