Rocking and rolling back the years

All press / news

Rocking and rolling back the years
By Colin Cameron
Published: July 15 2006 03:00

The rock festivals that are the standard fare of summer seem recently to have attracted more attention for what Kate Moss was wearing in the audience as opposed to anything sported - or sung for that matter - on stage (witness the weird craze for shorts, boots and capes now sweeping the high street). In the past two weeks, however, that has started to change, thanksto a men's wear phenomenon that mimics a music phenomen: the 20-year pop "echo".

Last month The Pet Shop Boys opened the two-week Tower of London Music Festival, and are slated to play again next Friday at Thetford Forest in Suffolk; also coming up at various venues in Britain and continental Europe are Paul Weller, Depeche Mode, Human League and UB40. Tonight A-Ha will take the stage at Guilford's Stoke Park. And though there's a nostalgia to their sonic appeal, sartorially speaking, they look surprisingly . . . contemporary. In fact, their clothes look exactly like most of the clothes currently on display in luxury brand storeseverywhere. Want to understand the styles on sale? The answer, apparently, is cherchez le old rock star.

On Savile Row, for example, Richard James maintains that for inspiration this season he swapped his usual favourite, the 1970s television series The Persuaders, for Blondie. The band supplied the soundtrack to Richard Gere's American Gigolo in 1980, and, says James, "the wider tie is now looking very old-fashioned, compared with the film's narrow, square-bottomed style" - if proof is needed, just check out his racks.

Similarly, current stock at Prada, Armani Collezioni, and Dolce & Gabbana could kit out the returning 1980s stars, or their fans, old and new. Black leather quilted tops from Prada and Armani would fit either Pet Shop Boy or Pet Shop Boys followers. Prada's metallic grey bomber jacket is also reminiscent of A-Ha on stage, and D&G drainpipes with pumps are in tune with a multitude of acts. Which raises the question: why are rocks icons of the 80s making a comeback now?

According to Antony Price, who made suits for Duran Duran in the 1980s, pop's first video generation were visual as well as musical. Duran Duran's songs, in particular "Rio", represented a distinct style that could be revived. "Duran Duran were the first fashion band," argues Price, who fitted trousers with just enough room for lead singer Simon Le Bon to sit comfortably - in cream suit, blue shirt and pencil tie - beyond the bow of a yacht for the video accompaniment to "Rio".

In fact, Price dates 1980s-pop men's wear back to the previous decade. What were effectively prototypes for the Duran wardrobe were made by Price in 1972 for Bryan Ferry (and were themselves based on suits worn by Motown's soul singers). "Jackets were longer or shorter than was conventional, with one button, which helped to exposethe narrow tie," Price explains. As for the vivid, shiny, pastel colours suchas those used in Duran Duran's seafaring video, they paid homage to the shades of the Caribbean, according to Price. "I visited in 1972 for the first timeand saw the sea and sky - incredible blues, greens and turquoises," he recalls.

For his part, Paul Gambaccini, broadcaster and rock historian, suggests British audiences maintain their loyalty to bands (and their style) over time, whereasin places like Americaonly "lifers" such as Bruce Springsteen sustain enduring fan bases. "Gene Pitney was playing gigs in Britain, not America, right up tohis death this year," Gambaccini argues.

The difference in American tastes is reflected in what's currently on offer in local vintage shops such as Resurrection, which has outlets in New York and Los Angeles. "There is constant interest in 1970s classics such as Pucci velvet blazers and YSL, and for the style of Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones," reports Resurrection's NY store manager, Paulina Assar. She says the craze for 1980s-cuts has yet to resurface.

Back in England, where 1980s fashion originally "devastated" Savile Row, Richard James reasonsthat the street's new generation of talent, such as Ozwald Boateng and Richard Anderson, can adapt this time around. "Fathers used to take their sons," hesays. "Now it's the other way round."

Courtesy The Financial Times London