Feeling in the need of a makeover in the summer of 1973, I opted for the popular wash n’ wear 70’s perm once the domain of little old ladies but now quite common varying from full blown frizzy afros to looser Marc Bolan curls. I got something in between, I went to a popular hairdresser called Ginger Group and the girl gave me quite a tight perm. It relaxed after a while and took a bit of time to get used to and was not entirely maintenance free. There was not much in the way of conditioners then, just a rinse called ‘ Tame’. Also there was the root grow out which left the hair flat and straight on top. This was very evident in men who permed their hair and there were quite a lot , they rarely looked good and were not too good at maintenance i.e. boosting the hair a bit at the top between perms with rollers. I was to ruin my hair for the next few years with perms, I thought it looked nice at the time but to be honest I hope that it is a hairstyle that never comes back.
I often visited Kensington antiques market just a few doors down from Derry and Toms and I stocked up my makeup and t-shirts and jeans across the road at Bibas, and also looked around Barkers. There was a great fabric department there, I swear some of the fabrics were very old and the whole store really did have the ‘Are you being served ‘ feel about it. The market had a lot beautiful old 30’s and 40’s clothes in great condition and still had tons of Art Deco artifacts. I bought a few crepe de chine flowery dresses and dusky pink wool moss crepe dress. This had an interesting top stitched bodice which ended in a kind of knot at the waist, and big padded shoulders. The skirt was smooth but you could tell it had once been pleated but they had been abandoned long ago, you could still see very faint scars. I loved that dress and wore it a lot that summer safe in the knowledge that it was unique, or so I thought. I was walking down Kensington high street one day when a girl came walking towards me in the very same dress in a light pearl grey, it even had all the pleats all sharp and crisp and looked wonderful, very Joan Crawford. In that split second I was pretending not to notice and wondering whether she ironed all those pleats in herself, after all I do not think they had permanent pleating in 1940’s natural fabrics. Then I began to think really , what are the odds of bumping into the same retro dress from thirty years ago, I would love to know.
I bought a lot of casual clothes at Bibas. The jeans had very wide legs and ingenious sculpted backsides, lots of little panels and a seam under the butt to give it shape, it worked. I always loved the t-shirts, the cotton was good and the sleeves were narrow at the top and were elasticated at the wrist. There was a combo long cotton skirt and bell sleeved t- shirt look that summer in many lovely colours . The skirt was very long and flared with about six panels, and together with the matching t-shirt and big belt [mine was leopard skin] you had an outfit to dress up as you wanted.
One day, I saw a girl in a very unusual black swing back jacket. It looked old , typical 194o’s but even more exaggerated , so I zeroed in for a closer look. She told me it was new and designed by someone called Sheilagh Brown of Coopers well I had to check this out. I think the shop was in Covent Garden but I am not totally sure . The shop was tiny and had a small collection by Sheilagh Brown and Sheridan Barnett for Coopers and I swear they were made for me! These two were a team and their designs were very similar with clean cut , sharp, minimalistic lines which made great silhouettes. The tailoring and fit was superb, there were broad shouldered jackets with nipped in waists and spiky cuffs. The trousers were very high waisted with wide straight legs , they had pleats and buckles at the waist and hung beautifully. I remember seeing three colours , black, camel, and dove grey and the fabric was barathea which is a tightly woven wool usually only found in very upmarket clothing or ceremonial gear and uniforms. I bought the Sheilagh Brown swing back jacket in camel, and a Sheridan Barnett jacket and trousers in black to make a suit and wore them to death well into the 1980’s. In Canada I used to get stopped on the street and asked where I got them from. I think I found these two designers right at the beginning of their careers, they went on to work together as Brown and Barnett and did a lot in the 1980′ and much much more but I cannot find their early 1970’s work. Never mind, I have made two sketches to show their beautiful clothes here to the best of my memory.
I have a very bad photo of the back view of the Sheilagh Brown jacket , Mick and I are walking towards the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur on a weekend in Paris. There is a better photo a few blogs back with me at my desk on the roof garden which shows the padded shoulder details. In the Paris photo, Mick is wearing his Dracula suit by Malcom Hall. This was a velvet and satin suit, it had satin topstitched chevron panels down the front. Malcom Hall was a designer who had started out working for Ossie Clarke, in the 70’s he made suits and jackets for rock stars. Many wore his distinctive jackets. He is still working today and his style has not changed very much.
Trousers were beginning to get very wide and some had deep cuffs, this presented an unexpected hazard. One day there was a crowd of us in a pub, sometimes there was no access to ashtrays or they were full because everybody smoked then. There was no choice but to ground cigarettes into the carpet, one guy did this and a few minutes later we became aware of a terrible smell and smoke. The cigarette had dropped into his trouser cuff and started to burn a hole, this was surprisingly common.
Our local pub near Derry and Toms was the Greyhound in Kensington Square still quite popular now I believe . It had a small exterior but was quite big inside with a room at the back with two pool tables. Here Hurricane Higgins would spend a lot of time thrashing the punters who all lined up to play a game of snooker with him. I found it very boring. There were more interesting people around, a lot of stallholders from the market spent time there. There was one character who had a stall where he sold antique uniforms and every time he came to the pub he wore a different uniform. He always looked immaculate and from a different era with his waxed moustache . One lunchtime he came to the pub, a group of American tourists were ordering lunches at the bar after a morning of sightseeing. He stood at the door for a moment backlit by the afternoon sun and everybody gasped , then he walked up to the bar resplendent in a glorious antique Canadian Mounties uniform complete with a wide brimmed hat and shiny boots. He calmly ordered a glass of white wine, the look on the tourists’ faces was priceless. a real character , much more interesting than Hurricane Higgins.
At some point that summer, Mick and I, and Chris and his wife went to Spain for a much needed break so here are a couple of pics, Mick cheesy in a cheesecloth shirt with aviator sunglasses. They were quite old genuine aviator sunglasses Mick had passed down to him. I remember they were very uncomfortable. Being glass they were very heavy, the nose bit pinched a lot and the bits around the ear were coiled and sprung and really hurt after about half an hour. They looked good though.
Finally, here I am in my perm and platforms. I am wearing a two pound fifty Biba cotton bikini in custard and raspberry coloured stripes and I think the platform wedge cream leather and rope sandals were Biba too. It must have been hell walking on the beach in those. Mick told me I looked like a Greek statue with a fag.