You can’t fail to have noticed the renewed interest in 80s style. There does seem to be a continued fascination with the style and music of that time.
For someone who was lucky enough to have lived their later teenage years at the start of the 80s, it seems like yesterday and not really ripe for the style tribes and media moguls to start a retro revolution about.
However, reality states that as that decade started 30+ years ago (the exact number is far too painful to type) for today's youth it is no different from my generation plundering the 50s for our influences.
But let me take you back to my youth — in my final year of senior school (thats compulsory education up to the age for 16 in the UK), I’d done the skinny school tie, bought everything by the Police, watched Hazel O’Connor in Breaking Glass and adopted her as an icon. Punk started to move mainstream and appear on Top of the Pops (a UK institution on the BBC, I’d advise you to search out any online editions if you can!).
And then along came something completely new — New Romantics. This style army really blew me away. For someone from a small town in Welsh, very working class, struggling with my sexuality, not rich by any means, and with no real clue where to go in life… these peacocks really opened my eyes.
We had limited access to media back then — if it wasn’t in print or via TV, we didn’t know about it. This is pre-internet. I know — it's hard to imagine a world where things happen and you don’t know about them immediately, but it did exist.
I remember seeing examples of the New Romantics in the daily rags that slagged them off, laughed at their clothes, the men wearing makeup — until it started to show up on TV via groups like Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, and Culture Club.
By this time, I was starting art college and loved the ability to shock a little. I was, and still am to a lesser extent, a combination of introvert and extrovert. I hate people staring at me, but at the same time crave the ability to express myself and to shock. Not an easy combination at times!
I was a total sponge, I was mixing with people who liked Wham, Bauhaus, New Order, Boy George and Culture Club, Southern Death Cult (later The Cult). People who dressed in a mix of the High Street, homemade and charity shop finds. People who plundered history for influences, people so into fashion it was their life, beehives and flattops, 1950s print shirts and torn fishnets, Aztec Camera and winkle pickers, torn jeans and The Face, a wonderful group of teachers who introduced us to the wide world of art and culture and TV stations that were opening up our world and giving us a voice — Channel 4 in the UK came on air and started to show us a whole new world.
A few people stick in my mind from this time as major influences both then and still now — no names, but a stunning black haired, beehived pocket rocket that lived near me and attended the same college. We’d been friends for years as kids but grew apart, only to come together again in college. She was amazing and such an indirect influence on me in terms of opening my eyes to the fact there was a world beyond chart music and the Nolans wasn’t necessarily the height of sophistication. Her personal style was stung, too; M&S black button-to-the-neck cardigans over ripped Slits t-shirts, 50’s print poodle skirts over black leggings, and always stunning make-up. Another was a boy with a jawline to die for, an impeccable taste in 50s shirts and slick jackets and the best boy-hair in the world. We reconnected recently via Facebook and I’ve never ever told him what a godsend he was in college. His work was, and still is, amazing and the man is a great talent!
As for the music, imagine attending a life drawing class that allowed you to play your own tunes — "Blue Monday" 12 inch on vinyl, "She’s in Parties" on repeat, even Howard Jones "What Is Love" was a break from the norm.
I honestly wouldn’t change a thing about these days and look back with great fondness on them — and still play these tunes, though don’t indulge in the fashions any longer, but am glad to see some of the influences in items like Stranger Things and Apple's recent iPad ad. Long may it continue.