Maybe in some ways I should rejoice that during the 1980's I was NOT a dedicated follower of fashion.
When I think back to stuff like "shoulder pads", "new Romantics" and "Gender Benders" (like Boy George), I shudder and
thank my lucky stars that according to Huey Lewis and the News it was "Hip to be Square".
Yes as well as being half caste/mixed race/dual heritage, dogged by moobs and puppy fat, dodgy tastes in music etc, undesirable
to every female in school who did not wear braces on their teeth/NHS specs, I was hideously uncool fashion wise.
Being a chunky, dumpy child, I was in adult clothes by my teens! Invariably my trousers would have a massive flare to
them, eventually I did get a pair of burgundy Farah's but I fear I may have split them at the seat! I would protest to my
mam that I would get he pissed ripped out of me because my trousers were not "drainpiped" leg but she shruggled. No, for me
it was bog-standard school uniform and either hand-me-downs from my three Uncles or unbranded, cheap clothes my Mum would
buy from Charterhouse Textiles on Charnwood Road or the factory shop that used to be in Factory Street, I think it was called
I also recall when Harry Common's shop became "Commons Multistore", Harry started doing a nifty little line in "traccies"
- bright red or blue, 100% genuine polyester and two white lines running down the sides - a bargain, but not as cool as Kappa.
In some ways, I admire their resiliance and refusal to pay silly money for things like trainers. Whilst my peers were
showing off in Adidas, Nike, Diadora, I had to make do with good old Gola. Although Gola sponsored the Football Conference
back then, they were pretty uncool trainers, one step up (no pun intended) from the dreaded Nicks trainers!
You did have it bad if you wore Nicks! It was probably more humiliating than being on free-school dinners was back then!
Recently I walked into a shoe-shop in Nottingham and Gola took centre stage as the ultimate in cool, retro eighties footwear and
the pair I picked up were priced around £50!! I could not believe my eyes!!!
Kagools became very fashionable, particularly Kappa and Nike....what did I get? A Donkey Jacket! That's right, my Dad
got them cheap through work and soon I was trudging up to Shepshed High looking more like I was on my way to a building site
than to school.
My parents eventually did let me follow a trend in fluorescent socks. I got a three pairs, lime green, day-glo orange
and shocking pink. Alas the concession only went so far and I was forbidden to wear them as "odd" eg one lime, one pink like
all the other kids were doing!
Shepshed saw a bit of a Mod revival about 1984. I'm not saying we were slow to pick up trends from London etc (which
is only 100 miles/1 1/2 hours south down the motorway) but suddenly most of the kids were turning up in army parkers, "boater
blazers" and "pods" (shoes) with huge patches on the back such as Union Jacks, the RAF target, ones paying homage
to the main Mod groups which were The Who and the Jam. In my opinion, the real Mod revival had happened in the late 1970's
with the emergence of the Jam and the brilliant film "Quadrophenia". I let the new-breed of Shepshed mods know they were five
years too late and looked a bunch of twits (twits with an "a") so technically they as out of touch with fashion as I was!
My enduring memory of Mods was clashing with them at Belton Village Hall sometime in 1985 on a Monday night. One of the
girls in our class Anne-Marie threw a birthday party there, invited the whole school and it was a far cry from the Birthday
Parties I had ever had, which usually involved jelly, a home-made cake and pin the tail on the donkey. For me, it was a liberating
experience as my own Birthday Parties had been conducted under the watchful eye of my mother/grandmother and were usually
over by half-nine.
However Anne-Marie had a disco, tables ladened with food and squash, we could go in and out of the village hall, some
kids were smoking, others were snogging and others were trying to blag underaged booze from the village shop! In those days,
if you were challenged at the till trying to buy four small cans of Carling (in a red can!) you would simply say "Its for
my Dad" and you would get served no probs! Indeed my Grandad would often send me down the shop for 20 Embassy and not always
with a scribbled note declaring they were for him!
Inside the hot and sweaty village hall, the battle lines were drawn, non-Mods were sat on the left, Mods were on the
right - they were mainly Belton lads. I seem to remember I had my hair cropped as short as my Grandad would let me (number
four all over courtesy of John the Barber in the Market Place) and was wearing a grey shirt with a badly notted, fraying black
"slim jim" tie with the legend MADNESS on it, as near as damn it you could get to a Skinhead/Rudeboy I suppose!
I was pratting around on the dancefloor to Bronski Beat and Marc Almond's "I feel love" (number three at the time),
then the next track came on, the unmistakenable intro to "Tears of a Clown" by the Beat (their 1979 debut hit and a cover
of the Smokey Robinson classic of the 60's). A big cheer came up from the right hand side of the hall! The Mods piled on to
the dancefloor and started jostling us.
"F**k that! The Beat were a Ska group, not a frigging Mod group!!!" I thought. It must have been something echoed
by others on the left hand side because soon the fists and boots were flying. I so much wanted to throttle one of them, any
of them in their pathetic Fishtail Parkers with beer mats stitched into the back!
Fortunately adults restored order and Anne-Maries party was saved from descending into a riot!
Forget Margate, Forget Brighton! Forget Clacton! Forget Wigan Casino! Sleepy Belton was the place to be that night!