Sunday, 13 June 2010

NME fashions, 1980

'The Alien' advertisement, NME, 20th December 1980, page 72. 

A brisk canter now through the NME clothing advertisements from my three surviving copies dating from 1980.  Starting with an authentically menacing hand-drawn ad for skinhead coats (presumably Crombie style) with a nicely no-nonsense tag line: "Good Coats These."

Fab-Gear advertisement, NME, 20th December 1980, page 72. Click image for a bigger view.

Fab-Gear of Leeds have the new wave angle covered, and their ad indicates that their retail outlet was X Clothes, an alternative clothing business that started in Manchester.  Music trivia fans will be delighted to learn that Johnny Marr worked in that Manchester branch just prior to forming the Smiths.

'Radar' advertisement, NME, 20th December 1980, page 73.  Click image for a bigger view.

Radar appears to be a Scottish retailer with shops in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but mail orders are referred to 'P. Leach' of Chelsea, which must be the same company as (possibly misprinted) 'B. Leach' whose bondage trouser ad from 1979 featured in the previous post.

You'll notice that multi-pleated 'Bowie Trousers' were a firm favourite around this time and several  advertisers (in this and the subsequent blog post coming soon) provide their own version of them. 

'Baxby Fashion House' advertisement, NME, 20th December 1980, page 72.  Click image for a bigger view.

Baxby's lamentable line drawings inspire little confidence, especially that Crombie in the bottom right corner.  Oh dear.

These days we routinely expect online retailers to provide full colour photographs from every angle, eye-popping zooms and even rotating 360º views, and it makes you realise what a considerable leap of faith it must have been to have sent off your cross-signed postal order based on a tiny, mis-shapen sketch that gives only the vaguest idea of what the garment might actually look like.

'J. Holdsworth' advertisement, NME, 29th March 1980, page 48.  Click image for a bigger view.

J. Holdsworth's drawings aren't much better, but at least there's a bit more detail. 

'Printout Promotions' advertisement for punk gear, NME, 29th March 1980, page 47.  Click image for a bigger view.

With some of these advertisers you get a sense that there might be some enthusiasm or at least interest in the culture they are exploiting catering for, but Printout Promotions isn't one of them.  They are just happy to produce whatever seems to be in demand.  And there's nothing wrong with that at all, in fact I admire their versatility.

So above, you'll see the punk range, and coming up below is the rock selection:

'Printout Promotions' Giant Rock Sew Ons advertisement, NME, 29th March 1980, page 48.  Click image for a bigger view.

Heavy Metal wasn't really the NME's turf (that was more Sounds territory) and this is the only specifically rock-related merchandise ad I found in my small and highly unrepresentative survey.

Mind you, I can't help warming to that slogan: "Rock on your Chest!"

'Printout Promotions' parka advertisement, NME, 29th March 1980, page 48.  Click image for a bigger view.

And here Printout turns its hand to mod styles with Union Jack emblazoned parka.  In fact, I'm sure there were plenty of other subcultural fields that Printout Promotions trained their sights on.  An online search turned up a scanned copy of CB World magazine from April/May 1981 featuring a full page ad of theirs with the proud message: "Leaders in the field of personalised CB wear," which presents merchandise including everything from bodywarmers to car sunstrips.

From versatility to extreme specialisation, let's welcome the self-styled "most exciting Company in the Universe":

'Punters Choice by Cadiss' slim ties advertisement, NME, 27th September 1980, page 53.  Click image for a bigger view.

Punters Choice by Cadiss want to help those of you with overly wide ties, and their Asteroids tie certainly sounds tempting.  Interestingly, they accept Access credit cards - the only NME clothing advertiser I've found that does so - but without a telephone number it looks like those ties will remain "Hard To Find."

'Boy' mail order punk advertisement, NME, 27th September 1980, page 53.

Boy were one of the, er, big boys of punk clothing and I dearly wish I'd sent off for one of those full colour catalogues.

This ad has proved useful to me, though, by way of the mention of Kitsch 22.  I have an old sleeveless t-shirt with a picture of Sid Vicious on tv (printed sideways) that has a perversely black on black woven label.  After much squinting and angling to catch the light on this mystifying label I've discovered that it reads "Kitsch London" and probably came from Boy.

The t-shirt had been featured in a fashion magazine piece showcasing new t-shirt designs and I must have sent off for it, although I have no memory of doing so.  But I kept that clipped picture of the t-shirt (indeed it may still be around, somewhere . . .) and the garment remains in my wardrobe nearly 30 years later.

Steering back to the business in hand, the blog Planet Mondo has some pictures from the 1981 Boy Blackmail catalogue that are definitely worth a look.

'Roy's Fashions' advertisement, NME, 29th March 1980, page 48.  Click image for a bigger view.

I have a soft spot for Roy's ad, which has a lot to do with that black and white block panel mod dress.

'Roy's Fashions' advertisement, NME, 20th December 1980, page 73.  Click image for a bigger view.

And here's Roy in December 1980 offering not just Bowie trousers but a full Bowie suit for £39.95.

Finally, its heartening to see that the Teds, Britain's oldest and most venerable youth subculture, were not forgotten in 1980.  The General Franchise Company was there to dress them in Polyester Viscose Gaberdine:

'The General Franchise' Drapes and Drainpipes advertisement, NME, 29th March 1980, page 47.  Click image for a bigger view.

The next post will gather up the remaining NME clothing ads scanned from issues dating from 1981 to 1985, and I'll include a handy directory of all the advertisers just to keep up the nerd quotient.  Stay tuned . . .

Friday, 11 June 2010

What could you buy for £6.90 in 1979?

'Mainline' advertisement from the New Musical Express, 29th September 1979, page 63.  

You could treat yourself to some P.V.C. straights - in black, white or *gasp!* pink - as illustrated here in an advertisement by Mainline of Bristol.

I know punks were supposed to be skinny, but the smallest men's size offered here is an extraordinary 24" waist. This might suggest the target market included some very young punks indeed. 

On my recent browse through what little remains of my NME collection, I was drawn to the clothing ads that featured regularly in its back pages and seemed to cater for nearly every youth culture tribe active at the time.

Personally, I wouldn't have dreamed of ordering anything from them because I instinctively mistrusted those monochrome line art drawings and assumed that the garments would be shoddy and disappointing.  I'm sure this was most unfair in some cases, but when you're school-age and pocket money is tight, you tend to be ultra-cautious about where you spend your money. 

That said, I'd like to hope they would have provided a valuable service to provincial (and especially rural) teenagers, keen to express their tribal preferences in sartorial form, who lived more than a tube ride away from Camden Market or the King's Road. 

So, back in 1979, punks were pretty well catered for as you might expect:

'B. Leach' advertisement, NME, 22nd December 1979, page 73.  

B. Leach of Chelsea offers tartan bondage trousers at £17.95 (bum flap and 7 straps included), and suggests that you order your fur fabric leopard drainpipes in "the tightest size you can."  Those models might have the requisite skinny figures, but they're just not trying hard enough with their hair.  Bondage-trouser-man looks like one of Harry Enfield's scousers, and the two women could be Nolan sisters.

However, it is still the 1970s and the hippies haven't yet been scared away by all those young punks in super tight trousers.

'Furs and Jeans' advertisement, NME, 22nd December 1979, page 73.  

It looks like its much more expensive to be a hippy than a punk.  £34.50 could get you nearly two pairs of B. Leach's bondage strides, or exactly five pairs of Mainline's P.V.C straights, not including p&p of course. 

'Shapes' advertisement, NME, 29th September 1979, page 64.  

Maybe its not that expensive being a hippy after all, since Shapes of Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, is providing printed cotton wraparound skirts for £4.80 and white cheesecloth Kurtas for £2.85. 

But if anyone's known for excessive spending on their wardrobe, its the mods.

'Retro' advertisement, NME, 22nd December 1979, page 73.  

This leather "Crombie Style Topcoat," from Retro of Bristol, costs an impressive £59.95, and I'm sure I don't remember seeing any late-70s-mod-revival mods wearing one.  Leather ties, certainly, and possibly the odd leather "Blue Beat" hat, but the coat was probably not a big seller given that price. Plus, maybe I'm a bit conservative, but the idea of a Crombie in leather sounds pretty naff to me. 

That's about it from my two surviving copies of the NME from 1979.  There's plenty more ads coming as we plough on through into the 1980s and I'm determined to share them all! 

Authentic punk clothing - with the 'right' labels such as Seditionaries/Sex, Boy and so on - is now fetching big money from enthusiastic collectors.  I would argue that the other contemporary youth culture styles are interesting too, not least because very little of it seems to survive.

People grow out of their teenage enthusiasms and are often quick to bin those embarrassing reminders of their youth as they grow up, start thinking of their careers and/or their new young families, and decide that Pink Floyd were actually amazing despite what Johnny Rotten scrawled on his famous t-shirt.  

The mail-order retailers featured above weren't exactly authentic, but they provided cheaper copies for the majority of people who couldn't afford the originals.  I won't get into the arguments about whether this was piracy or not, or about quality issues - it was inevitable.

You might come across some of this old gear, and some of it might have labels sewn in (this isn't a given - many don't).  With my collector/vintage dealer head on, I reckon these ads might be a useful resource for finding out about those garments.

If you've still got something from one of these companies, or you remember ordering furry leopard print drainpipes from the NME, I'd genuinely love to hear about it.