In a bid for global domination of the LondonLee brand beyond blogs and magazines, I am expanding into selling my own t-shirt designs (watch out Amazon, I’m coming for you).
The first, Every Day is Record Store Day, is for those who don’t need an excuse to spend too much money on music and comes in a variety of colours for both men and women, all printed on top-quality 100% cotton shirts. It’s now on sale at my online store for the initial low price of only $14 for the first 72 hours and $20 after that — so get them while they’re hot. I have lots more designs coming soon all with the same sweet early-bird deal, so stay tuned.
Shirts are printed, sold, and shipped (including internationally) by the reputable on-demand service Teepublic. It’s secure and easy as pie, they even accept Paypal and will exchange if there’s a problem.
This is the closest I could get to a pop song about t-shirts.
I first heard of the late Steve Strange in 1979 when he was the notoriously-strict doorman at the Blitz club in Covent Garden and his refusal to let Mick Jagger into the club became a minor tabloid story. An act that served as both bravely sticking to your style guns and two fingers up to the crusty old rock establishment — though when Bowie showed up he was treated like a God, they were his children after all.
Back then, the Blitz Kids (as New Romantics were called initially) were still just a small underground clique and I can remember seeing these dazzling peacocks in flamboyant clothes and make-up hanging around the King’s Road or going out at night on the Tube, and would be startled by how they looked which was a million colourful miles away from the Punk and Mod styles everyone else was wearing. I had no idea who they were but admired the balls it took to go out looking like that, in those days just looking “weird” could easily get you beaten up.
Steve Strange grew up in Wales as plain old Steve Harrington and, like many kids of his generation, had his life changed by seeing the Sex Pistols and moved to London with dreams of reinventing himself, changing his name, creating his own scene. This was when it was possible to survive in London without much money and get by on the dole and living in squats which most of them did. It was also that exciting time post-Punk when outsiders and oddballs like Strange, Boy George, Gary Numan, Adam Ant, and Marc Almond could be given the keys to the pop kingdom and become bona fide stars. God knows we could do with some colorful mavericks like them in mainstream pop music today.
The New Romantic cult can look very silly today (never boring though), but Strange and his Blitz friends had an influence way beyond that one movement. They changed the look and sound of British pop, defining 80s music in the process. It was also the first British style/musical movement to come out of the club scene which would prove to be the incubator for nearly every other one to come after.
Once you look past the frills and eyeliner it did produce some great records too. Because Strange was thought of as just a club promoter and fashion plate it wasn’t exactly cool to like Visage (despite the rest of the band all being members of Ultravox and Magazine) but I did love this one, particularly the extended 12″ dance version.
If you like my “Tribes of Britain” posts then you’ll really like the wonderful blog What We Wore which also chronicles British youth style but also has stories from the people in the photos so it’s far more interesting.
You may think this is just a funny song about some bloke buying a new suit but it’s actually one of the most subversive singles of the 1950s: a devastating critique of materialist desire, capitalism, and how the working classes try to achieve status through their clothing. Really.
Kickers were very hip shoes in the late 1970s, the footwear of rich rock stars and, judging by the ad above, were mostly only sold in swanky London fashion spots like South Moulton Street and Beauchamp Place.
Of course that made them very desirable to style-conscious kids too and I knew a few who had a pair back then. They’d show them off around the estate, cocky in the knowledge that a pair of red Kicker Hi boots had a status beyond the latest must-have trainers. I never had any because they were too expensive — we were poor, you know — but I didn’t like them much anyway.
They became more popular and widespread in the 1980s, their bright colours and chunky soles going well with the nursery-school outfit of Smiley t-shirts and baggy dungarees of the Madchester/Acid crowd (and were worn by a sheep on the cover of a Farm album), but I have no idea what their hip cachet is these days.
“You Wear It Well” was a bit too obvious a selection for this post so I went with this one instead.