Browsing Tag Uppers

Blazers – via Uppers

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Uppers

Blazer 1: one that blazes 2: a single-breasted sports jacket in bright stripes or solid color. (Websters)
The blazer as a garment walks the fine line between formal and informal wear. Whether you wear it strolling down your favourite street with the swagger of a metropolitan boulevardiér or when in a hurry to work (deftly avoiding screaming children and their mothers), the blazer is a great piece of clothing. Depending on how you combine it you could be just perfectly dressed for the occassion. So let’s smartly about-face and look to the origins of the blazer in it’s first and most double-breasted form.

Looking at the classic blazer, the double-breasted blue one with brass buttons, the conclusion that the jacket is of military tradition is rather obvious. Legend has it that the commanding officer of the frigatte HMS Blazer had a special uniform-jacket made for his men at some time when queen Victoria was going to make an appearance. It was styled after the short jacket worn by naval men at this time (1830-50).This new garment found royal approval and was soon appreciated by both naval men and marine minded gentlemen who wanted to sport something that wasn’t a uniform but still associated with maritime virtues. Hence the name: blazer. The result of civilians having jackets like these made for occasions sportif and also naval officers getting jackets tailored in the same style as their uniforms, evolved into what is the originator of both the sporty striped blazer (a bastard child-bearing many names) and the plain blue blazer. End of history lesson.

Nowadays a blazer can look almost anyway you please, of course within certain given parameters: namely style and the threat of your friends having a go at you. Basically the only valid definition of a blazer is this: a short jacket, blue in color, always with two side vents and a double-breast with brass buttons . Does this remotely sound like anything you have hanging in your wardrobe? I shouldn’t think so. Fortunately there has been a lot of changes in the makeup of this garment. The striped blazer worn by rowing-club members sweating at the thwarts. The light jacket with a shiny finish of the mediterranean gentleman sipping his Pernod. The bottle-green blazer favored by americans mostly (this is the only place where colours other than dark blue is popular in the plain jackets). Somewhere along the line the blazer even lost it’s brass buttons (which were only there to flaunt membership of clubs, etc). In these times with a wide array available, the line between jacket and blazer is a thin one. If you start hollering: belay that bolard, tote that rope and starboard helmsman!.. you’re probably wearing one (a blazer that is).

The stylistic qualities of the blazer cannot be overlooked. Many tasty photos adorning some very groovy records reveal several hip cats of royal pedigree wearing them. If you’re going to look to the continent there are several very good examples: Serge Gainsborough , Boris Vian… you know, cool guys. Steve Marriott used to look really smart in the striped ones and most of the Creation wore them and still managed to look hard. Ard. Oh sorry, guess I am overstating it a bit. Still if you’re into history this is a point isn’t?

Most mens outfitters stock good off the peg blazers. If you’re in Italy I guess you could pay Brioni a visit. The Italians are known for the subtlety and novelty of their materials. Maybe some mohair and silk would look good? Italy is the land of fabric possibilities. But really why go overboard with this when the charm in the blazer lies in its simplicity . There’s nothing wrong with a plain blue one is there? But if you want “a garment cut by an individual, for an individual, by an individual” then it’s a nice touch.

So how to get the look right? Well it’s up to you. Are you into the more bohemic style go for the plain ones (we’re talking mod bohemic) combined with a pair of light trousers. Corduroy or moleskin looks really good. Traditionally the combination of dark blue and brown is considered bad. But then again because of tradition people on horseback in red ridingcoats (‘redingote’ in french, which always cracks me up) dementedly gallivants around the english countryside chasing some poor fox. The fox ain’t even Jane Fonda or Monica Vitti (I know it sounds unbelievable). If you want that youthful look in the summer get a striped one and match it with a pair of really dark denims and suede slipons.

With a blazer you could even leave the top button of your shirt open (gasp!) While you’re at it, stuff a Hermes scarf in your collar and sit down at the grand piano and play ‘Trains, Boats and Planes’ to entertain your friends if they are in a Burtish mood. You see, it makes perfect sense doesn´t it? The blazer is the preserve of the jet-set and who are you to argue?
© Jules Olivier 2001 – 2015 [Published 26 January 2001]


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December 7, 2016 By : Category : Articles Fashion Front Page Style UK Tags:, ,
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The Future via flight, flotational device, or dancing feet – Via Uppers

‘Scientists from the RAND Corporation have created this model to illustrate how a “home computer” could look in the year 2004. However, the needed technology will not be economically feasible for the average home. Also the scientists readily admit that the computer will require not yet invented technology to actually work, but 50 years from now scientific progress is expected to solve these problems. With teletype interface and the Fortran language, the computer will be easy to use.’ [Popular Mechanics Magazine, 1954]

The year 2004 has come and gone. Where’s my steering wheel?! At least we have nutritional meals down to pocket-size packets if not in pill form, and monorail development is on the rise again.Virgin is on the good foot, grav-boots and all, for commercial space travel some time soon. Sub-stratosphere,Paul Moller and his team keep working on getting their sexy sky cars into your garage. I keep checking my Travel Editor’s inbox for a review from someone who’s had a test drive but I won’t hold my breath.

On the subject of breath, smoke ’em if you got ’em because it doesn’t say anywhere in the latest couple rounds of research from our old friends at Randwhat plans, if any, we should all be making for the kind of Jetsons-style get-ups that could allow us a steady supply of oxygen during our daily lives. Would I be able to remove the fishbowl to comb my hair or would nanobots comb it for me? I’m glad I don’t have to worry about it for now.

In our more immediate future, the prospect of discrete wearable computersmay be improved by such recent breakthroughs as those of a lab in Palo Alto called Nanosolar. I used to think the short-lived proliferation of paper suits and skirts the ‘Sixties enjoyed must have been pretty neat. Now I’m imagining changeable neckties and shirt cuffs made of solar paper used to power my mohair entertainment center.

I went and met with the company’s president yesterday and he said the lightweight nature of their major power supply material will be applied to huge rooftops rather than little wristwatches and such. However, he assured me there are other companies working on the so-called ’embedded’ market of laptop batteries and the like.

I still have my heart set on an invisible desktop-level system one would be free to move about in. We are already seeing signs of solutions to the principal interface design challenges of discrete wearable computing. One wants to see what one is doing while one controls one’s devices. An array of experimental developments move the optical part on top closer to something akin to a pair of Ray-bans, while developments at Apple may be paving the way to a better connection with the hands below. The popularity of the iPod has established our familiarity with a circular controller. I was wondering about the steering wheel and there it is! The latest, though it offers less control — shuffle only — has a controller the size of a jacket button. Do you see where I’m going with this idea? Give that little button the added dimension of command a rotating ring affords and you’ve got your James Bond suit.

Unfortunately, the same factor contributing to the likelihood of a need to wear fishbowls on our heads might interfere with important developments in bespoke CPU’s and that is the increasing scarcity of water. I might worry about electrocution if the circuits in my stitches have to share space with tiny tubes carrying recycled H2O. Fortunately, fashion is a fast-moving game and there may be no interference there at all, depending on how quickly or slowly the powers that be manage to destroy the delicate balance of Nature. Style is what’s important after all, and will probably win that race.

On the subject of water combined with style, the movie to see, if you haven’t already, is The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, if only for the soundtrack. If you have already seen it, see it again, if only for the astounding special effects wizardry provided by animation director Henry Selick. It’ll make you wish you could breathe underwater. Beyond the sea, but still on the silver screen, meanwhile, we have Kevin Spacey’s creative telling of the story of performer Bobby Darrin. Sadly, he is no more believable in the part than is another dedicated actor in another biopic, the new Scorsese picture. Leo DiCaprio hasn’t a pin on Howard Hughes. At least the focus on the all-around amazing pioneer is mainly on his innovations in the field of aviation, but I might have preferred to see two hours of the H-1 Racer in action. One thing we do learn from the film, in any case, is that production on the Hercules was stalled by Hughes’ indecision on the aircraft’s steering wheel so, there, you see, the steering wheel is important.

© Jonathan Ogilvy 2005 – 2012 [Published 31 January 2005]


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March 11, 2012 By : Category : Articles Design Front Page Inspiration Tags:, ,
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Fishnets and scarves – Via Uppers

“I’ve got nothing to wear!” Does that sound familiar?

The fishnet tights have been a huge hit on the catwalks this season; they’re perfect to get that slick city kitten look. Combine them with a pleated skirt and you’ve got a great mix of lady chic and a rough edge. To avoid that “stringed ham” look and to keep your toes from peering through the holes in a not so sexy way, use a pair of regular tights underneath. I also feel it’s necessary to advise you that there’s no acceptable way of wearing fishnets with a too short skirt or — an even more horrid idea — mix and match this look with trainers (of course you wouldn’t). That would ruin the whole idea.

You will find fishnet tights in a well-assorted department store near you. I personally recommend the brand Jonathan Aston’s, which come in several different colours every season.

Scarves have been seen as an old ladies accessory by the average girl for way too long. No matter if you’re 16 or 64, you could and should wear one. It could be for the ever so sharp day at the office or to smart up your favourite A-line dress for cocktails. An excellent point in this matter must be that you can find really exceptional scarves without ruining yourself, I’m sure there will be loads in your favourite second-hand store.

So rummage through your closet for all dresses and skirts you might have given up hope on and declared to boring and reinvent them. It will make all the difference.

© Nina Odelfalk 2000 – 2012 [Published 6 June 2000]


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March 11, 2012 By : Category : Articles Fashion Front Page Style Tags:, ,
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Jewellery Part 1 Swinging – Via Uppers

The first in a 3 part series on Mod jewellery, starting with swinging, moving onto Classic Chrome and ending up all Glamorous. Marvellous…..

Not all Mods wear jewellery – certainly not most Mod blokes! But what is true about jewellery is that it is an accessory, and accessories are vital to Mod style, whether it’s a handbag or bracelet or a hat. Attention to detail is paramount. As with any accessory, you have to make sure it matches, and with the case of women’s Mod style, it means you really need lots of different pieces of jewellery to make sure that every outfit is accessorised well. A diamante bracelet will go nicely with a plain black dress, but not that well with a swirly paisley patterned shirt! And plastic daisy earrings would look daft with an early 60’s cocktail dress (unless you’re one of these lucky people who can carry anything off!).

Of course, it all depends on what jewellery you find. Even though original pieces of 60’s fashion are increasingly hard to come by, junk shops are literally heaving with pieces of 60’s (and 60’s-style) jewellery. You can find all different kinds – from big, plastic, square rings to small diamante necklaces. This means it’s up to you, to use your own discretion when matching these finds with the outfits you have.

If you’re what is known as ‘swinging’ or ‘psychedelic’, diamante and pearls are probably not your cup of tea. A quick look around you at any Mod night will tell you that most girls seem to be more along those lines than the early 60’s style. My own reading of this is that, because most Mod nights are in need of air conditioning, it’s far more comfortable to be wearing a shift dress than a suit or a roll neck or a cardigan. And as the shift dress figures so predominantly in the swinging and psychedelic look, it is perhaps little surprising that most girls at Mod dos adopt those looks. Especially in the case of younger Mod girls, the early 60’s look isn’t flavour of the month.

And so we enter the realm of plastic jewellery, seeing as most girls own this more than they do diamante and pearls. The range of jewellery available is only hindered by the imaginations of its manufacturers and designers. With the case of a material as chameleon as plastic, it is little surprising that so many styles can be found made with it.

Enormous rings are available made from plastic. Some of the best of these are slightly transparent, in colours such as orange or yellow. Following on from this, perhaps, was the fad (I don’t know, it might still be continuing) for wearing rings with huge lumps of amber set in them. And these are worn both by men and women.

Gigantic plastic earrings were very popular in the 60’s, as can be seen by the number of women wearing them in 60’s films (Adrienne Posta’s vast collection in ‘Up the Junction’ being a prime example!). I can’t claim to ever having seen a mod bloke wearing this type of earring, but who knows what some of the crazier element get up to…! One problem with wearing this type of earring is purely practical – they can feel quite heavy after a while, so make sure you have a handy pocket or handbag to stow them away in!

I own a pair of plastic daisy earrings which shout ‘swinging 60’s’ – perhaps rather to loudly, as you can see in the above photo! It is impossible to be subtle in plastic earrings, especially in the biggest size ones, which can reach down to your shoulders. This means that they must match what you are wearing – they are so obvious that if they don’t go, it will only emphasise your fashion faux pas. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t attempt this style. One way to carry the look off would be to wear a dress of the same colour as your earrings, or to wear bold, contrasting colours, such as white earrings with a black and white dress, or pink earrings with an orange dress with pink dots. You see what I’m getting at…. It might even be a good idea to match the colour of your plastic earrings with your shoes or handbag or other pieces of jewellery. This is where your own innate sense of style will dictate what you should do!

Plastic bangles are quite fantastic, and would be a good way of harmonising your plastic earrings with the rest of your outfit. They’re quite easy to find new on the High Street. Although that may make it seem like they’re not ‘exclusive’, at least by buying new, you can avoid the brittleness which you get with old items of plastic. I once had a 60’s necklace, with a black and white design in plastic, but it snapped! Boo-hoo!

So as long as your jewellery matches your clothes, and vice versa, you can’t go wrong.

© Helen Barrell 2001 – 2012 [Published 16 August 2001]


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March 10, 2012 By : Category : Articles Fashion Front Page Style Tags:, ,
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Blazer 3 – Via Uppers

Blazer 1: one that blazes 2: a single-breasted sports jacket in bright stripes or solid color. (Websters)

The blazer as a garment walks the fine line between formal and informal wear. Whether you wear it strolling down your favourite street with the swagger of a metropolitan boulevardiér or when in a hurry to work (deftly avoiding screaming children and their mothers), the blazer is a great piece of clothing. Depending on how you combine it you could be just perfectly dressed for the occassion. So let´s smartly about face and look to the origins of the blazer in it´s first and most double-breasted form.

Looking at the classic blazer, the double-breasted blue one with brass buttons, the conclusion that the jacket is of military tradition is rather obvious. Legend has it that the commanding officer of the frigatte HMS Blazer had a special uniform-jacket made for his men at some time when queen Victoria was going to make an appearance. It was styled after the short jacket worn by naval men at this time (1830-50).This new garment found royal approval and was soon appreciated by both naval men and marine minded gentlemen who wanted to sport something that wasn´t a uniform but still associated with maritime virtues. Hence the name: blazer. The result of civilians having jackets like these made for occasions sportif and also naval officers getting jackets tailored in the same style as their uniforms, evolved into what is the originator of both the sporty striped blazer (a bastard child bearing many names) and the plain blue blazer. End of history lesson.

Nowadays a blazer can look almost anyway you please, of course within certain given parameters: namely style and the threat of your friends having a go at you. Basically the only valid definition of a blazer is this: a short jacket, blue in color, always with two sidevents and a double-breastwith brass buttons . Does this remotely sound like anything you have hanging in your wardrobe? I shouldn´t think so. Fortunately there has been a lot of changes in the makeup of this garment. The striped blazer worn byrowing-club members sweating at the thwarts. The light jacket with a shiny finish of the mediterranean gentleman sipping his Pernod. The bottle-green blazer favored by americans mostly (this is the only place where colours other than darkblue is popular in the plain jackets). Somewhere along the line the blazer even lost it´s brass buttons (which were only there to flaunt membership of clubs, etc). In these times with a wide array available, the line between jacket and blazer is a thin one. If you start hollering: belay that bolard, tote that rope and starboard helmsman!.. you´re probably wearing one (a blazer that is).

The stylistic qualities of the blazer cannot be overlooked. Many tasty photos adorning some very groovy records reveal several hip cats of royal pedigree wearing them. If you´re going to look to the continent there are several very good examples: Serge Gainsborough , Boris Vian … you know, cool guys.Steve Marriott used to look really smart in the striped ones and most of the Creation wore them and still managed to look hard. Ard. Oh sorry, guess I am overstating it a bit. Still if you´re into history this is a point isn´t?

Most mens outfitters stock good off the peg blazers. If you´re in Italy I guess you could pay Brioni a visit. The Italians are known for the subtelty and novelty of their materials. Maybe some mohair and silk would look good? Italy is the land of fabric possibilities. But really why go overboard with this when the charm in the blazer lies in its simplicity . There´s nothing wrong with a plain blue one is there? But if you want ”a garment cut by an individual, for an individual, by an individual” then it´s a nice touch.

So how to get the look right? Well it´s up to you. Are you into the more bohemic style go for the plain ones (we´re talking mod bohemic) combined with a pair of light trousers. Corduroy or moleskin looks really good. Traditionally the combination of dark blue and brown is considered bad. But then again because of tradition people on horseback in red ridingcoats (”redingote” in french, which always cracks me up) dementedly gallivants around the english countryside chasing some poor fox. The fox ain´t evenJane Fonda or Monica Vitti (I know it sounds unbelievable). If you want that youthful look in the summer get a striped one and match it with a pair of really dark denims and suede slipons.

With a blazer you could even leave the top button of your shirt open (gasp!)

While you´re at it, stuff a Hermes scarf in your collar and sit down at the grand piano and play ”Trains, Boats and Planes” to entertain your friends if they are in a Burtish mood. You see, it makes perfect sense doesn´t it? The blazer is the preserve of the jetset and who are you to argue?

© Jules Olivier 2001 – 2012 [Published 26 January 2001]


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Pip! Pip! Are the Creative Business Engine behind various music based organisations of the cool underground variety. Providing angst, confusion, bewilderment and annoyance in equal amounts. We design/host/manage great sites like this one! Why not hire us one day soon?

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March 9, 2012 By : Category : Articles Fashion Front Page Style Tags:, ,
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Biff, Bang, Power-dressing! – Via Uppers

Have you ever wondered about what to wear the first day on the new job? Do not fear… check this out and add to your confusion!

Personal style is something that most people take for granted, but how do you apply it to holding down a job? This is in all probability a problem encountered by quite a few as a job, in general, is something essential to maintaining your lifestyle. How do you avoid overdressing in the eyes of others and if so, how do you dress down without feeling uncomfortable? There is of course the consideration to what sort of work you do and what line of business your in. For example: dressing smarter than your boss or the salesmen at work could probably be detrimental to your wages. “Upstarts” are generally not appreciated. But the fact remains that sometimes the only satisfaction to be had at work, is the mental sniggering at others stylistic faux-pas. As long as you don’t give it away with a smirk, (and man, sometimes you do have to check yourself) this can be great. Do remember: just like cannibalism this is an attitude better kept to yourself.

Your clothes should be a reflection of your own self-confidence. Sometimes it strikes you how much more serious and competent a co-worker would look if he’d only taken a look in the mirror. In a psychological sense this kind of reasoning is sound. What you wear is quite often the basis of how you’re judged… just like having dirty fingernails will give an impression of you being a sloppy person, being neat and clean will give the impression of an organized and disciplined person. “Mena sana in corpore sana”, or something like that… A safe bet, if you’re working at an office, are the classics that are perceived as conservative by most people: polo-shirts, button-downs, straight-legged trousers, sta-prest, brogues, loafers… Hairstyle could range from crew cut to near backcomb (your co-workers will only think that you sleep with your pillow on top your head). A decent tan hides multitudes of sins and is also rather healthy (or so I’ve heard). A good concealer also covers the tracks of yesterday’s night about town. Ties are the hard part. Mainstream fashion changes rapidly and there have been some years since the inch-wide tie was de rigueur amongst the office-boys. The same applies for cravattes as you will probably be seen as a suspect individual wearing one, and quite soon there will be rumors floating about regarding your alleged habit of cross-dressing (oh yes, camp indeed…). Jobs that require uniforms obviously raise a whole lot of other problems. Some uniforms are quite nice (well hey, look at Keith Moon) some are proof to the whole theory of singling out a specific group of people and making them use a hilarious uniform, and thereby promoting their team-spirit and sense of separation from the rest of humanity (the foreign legions caps are a brilliant example). There are solutions. You can alter most uniforms and a uniform that fits well will obviously look better (with the exception of Spanish bullfighters, of course). Pegged legs and a slimmer silhouette will help. Sometimes you might be restricted by regulations, but as long as you don’t ask your superiors it’s amazing what you can get away with. In fact, a friend of mine who at the time worked for the Stockholm transportational service actually got scouted for an article about street wear for one of the major Swedish daily papers. At that particular time he was wearing the regulation dark-blue bum-freezer, a pair of dark slacks and a Romeo Gigli shirt. I don’t think you could attribute the incident to just dumb luck.

The main thing is that if you’re feeling comfortable you’ll be sending out the vibe of a person with confidence. And then you’re on your way to a whole new life of professionalism, success and probably yoga and power-naps too.

© Jules Olivier 2000 – 2012 [Published 9 June 2000]


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March 9, 2012 By : Category : Articles Fashion Front Page Style Tags:, ,
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Soul Function – Via Uppers

Even though it’s pretty much “vinyl only!” when it comes to northern soul – apart from the occasional styrene – the modern day technology is embraced as far as films go. Yes, it’s DVD. Fits neatly in you hold all. Lars Schröder tells you more.

Northern soul, the underground cult that refuse to die.

Previously DVD-wise we’ve had the frankly awful “Strange world of Ian Levine” or whatever it was called. Is this shiny disc any better? Well, could it be worse? No.

Soul Function contains three parts. First we are treated to the great short film “Function at the Junction”, a 15 minute time warp into the seventies, complete with enormous trousers, dodgy ‘taches and speed freaks. A whole lot of man made fabrics as well… The story revolves around a dancing competion at a small northern soul club in a non-descript town in the north of England. The plot might not be much to write home about, but there’s amazing dance moves and good enough music. The film also has a brilliant cameo role byPaul Kaye (of TV´s Dennis Pennis fame) as the somewhat spastic and/or enthusiastic dj.

Part two of the DVD is a documentary called “Way of the Crowd”. Here we meet a lot of scene faces, some well known, some not so, and some rather surprising (Sir Paul Smith!). All describing their love for the northern scene and what it has done to them. The ubiquitous dj´s features as well – Ady Croasdell, Pat Brady and Wigan Joker Russ Winstanley (minus amusing facial hair). Keb Darge as usual delivers his wisdom in his hard-as-nails Scottish drawl. The interviews come with footage from the Wigan Casino in the seventies, some of it from the infamous “This England” documentary shot by Granada TV back in 1977, complete with tank tops, acrobatic dancing and very sweaty young men and women.

Part three is simply a picture gallery with still pictures from the two films. There’s also a 20-track CD with some of the songs featured in the films, and a booklet with notes on the films and a short essay on northern soul by Dr Katie Milestone.

All in all, a very nice and beautifully packaged introduction to one of the most truly underground club cultures to ever have come from the British isles. Nostalgic anecdotes and adulation of days gone by at Wigan is a big part of this DVD package, but if get you hooked by the music and inspired by the dancing, rest assured there’s plenty of spinning, kicking and splits going on at your nearest all-nighter. If you haven’t been to one yet, why not pay one a visit. It might change your life, it might not, but there’s good times to be had.

© Lars Schröder 2004 – 2012 [Published 21 December 2004]


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March 8, 2012 By : Category : Articles Front Page Inspiration Music Style Tags:, ,
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Shades Of Colour – Via Uppers

Should wearers of sunglasses after dark immediately be put out of their misery? Or should it be deemed a lesser offence those times when you´re doing a fair impression of ol’ Mr Redeye? This information is for your eyes only. It’s a stylistic hot potato!! (catch) No, I’m not mad, simply talking about shades…..should they be worn at night? Is this the ultimate fashion crime ? What style of frame is suitable for the average modernist clubber? (if there is such a thing as an “average” mod).

Well it of course would be fair to say that it is entirely up to the individual. I know my fellow fashion scribe Richard H believes that it is indeed a heinious crime to sport shades after dark, and I would have to agree, unless you are either a celeb (which means you can commit all sorts of bizarre and wonderful fashion blunders and escape unscathed) or you just don’t give two hoots what anyone else thinks. However, let us admit that we have all wanted to don a smooth pair of sunglasses for an evening (let alone during a summer’s day) in order to achieve that sophisticated “rock star” kudos just for one night. Or could this just be me? Yes, I admit, I’ve done it! So, if you insist on covering your eyes on a soul drenched evening, at least do it with your “mince pies” encased in a decent set of shades.

Modernists have always been fond of eyewear, mainly because it was the fashion staple of all their early blues/r’n’b heroes, such as Sonny Boy Williamson and Champion Jack Dupree . On the soul scene it was also a predominant look, the obvious pioneer being Little Stevie Wonder (although he had other “issues” related to his eyewear…). It is from this early era that the Ray Ban Wayfarer became the first choice of sun deflecting lens for well groomed kids in and around London, and is still widely worn by those favouring the early look. When purchasing go for the original style, black all over (avoid mottled sunglasses, they are for Jaguar driving bank managers with pot bellies,) and make sure they are quite wide. They should almost look a little too big, as they stick out slightly at the corner of each lens. If in doubt, just ask for the classic “Jack Nicholson” shape. Of course, nowadays Ray Ban follow the “logo is everything” trend, and theirs will probably be emblazoned on the arm. Nevertheless, the look is timeless and instant modernist cred will be all yours!


And of course, onto the infamous “Liam” shades…. the Lennon style tinted thin silver framed style of sunglasses that dominated the scene throughout the mid to late sixties. These were sported by both savvy modernists and then simultaneously by “smelly” hippies, probably due to the fact that they were both reminicent of the Victorian Dandy era (think the Moody Blues or Procol Harum) and so fitted with all that poetry/bohemian stuff and that they just look plain stylish. The varying list of fans is a mish mash of sixties luminaries. Marriott oft wore the very thin rectangular style, in blue tint as did the lead singer of the Byrds in the US, Lennon of course either the octagon frames or the complete circle, in differing shades. Take a walk down Oxford Street and a pair can be yours for about a fiver, but as honest quality is everything, pop along to Kirk Originals in Covent Garden, off Neal Street and get a pair made for you by specialists. Pricey, but not that bad: I had a nice pair of Marriott style shades made there for seventy quid. (Their “ready-to-wear” range is actually more expensive). These are also a good choice as they compliment both casual and evening wear, and CAN be worn at night on the odd occasion, as they are tints as opposed to out and out sunglasses. If you’ve the right shaped face, bascially thin and long with a sizable hooter, they look quite good perched at the end of the nose. Very rebellious. Best if you decide that though.

Another style of sunglasses that became quite popular during the late sixties are the Aviators . Again, produced by Ray Ban, the style became somewhat over worked and oversized lens wise by the mid seventies; but by then everything was oversized and overworked, such as collars: but thats another road down which I’m not about to travel. The sixties aviators were sported not just by our mates over the pond but by bands such as the Smoke , and Clem Curtis of the Foundations. Go for the smaller style with more compact lens, in either blue or bronze tint. High fashion labels such as Gucci andPrada have been knocking their own versions out for a while, but the original makers are always the best, so stick with the Bausch & Lombs . These are best teamed with leather jackets or psychedelic print shirts (ensuring that the collar is authentic late sixties slightly wide and sharp…..careful or you’ll end up looking like a heavy from Hawaii Five-O).

Lastly, another slightly rarer style of sunglasses are the scooter frames, worn funnily enough, not just by scooter boys but by Soho stylists for a brief period too. The big, squared off Gucci and Prada (again) frames that seem to be superglued to every tanktop wearing spikey haired trendy this side of Timbucktoo, are a complete ripoff of the look first worn by modernists in sixties London. Unfortunatley as I have discussed with my editor Jules, these labels seem unable to produce accessories devoid of ridiculous branding. My search for these style of frames continues. If you are unsure of the look, it was worn most famously by Pete Townshend circa ’65-’66, and worn with the racing look predominantly, although he also wore it with a nice checked three button blazer, but that’s slightly risky if you ask me. Large frames, gold rimmed and tinted in greens, light blues and amber, they were soon taken on by the moddy boys and flashed on Brighton pier accordingly. Interestingly, they made a serious resurgence during the slightly questionable “revival” of the late seventies. If anyone knows where to purchase a clean pair please mail me!!

There are plenty of variations on these styles, and others altogether, and yet again, rely on your own stylistic preferences when it comes to colour, shape and clothing accompaniments. As for wearing them at night at your nearest soul den… well I’ll leave that up to you.

© Joel Maslin 2001 – 2012 Uppers [Published 13 February 2001]


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February 6, 2012 By : Category : Articles Fashion Front Page Objects Style Tags:, , , ,
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Shoes for Girls – Via Uppers

Shoes can make or break an outfit, but original 60’s shoes are hard to find. When women’s 60’s shoes are available in second hand shops, they are rarely in sizes above a 6, and wearing someone else’s old shoes isn’t really healthy. Helen Barrell gives you a guide to High Street mod shoe shopping for girls.

Most of the shoes I have at the moment are from Rackhams in Birmingham. This is because they have a tremendous selection of designer shoes, from Italian, French and Spanish labels such as Carvela, Roland Cartier andRoberto Vianni. But when I was marooned for 3 years on the Isle of Wight, I had only the shoes in Next and Curtess to choose from. So instead I got my shoes (as well as my false eyelashes – see make-up article in Dansette #7) from a stage shop. I have enormous feet (so people say), an 8 (though in Ancient Greece big feet on women were considered very elegant, and oddly enough, Audrey Hepburn’s feet were an 8 as well!), and though 8’s were, a few years ago, non-existent, one of the few places you could buy size 8’s from were stage shops. Don’t ask why. So I used to wear tap shoes. The first pair I got were white Oxford taps. They are fantastic – white, pointy-toed with a Cuban heel, laced up. Only thing is, someone sincerely asked me why mods wore ‘American nurses shoes’. Still, I rather like them!

The next pair were the more traditional type of tap shoe, and unlike the Oxfords, these ones came with an enormous chunk of metal – the tap – which I had to prise off with a screwdriver! And it wasn’t easy! These are pointy-toed, though not severely so – perhaps more of a pointy-almond, if such a thing exists. Well, it does now. These are black leather and have a Cuban heel. As you can see from the photo, they are very close in style to shoes that were available in the 60’s. I suggest you take the tap shoes to the cobbler and have them re-soled and re-heeled, as you’ll probably find that the soles are too thin to walk about the streets in.

Taps are great as they are such a wonderful shape, and it may make you look like an extra in Billy Elliot, and dance all around and about the streets (which reminds me – ballet slippers…). They are perfect for dancing in – being dancing shoes, but if your feet are wide, the pointy-toe makes the fitting rather snug – perversely, you will find blisters developing from a gentle stroll, but a feeling like dancing on air if you wear them to an allniter where you can’t stop dancing!

Dear Audrey Hepburn – she really is a ‘shoe icon’ of mine – there is a movement who want her to be canonised and I think she should be made the Patron Saint of Large-Footed Ladies! She wore ballet slippers – the iconic photos of Audrey dressed in black roll neck and slinky black trousers with decorated ballet slippers really are the epitome of style. When everyone else was wearing 5″ spiky stilettos and destroying their toes and backs permanently, Audrey wore flatties. For your own pair of ballet pumps, tryFrench Sole, Ellis Street, London, SW1 or Munster Road, SW6. I think they do mail order as well. Phone ’em on: 020 7471 4867. Otherwise, get back to the stage shop and again, see if you can get proper ‘street’ soles put on. Ballet-style leather pumps are quite easy to come by in those shoe boutiques for ‘mature’ ladies.

I was lucky to get some leather ballet-style pumps from Bella Ricco (now disappeared). Entirely flat heel, I really can’t tell you how much I love to wear these shoes! The sole is leather, which makes me swirl about the house when I’m wearing them, with a very low (well under a centimetre) rubber heel. This makes them ideal for dancing in as you can spin on the leather of your toe, and use the rubber heel as an effective brake! My pumps are also mock-croc burgundy leather and look lovely with early-60’s style outfits.

My other ballet pumps are more ballet-esque, as they have a tiny leather bow at the front. They’re by Principal Studio, and I found them in one of those shops where old ladies who wear lots of gold jewellery shop! Of course – after all, these shoes are silver!!! Very comfortable (I really am of the opinion that shoes shouldn’t be an implement of self-inflicted torture…) and they look lovely in the Audrey-style outfit of black trousers and roll neck. Intellectual Beatnik-style chin-stroking not necessary (though fun accompanied by a copy of Sartre’s Nausea, a packet of Gitanes and a cappuccino outside a Soho café, or somewhere on the Left Bank in Paris…or maybe even your local Costa Coffee).

Continuing on an Audrey note, there is the kitten heel. It has been said that the kitten heel was expressly designed for Audrey for her performance in Sabrina. Kitten heels around now have a modern twist, though to be quite honest, I much prefer the 50’s/60’s style heel. But then, I’m just difficult to please. Schuh do a nice selection at the moment (that is, Autumn/Winter ’00), and I bought a pair of what I thought to be my ultimate shoes – pointy-toed, kitten heeled slingbacks! I can just hear Eartha Kitt purring in delight from her post on the grand piano! They don’t pinch the toe as much as you might think, as the toe is extremely long (now, with size 8’s, you can imagine how long these shoes make my feet look!). But sadly these shoes are unwearable! And why? Because the slingback won’t stay on my heel; it keeps bloody sliding down! What should I do? Use surgical tape? Or how about a bolt in my ankle, like Andy Warhol had on his skull to keep his wigs on?!

Carvela, my favourite shoe makers, are doing a lovely range of kitten heels, very 50’s/60’s styled. Just check out the photo – marvel at the shape of the heel! Gasp at the point of the toe! And these don’t even fall off when I’m wearing them (always a bonus!). They are maroon/red mock croc and are my current favourite shoes. With a heel thicker than a kitten, we have the court shoe. The most 60’s style ones should have a square heel, covered the same as the upper of the shoe. There were a lot in this style around a couple of years ago, and I got mine from Jones. The photo shoes these – black patent, square toed, with the silver buckle over the toe (I also found some similar ones the year before in Faith). As the heel is wider than the kitten, they’re not so ‘wobbly’ to walk in. Marvellous. Ravel had some lovely ones with tortoiseshell tags instead of silver buckles, and every summer some shoe labels include white versions with the tortoiseshell tags.

Carvela, again, did the black patent court thang this year. Chisel toed, with a leather bow at the front. The heel’s lovely, being a cross between the square court heel and kitten. Marvellously sophisticated. Carvela do some lovely colours – I also have these in pale blue.

Now for the ‘dolly’ shoes. As you know, these have been popular on the High Street for well over a year now, and it’s really refreshing to be able to find, in such abundance, so many low heeled, wide-fitting, blunt-toed shoes! We girls have fond memories of our school shoes from Clarks and Startrite… (remember them? And Clarks’ ‘Magic Steps’ with the key in the sole which allegedly had something to do with Peter Pan and princesses? – it was the shoe that every seven-year-old girl wanted!).

I have to come clean – in Dansette #6, I sung the praises of my Carvela dollies. Well, I am now completely obsessed with these shoes, which can only be described as beautiful, and own 5 pairs of them – all plucked from the sales in Rackhams, though! They have a low heel, square toe, with the strap quite near the front of the shoe (see photo). I own two pairs of very pale pearlised grey ones with a small buckle on the strap, and then three with the strap being elasticated. These three are in different colours – black, dark grey and pale blue.

Roland Cartier are doing a similar shoe. The heel is similar, but is better described, perhaps, as a cross between the ballet pump and dolly – see photo. They were my favourite shoes, until I found my Carvela kitten heels! There are loads of dollies about – some with bigger heels are quite nice.

Then Roberto Vianni – the outfitters of Milanese housewives? I have lots of loafers, but my favourite, just for sheer chutzpah, are the YELLOW SUEDE ones from Vianni. Ah, marvellous!

So there you go… even though the stocks of original 60’s ladies shoes are drying up, quicker than the European beer lake does at a scooter rally, there are still shoe designers out there who are making 60’s style shoes which you can buy new, or other shoes which you can just improvise with. This article barely scratches the surface, but I hope that if any of you are stuck for shoes, then you’ll get some ideas from here. Men are more lucky when it comes to finding good shoes on the High Street as men’s styles never seen to go through the drastic changes that women’s styles do, but just keep your ears and eyes to the ground, and 60’s shoe delights shall be yours, my sisters!

© Helen Barrell 2001 – 2012 Uppers [Published 21 March 2001]


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February 6, 2012 By : Category : Articles Fashion Front Page Style Tags:, ,
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Ties – Via Uppers

Ties

A brief look at the modern history of the tie. And some other things that might be of interest. The true origin of the tie is somewhat muddled and depends on the definition of said object. If you take a more loose stance towards it, you´ll end up in Rome before the Trajanus column which is the oldest portrait of a man in something that loosely resembles a tie. The so called ”focale” came from the Roman legionnaires who used what we nowadays would call a scarf to protect throat and neck from dirt and dust during long marches towards frontiers to quell barbarous insurgency. A nice image to mull over as you, casually, tie a four in hand knot in front of the mirror.

In the early eighteen hundreds George Bryan Brummel (a.k.a Beau Brummel) devised a new style, a starched linnen scarf tied around the neck. Legend has it that Brummel always had a large amount of starched scarfs in case he should be mispleased with the fashioning of the knot at which point he would simply chose a new scarf and tried again.

If you want a more modern version, the one patented by Jesse Langsdorf in the middle of the 1920:s, will probably be more recognisable. This blueprint of the modern tie was not only cut 45° contrary to the fibres of the material, but the tie was also made by three separate pieces of cloth. This made it less flimsy in comparison to its predecessors. Before this innovation ties were cut by the lenght of the fibre, which meant that the knot would leave ugly marks on the tie after wearing and consequently made it less durable. The genius of the more modern construction is clear as the same technique is used in most ties to this day.

Club Ties

In 1880 the members of a faculty at Oxford University agreed to wearing the ribbon usually found in their straw hats (please don´t ask…) around their necks. The rush of students and faculty members at the local tailor must´ve been quite notable and soon the practice was popularised at several other institutions and clubs. This style was later picked up by the middleclasses to signal succes and wealth. The patterned tie popularised at this time (turn of the century) was called the Macclesfield tie… Probably because it was produced in Macclesfield which, at the time, was the Mecca for the processing of raw silk from the Orient.
The modern club tie signals a connection to a prestigious institution/club and it might be suitable to take this into consideration before buying one. Maybe a bit of research into the background of the pattern of the tie? Of course no one could be faulted for wearing a pattern because of purely aesthetic reasons. In fact juxtaposing these kind of symbols could, if you´re clever enough, be quite entertaining, but then again I´m not British. A great favourite of mine is the pattern of the Life Guards. Nice big bold stripes.

What to Look For

If you´re not an expert in the exciting field of how to determine the quality of cloth, it might be a good idea to feel the fabric of the tie you´re going to purchase. You´ll need to when you tie it anyway. Test the fabric in the same way you might test the fabric of a suit. Pinch it and see if it leaves a permanent mark/wrinkle. Be moderate. Shopassistants will have seen this before, but they might not be so patient if you start flogging the tie against a chairleg. You basically have two choices: silk or wool. Traditionally a silk tie is the safest bet. The wool tie is more popular in certain regions than in others. Due consideration needs to be spent on how you match fabrics in an ensemble. No surprises there. Though it might be worth to note that some wool ties lend themselves better to certain collars and tie knots. If in doubt try it in front of a mirror with differing collars and knots. What is most pleasant to you is probably down to taste

Different Ties

You might like to buy a handmade tie. Actually for a tie to be called handmade, the only seam that has to be made by hand, is the mid inner seam (that connects the three different parts of your noose). A tailormade tie has the advantage of being perfectly adjusted to your build and the shirt/s you´re going to wear it with. The biggest pro (I believe) is that if you´re able to decide the thickness of the liner you can also decide the style of the knot. Let me rephrase: if you want a big knot get a tie with thicker lining, don´t tie the knot in a more elaborate way to get that eyecatching result. It might also strike your fancy to purchase an all silk or 100% cashmere tie. These are not in effect purely made of aforementioned materials, as the interlaying liner will in all probabilty not be in the same material as the”shell fabric”. There are of course exceptions like the seven-fold-tie. This tie is made from a quadratic piece of cloth and is shaped by folding seven times. No liner to make up the bulk of your tie.

The term selftipping tie, means that the two ends of the tie are lined with the same material as the ties shell fabric is made of. This is more often than not the trademark of Italian ties.

A knit tie is a very nice alternative to the standards. You´ve almost certainly seen several nice photos of stylish actors and artists in these kind of ties. Knit ties will almost always have a ”blunt” end.

These ties not only look good, but are also quite practical as you usually find that it is a lot easier to tie these and get a symmetrical tie-knot. Quite often the part that you actually tie around your neck is made slimmer, which means it´ll fit perfectly underneath most collars.

Ties should be treated like shoes, ie. let your favourite tie rest quite often. If you do find that a night about town has wrinkled your favourite, either hang it in the bathroom after you´ve showered or carefully roll it around the width of your palm. You´ll find it in better shape in the morning. Never wash a tie. And if you do leave it to the drycleaners, be warned: you just might get those telltale flat edges resulting from ironing. This will ruin the appearance of any nicely made tie. If you do find yourself with a soiled/dirty tie you might be able to save it with a stain remover. Try the agent on a part of the tie that doesn´t show when you´ve tied it to make sure that the remover doesn´t bleach the tie.

© Jules Olivier 2001 – 2012 Uppers [Published 18 October 2001]


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February 6, 2012 By : Category : Articles Europe Fashion Front Page Style Tags:, ,
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Eyelashes – Via Uppers

Gold and Falsies?

Ok, you’ve got yourself a pair of fishnets. What’s next? Put a little more glamour into your every day life perhaps. Long since a favourite of Egyptian pharaohs and James Bond assassins, gold has been a huge fashion no no for quite some time now. This season however it made a bold come back.

Of course you don’t have to go as far as poor Ms Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger. Just put a little sparkle in your wardrobe and beauty box, it could be a pair of high heels, a beaded evening baguette or why not wear some on your pretty face. Especially for summer when you should have worked out quite a nice glow anyway, just add some golden powder on your cheeks and shine away.

There are loads of shimmery products out there for both face and body.

In the 60’s Eylure sold eight million pairs a day. Dusty Springfield wouldn’t go on tour without them and Shirley Bassey had real diamonds set into hers. They were the ultimate make-up accessory, it wasn’t like today when a woman who admits to spending more than five minutes on her face today, is considered stupid by many folks.

Naturally I’m talking about false eyelashes.

Everyone who has tried to apply them knows that it’s not exactly done in a sec, but you soon get a hold of things if you practise. It’s not considered an every day make up procedure perhaps but with the modern “falsies” you can quite easily get a more natural look without taking away the feeling beyond gorgeous.

I personally recommend the ones, which are cut up into individual splays of lashes; they’re much easier to apply. Shu Uemura have both individual and full lashes in lots of colours, also gold mind you.

Face Stockholm has them in different lengths and shades of brown/black.

© Nina Odelfalk  Uppers 2000 – 2012 [Published 20 June 2000]


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February 5, 2012 By : Category : Europe Fashion Front Page Scene Style Tags:, ,
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College Scarves – Via Uppers

The most stylish way to defend your neck from the icy north wind is with a college scarf.

The college scarf is a simplepiece of unisex outdoor wear: made from cloth, it is long and wide, a joy to wrap several times around the neck. Unlike knitted scarves and most cravats, the college scarfeschews dangly tassels, and its simple rectangular shape is a minimalist’s delight. Yet it still carries with it a dandyish charm, consisting of long stripes of colour; each design consisting of at least two, and sometimes up to six, different colours.

It is an item that carries much semantic meaning: it appears at scooter rallies and mod clubs in the winter, but kids still wear them at uniform-obsessed schools (usually of the fee-paying or academically selective variety), and they are sold in university gift shops along with crystal paperweights and tiepins.

Prestige – both social and academic – comes with the wearing of the college scarf, originating as it does from the dreaming spires of Oxbridge (the ancient Medieval university cities of Oxford and Cambridge). According to the company Luke Eyres, manufacturer of scarves for Ede & Ravenscroft, “To our knowledge Mr Hopkins and Mr D Eyres were the instigators of the traditional University scarf. In1938/9 a Mr Hopkins worked for Almonds in Cambridge who used to supply knitted scarves to the Universities. Due to the war, wool was in short supply so they had to find an alternative material to use. Mr Hopkins met Mr D Eyres and they came up with the idea of using woven material in replacement. This woven material was torn into strips and used for the university scarves, thus starting the beginning of the vertical striped scarf. After the war although the knitted scarves were then available most of the Universities decided to stay with the new cloth arrangement. The scarves were mainly produced for the Cambridge Universities and Boat clubs but soon became popular within all the Universities.” The scarf colours are based on each college’s crest, and are also used on the blades of each college’s rowing club oars, as can be seen at the Queens College scarf site.

At Oxbridge, undergraduates are traditionally supposed to wear their gownsto dinner, lectures and exams. This does not seem to have been the tradition at the newer British universities, the ‘redbricks’ established in the 1800’s. Here, gowns were only worn at the tradition-laden graduation ceremony. To identify themselves as students for the rest of their time at university, the college scarf was adopted. As with those from Oxbridge, former redbrick students sometimes wear their scarves when they’re middle aged, just as old men wear their proud regimental ties.

College Scarves

Unlike Oxbridge, the redbricks aren’t (usually) amalgamations of colleges, so at some universities student pride is displayed by the different scarves available for different departments. At my alma mater (lit. trans. ‘soul mother’!), the University of Birmingham, the Arts & Humanities Department scarf is black with blue, purple and yellow stripes, whereas the scarf for the School of Dentistry is mainly green, and there are separate scarves for Engineering and Medicine as well. The colour choice of the departmental scarves is unfathomable. It isn’t only from the university crest, as it is only red, blue and gold. It seems possible that the colours could be influenced by the different colour hoods worn at graduation with the gowns, which are different colours to show the degree. At Birmingham, the BA hood is black and blue-grey, for MBA it’s terracotta and white, for MPhil it’s black and green, and the PhD hood is maroon and mid-green (along with a fantasticHenry VIII-style hat). At Sussex, Bachelors hoods are made from fake fur – well, it is in Brighton.

At some point in the early twentieth century, the college scarf was adopted by schools. Its clean shape is perfect for the neatness required in school uniform and the colour-coding of the stripes could easily incorporate the school colours already used in the tie, blazer and hat. The development of school uniform is oddly fascinating, so I recommend the website mentioned below. It focuses on boys’ uniforms, so I still don’t know why my primary school uniform included a felt hat like an air hostess – not that I minded having to wear it, of course.

This is where problems arise: the very simplicity of the college scarf means that not many colleges, universities and schools need to adopt it before several institutions end up with identical scarves. Here is an example. The scarf for my primary school was 3 navy blue stripes and 2 white stripes (the hat mentioned above was navy blue with a navy blue band zig-zagged with a white stripe). When I reached the sixth form, I considered myself to be a mod and, though I no longer needed to wear school uniform, wore my blue and white scarf from primary school. The History teacher approached me with excitement – “Who do you know who went to UCL? I went there!” And so (thanks to my teacher’s failing eyesight – the UCL scarf colours are actually purple and light blue!), had the identification and camaraderie of the college scarf gone slightly awry. Do not, therefore, be surprised if, when trolling about town in the college scarf you bought at a jumble sale, a random stranger clasps you to their bosom, wanting to reminisce with you their fond memories of their own Rag Week and the ‘fun’ drunken nights at the student union bar.

But why was the college scarf adopted by the mod fraternity? In the 1950’s,beatniks in Britain wore the college scarf with duffle coats (another WW2 innovation, worn by the navy in the North Atlantic. The toggles, instead of buttons, were to make fastening the coat easy with cold-numbed fingers). The beatnik posing intellectualism required a hint of academic background. Perhaps the college scarf shows how, yet again, some aspect of mod evolvedfrom beatnik. But maybe, like the parka, the college scarf was adopted by mods for purely practical reasons. Scootering in Britain, you are at risk from rain, muddy puddles and chill-blains. Whereas the parka – youth cult signifier and whopping cliché – was a way of defending suits from muddy splashes, the college scarf was a neat, sharp item that would keep drafts from freezing exposed necks.

Unlike the schools and universities the college scarf was stolen from, there have never been mod colours prescribed. Yes, how amusing, anyone for red, white and blue? But then, it would be better to make use of the different stripe colours to coordinate smashingly with your outfit.

© Helen Barrell 2003 – 2011
[Published via Uppers 8 September 2003]


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January 30, 2012 By : Category : Fashion Front Page Style Tags:, , , ,
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Female Mod Style – via Uppers

The Three Basics to Female Mod Style

Of course it is impossible to paraphrase mod style into three distinct rules, these rules are merely the basics, the foundation in which to begin…

It is almost impossible to write a comprehensive article on the subject without debate, mods defend their fashion and style ferociously often arguing amongst themselves as to whether one article of clothing or another is mod or not. As with anything the style is individual, there is no strict formula. Despite all of the different interpretations however it is not difficult to spot a mod; you definitely know one when you see one.

In the 1960’s when the subculture began in London, things were a bit more black and white especially for the girls, flipping through old photographs or books such as the Mods book it is plain to see that the female mod had an androgynous look to her, usually short cropped or bobbed hair, minimal makeup, simple almost frumpy clothing, back then their goal was to emulate the boys.

Now more than thirty years later things are quite different, women no longer find it appealing to look like their male counterparts, rather they usually find a particular style of the sixties that they prefer and build on that, they develop their own style, their own interpretations of what is mod. There are some aspects of it that change as frequently as the weather but the underlying basics stay the same. Nowadays there is a looser interpretation of the mod look.

Of course, none of this should be new to anyone who is well acquainted with the mod scene. But just in case you are not, or you want to hear the opinion and taste of someone who has been involved for a long time then read on; I am not about to sit here and preach as to what is or isn’t mod as far as clothing is concerned, but for now I will go over three important yet often unspoken basic rules:

RULE #1 – CONFIDENCE IS THE BEST ACCESSORY
The sharpest mods are the ones who have a cool calm about them, a certain poise. When I was first getting involved in the scene there was a female mod who was, in my opinion, the picture of style and confidence; she had the look just right, she knew she looked the best and she didn’t have to prove it to anyone. She wasn’t conceited, simply self assured.
This confidence, perhaps quiet arrogance comes from experience, from doing your research yet forming your own opinions and style. It is undefined yet ever present. There is no need to explain yourself or defend your look.

RULE #2 – DO IT CORRECTLY OR NOT AT ALL
Have you ever seen someone at a club or show perhaps who just didn’t get it right? Usually those who are new to the mod scene fall victim to this. The clothing is worn wrong or perhaps they mixed fashions from different parts of the decade. I was sitting at the bar at Mod Nite at Kate O’ Brian’s having a coke and whiskey with my best friend Blake when a girl walked in wearing a lovely cocktail dress dating from approximately 1964, the problem was that she didn’t bother finding shoes that at least appeared to be from the period. She wore a pair of stacked chunk heels with a rounded toe. Sounds rather petty, but it defied the entire point and marred the whole look. The same goes for those who don’t bother to tailor their clothes, they wear skirts or dresses that are too tight or hang too loose. Again, why bother then?

RULE #3 – QUALITY IS KEY!
This is quite possibly the most important of the three rules. Quality is definitely key. It is better to spend a large sum of money on one dress or suit that is in good condition and looks good on you than to spend the same amount on an entire truckload of clothing that has small holes, stains that wont come out, torn lining, or generally so far gone that its beyond repair.
This may sound obvious, but quite often you see someone who has the hem of her skirt or dress hanging down or doesn’t seem to notice that stain in the armpit. It is getting more and more difficult finding good quality mod clothing now, smaller boutiques are your best bet however be prepared to pay for it. Another option is to find yourself a good tailor and have clothes made, that way you are certain to have top of the line quality and there isn’t a danger of walking into a club and seeing three other girls with a similar outfit. Tailoring is of course very expensive but becoming more and more of a necessity.

Generally mods are a mysterious group, they stand out of a crowd in a positive way, no other subculture pays such scrupulous attention to authenticity and detail. It takes experience and time to get the look just right, and to build a proper wardrobe. Of course it is impossible to paraphrase mod style into three distinct rules, these rules are merely the basics, the foundation in which to begin. The key is to find your own style while being aware of these basics and remembering the philosophy of the subculture. Look your best, ride the best bike, and conduct yourself with the utmost poise and class.

© Victoria Bowen 1997 – 2011
[Published 2 February 1997]

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January 28, 2012 By : Category : Articles Fashion Front Page Style Tags:, , ,
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Alessi is More – design Italian style.

 

 

Does your attention to detail extend beyond your wardrobe, bookshelf and record collection? Then there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with Alessi. If not, read on and perhaps you´ll be persuaded to change your evil ways.

Being of a partially Mediterranean descent Alessi household goods have always been present in my life. Years of therapy have led me to believe that the Alessi octagonal coffee service could, sadly though indirectly, be named the chief instigator of one of my very bad habits: the Rewinding of Films whenever I see something clever and beautiful of design in them. And should you be partial to films from the 40.s to the 60.s there is quite a lot of rewinding to subject your poor friends and relations to. Not to mention the video of course, though this is really no excuse as that is the exact reason why some kind soul invented the Digitally Versatile Disc-system. You see now how everything falls into place don’t you?

History
The Alessi family hails from the Strona valley in Italy. During the 1700s, Italians from this region migrated as far as Germany to learn the pewter trade. Sometime during the turn of the century focus shifted from manufacturing household goods in pewter to brass, nickel, silver and soon stainless steel. The Strona valley collected several of these manufacturers with their workshops and factories around the Lake Orta. The region became the bustling centre of these activities and the evolution of the trade is, apparently, quite visible as most of the factories and workshops in the area remain intact.

The long history of Alessi is not only visible in the region that is the birthplace of the company, but also apparent in the long collaborations with many of their designers. Alessi design as we know it spans 8 decades and has incorporated design luminaries such as: Marco Zanuso (who anyone interested in Italian design will be familiar with), Michael GravesEttore SottsassAldo Rossi… the list could be made endless and one could not safely mention a few without embarrassingly omitting others (like all the in-house designers connected to the Alessi family).

One of the benchmark events in Alessi history was the war. With the demand for household goods in decline, the company shifted its down-to-earth traditional trade for the mass production of metal uniform details and aeronautical parts. In effect this change introduced a new material to the designers of Alessi: stainless steel. Alessi, led by the design vision ofCarlos Alessi (who was the first “real“ designer of the company and who would replace his father Giovanni Alessi as the head of the company in the fifties) realised the potential of this material and accurately predicted that it would soon replace silver, brass and chromed metals. With the investments made in the infrastructure for mass production the future had arrived in the shape of stainless steel products which where easier to mass produce and would soon bring Alessi design to a wider market.

With Carlo Alessi at the helm of the company and Ettore Alessi (Giovannis younger brother) supervising the technical aspects of production Alessi now began to open up to external designers. The concept of design was relatively new to the household goods market and Alessi was really the perfect example designing several projects where actual design was only tempered by the confines of technical considerations. This open minded attitude was also apparent in the company’s choice of designers as quite a few of these had gained their expertise in other fields of design and construction. Good examples are Ettore Sottsass and Aldo Rossi who are (or sadly, were in Aldo Rossis case) primarily architects. The company claims that working with designers with a background in architecture is easier than working with industrial designers, as the architects are more willing to delegate the technical execution to engineers and technical specialists, a sentiment that seems quite logical. This relaxed approach is beautifully apparent when you see one of the finished products.

Designers and Designs
Alessis output remains stupendously varied: some designs functional and with that air of familiarity that good design often has and some whimsical when functionalism has had to take second place to aesthetics. Coffee and tea-sets, several ranges of cutlery, ornamental ceramics, plastic containers, ashtrays and wine coolers… Alessi has tried its hands at so many areas of design and most often with success. A most obvious sign of success is of course that quite a few Alessi designs have been plagiarised.
A good starting point for someone unfamiliar with Alessi design is their coffee makers: functionality and design in a product that makes the mundane task of making espresso a pleasure to the eye as well as the palate.

My own personal favourite is Aldo Rossi’s “La Conica“, a tall espresso maker with a brass base: this product makes Rossi’s background in architecture obvious (On a more silly note: see the British film “Shopping“ where a Rossi-designed coffee maker is put to hilarious use over an open fire to make tea providing the only enjoyable moment in an otherwise dreary production) and was an evolution of his involvement in the Tea & Coffee Piazza (overseen by Alessandro Mendini), an Alessi project inviting architects to design their own takes on the tea and coffee set.

A few of Rossi’s great designs for Alessi are: the democratic aluminium “La Cupola coffee maker”, the “Il Conico” kettle and all the other products surrounding coffee drinking. In fact Rossi’s extensive research in the field has resulted in the “La Conica e alter caffettiere” book (1984).

And should you be one of those cretins who, much like I do, takes a cigarette with espresso, then why not rest your nasty cigarette butt on an Achilles Castiglione designed ashtray? The late Mr Castiglione may be known to you for various products such as for instance the “Rochchetto table” or the “Arco lamp”. No? Well then you should lend his Alessi smoking utensil an eye: great design and the dastardly clever spring construction allows for your guilty pleasure to never fall off the side and thus setting fire to someone important. And who knows, your display of taste might make the mother-in-law (or someone else you need to woe to your side) more tolerant to your nasty habit (mind you just your nicotine habit, not your habit of being mouthy and arrogant). Should this clever ruse for achieving “immediate son-in-law appreciation” or just plain appreciation fail, hastily replace the ashtray with some stainless steel wire baskets. Fill them with some biscotti or just something edible like fruit or bread and sit back and enjoy. In the case of this not working I am afraid setting fire to the person you’re trying to impress might be the only stratagem left to you as he/she won’t like the “Firenze”- clock (design by Mr Castiglione and older brother Pier) on the wall either. Nor your playful Stefano Pirovano designed watch.

So let’s not ponder the unpleasant things but rather just focus on what could best constitute your personal Alessi experience. A product you will probably have seen is the “Juicy salif” juicer by Philippe Starck (are you getting a certain War of the Worlds vibe from this one or have I had a drink too many?) To be honest I’ve only ever seen this product used as an ornament and never actually used in a kitchen. The container set series somewhat reminiscent of traditional Japanese containers are much more to my tastes and I am still fascinated by the cake server perhaps because of the fact that I am still not certain if it should be used for culinary delights, manly masonry or homicidal heroics… If you are a Philippe Starck fan already there are quite a few objects that might suit your fancy. Maybe even his prototype design for an Apriliascooter.

Whereas some of the Alessi output is clever but still restrained there are several ranges and products that are more, shall we say playful? You might have seen the anthropomorphic output largely popularised during the 80’s?

Tastes will vary but many of these objects still show the wide spectra of Alessi design. Philippe Starcks’ various works in plastic range from astonishing to unsettling. The “Dr Kiss” toothbrush, Mister MeuMeu cheese grater, “Les Ministres tray” and “Bertaa” kettle are all good examples of design that everyone might not like but will certainly have an opinion on.

Even if you are a fanatical follower of Krups or Gaggia it might be worth your while to have a look at Richard Sapper’s expert output for Alessi. His designs for automatic coffee makers boast functionality stemming from one of industrial design’s greats paired with the playful and sleek aesthetics fitting Alessi. The “9091” tea kettle stands in sharp contrast to the above mentioned techno-artifact with its simple and beautiful design and the costly detail of the whistle. It also makes for a great gift as most people boil water at some point in their lives.

Alessandro Mendini, another architect and former editor of architectural and design publications “Casabella, Modo and Domus” has been working with Alessi for a long time. The collaborative effort between Philips and Alessi to make kitchen appliances was based on his designs and would probably suit even the hardiest space cadet. The Anna G range of products is one of Alessi’s bestsellers and Mendini has also designed several extensions to the Alessi plant situated in Crusinallo. Mendini not only supplies design vision but also a lot of marketing clout as he is internationally employed as a consultant to give advice on brand and design identity strategies.

To get a different twist on Alessi products take a look at Michael Gravesdesigns. Not hugely different but certainly leaning more towards an American design flavour rather than the continental Graves first started working for Alessi in conjuncture with the “Tea & Coffee Piazza” and has worked on several projects since then. Graves items seem destined to land in the bosom of the nuclear family. Playful but down-to-earth design for objects you are going to use every day. The vibe from the fifties might just be in my head but this paired with excellent details and a no-nonsense approach to design strikes a very pleasing balance. The round stainless steel of “the Kettle with bird” paired with the polyamide handle makes it strict but still humane. The range developed from this item all feature the same riveting and style of handles. The breadbox and cheese board further promotes the style while still remaining playful and detailed.
Another interesting area, assuming you like a drink now and then, is the selection of products for the bar. The shaker and ice bucket designed during the late 50’s by (Luigi) Massoni and (Carlo) Mazzeri are prime examples of Alessi design at its best and are once again much used favourites of mine.

The shaker, with its neatness of design and discrete finish, is perfect for anything up to four cocktails (with a bit of effort and some goodwill) and lends itself perfectly for late night vulgar acrobatics courtesy of and inspired by Tom Cruise and that older chap with the wrinkles and accent. It has all the features one could expect of a shaker and is very easy to use. The ice bucket complements the shaker perfectly and it, if you are not an all-glass ice bucket person, makes a perfect centre piece on a stainless steel Alessi tray of your choice.
Complement these two items with the Boston range “Shaker” and Wine cooler designed by luminary Ettore Sottsass (with a bit of help from Alberto Gozzi, the Alessi “gastronomic” advisor) and you will be almost completely covered in matters of drinking.

And even though these items originate from different minds and have their obvious differences in design they go surprisingly well together.

The great Mr Sottsass, who quite probably has the most designs in the Alessi catalogue, has also designed an item anyone who has frequented some Italian restaurants, or any other restaurant for that matter, will at least be vaguely familiar with: the classic Alessi condiment set. Personally I find the larger set to be scaled for restaurants and such. It collects facilities for salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. This product is quite handy and something very much approaching an industrial standard. The smaller condiment set is slightly more discrete (but lacks the solution for the fluids) and would suit most any table and in addition the sugar bowl is an excellent design should you for some reason take sugar in your espresso.

There are also several products aimed towards the catering market. Functionalism and modular stainless steel designs are understandably key in these product ranges. But with a bit of effort and a lavishly expansive kitchen some of these might actually fit into a regular persons daily habits. In fact the pared down and trim designs necessary for this pragmatic market makes many of these products a restful and effective addition to the even the amateur kitchen.

Il Bagno
Should you not be satisfied with transforming just the kitchen and dining spaces into Alessi cityscapes you can further indulge yourself with the bathroom range: Il Bagno Alessi. Not to be confused with the various accessories for the bathroom (like toothbrushes, cups and floss dispensers) Alessi has produced, Il Bagno Alessi deals with the hardware. Things like bathtubs, faucets and wash basins. Things that really should look good and have pleasing forms as we inevitably use them each and every day.

The scope of the Alessi design vision will on paper at times seem daunting. The various products and designs might even seem erratic to the casual observer. Depending on which design era one might focus on a closer look will yield the most different results. Somewhere in there you will notice some sort of coherency. The fact that Alessi are reproducing a few Bauhaus designs and the various Alessi forums for young designers seems indicative of a larger view on industrial design. Or maybe it’s just respect for great design? Who knows?

© Jules Olivier 2003 – 2011
[Published 2 April 2003]

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Pip! Pip! Are the Creative Business Engine behind various music based organisations of the cool underground variety. Providing angst, confusion, bewilderment and annoyance in equal amounts. We design/host/manage great sites like this one! Why not hire us one day soon?

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January 26, 2012 By : Category : Articles Design Europe Front Page Objects Style Tags:, , , , ,
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