The other day The Guardian’s music/fashion correspondent Alexis Petridis wrote about how men’s fashion has suddenly become massively influenced by one year, 1988 and specifically the time in which 80s fashions (think denim shirts, girlie pumps), collided with the 1950s (think quiffs, Levis 501s, Rayban Wayfarers etc).
This odd combination occurred for a number of serendipitous reasons. Firstly big brands – Levi’s, Southern Comfort among others – began to use 50s imagery and music for their ad camapigns. Secondly a nation of indie kids has become obsessed with Morrissey and in turn with his obsession with James Dean. Suddenly 50s fashions were coming at you from all angles.
So if 1988 is the current apex of cool, where is men’s fashion likely to go next? We have already seen Urban Outfitter’s rather lamentable attempts to hype ‘grunge fashion’ (in some ways that’s an oxymoron) with its Cobain label. But by shifting on to the early 90s men’s fashion would be bypassing one of its most fun, creative and populist periods. I refer of course to Baggy.
For the uninitiated, you are either too young or from North American, Baggy was one of those brief periods in British history (see also late 60s and mid 70s) where the nation’s young let it all hang out. This meant taking copious amounts of a new drug – ecstasy – and listening to oddly psychedelic music – The Stone Roses. The difference this time (compared with the 60s) was that Baggy was dance music-oriented with the dominant soundtrack, in clubs at least, the emerging Acid House sound from Manchester, via Chicago. So a killer combination of dancing and drugs predictably wreaked havoc with the nation’s trouser’s width. The 80s had been largely about skinny jeans morphing into easy fit vintage Levi’s as the decade wore on. Suddenly everyone was wearing Flares.
It wasn’t just trousers either. Baggy ought also to be remembered as the first time the hooded top became a high street fashion staple. Baggy also gave us dayglo sweat shirts, later appropriated by the nu rave crew, as well as Paisley and pattern shirts – which to be fair had been bubbling under for much of the 80s – huge Tees and some fantastic headgear.
Drab old Britain was suddenly a riot of colour and its young cared less about perfecting their quiffs and posing in their vintage shades and more about getting off their tits in fields in Berkshire.
Sadly Baggy didn’t last too long. Internal disagreements (and spiraling drug consumption) tore The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays apart. And as for the Baggy Beatles – the La’s – lead singer Lee Mavers decided that the world only really deserved one album of his genius songs and he went AWOL.
By the time Baggy hit the South (it was mainly a northern thing) the bands were on their way out and the clothes had hit the local charity store. For a few months the UK flirted with some horrendous grunge fashions before Blur, Pulp and Britpop smartened everyone up (a little).
So, Baggy is sure to be revived sooner or later, so now might be as good a time as any to comb your local Oxfam for a nice hooded top with mildly psychedelic patterns on the front. Flares will hopefully be optional this time round.