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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