Thursday, June 19, 2008

Informal, Untailored, Comfortable, Straightforward Garb – Otherwise Known As The ‘Casual’ Era.

Like every teenage cult, they are all very individual in their own peculiarities. However they are all analogous, whether it be Teds, Mods, Rockers, Skinheads or whoever and whatever might be currently in vogue.

Casual was quaint essentially a working-class movement that sought to subvert the fashions of their supposed betters.

Casual was about going that extra mile to look different from everyone else, whilst having the sanctuary of a dozen or so mates who looked the same.

Unlike any other youth culture movement, however, Casual was aimed indisputably and unequivocally at football fans and the terraces became their very own fashion-show runways.

The Casual look was perfect for hooligans; anyone that way inclined could instantly tell who was ‘up for it’ (and non-Casual fans such as the club scarf wearing brigade were generally left alone) and for a short time it greatly confused the police.

Although argument still rages over the true origins - who wore the first particular style of jumper, which town or city first adopted a certain colour e.t.c - it is generally agreed upon that Liverpool fans kick-started the movement back in the late 1970’s.

While their team swept all before them in Europe, some of their travelling support plundered continental menswear retail outlets, setting themselves apart from their Doc Marten and blue denim contemporaries.

By the turn of the decade, the fashion strongholds of London and Manchester had caught on, and introduced the defining factor of Casual: sportswear.
On the continent vast quantities of exotically coloured Adidas trainers and Tacchini tops could be purchased or stolen.
Prior to this the only time anyone would be seen dead in a trackie top was during a school games lesson on a nippy winter’s day.

The more expensive and exclusive, the better, even though much of the gear could never be worn in any other decade than the 1980’s.
After going through a range of styles from ‘Italian Exchange Student’ to ‘PE Teacher at a Posh Grammar School,’ the definitive Casual look emerged: ‘Middle Management on a Golfing Weekend.’

Casual wasn’t tied to the musical era of the day, so instead of copying musicians, it drew inspiration from the unlikeliest of sources. An obscure golfer’s Farah trouser, a Ronnie Corbett Lyle and Scott jumper, Bjorn Borg’s Fila tracksuit top, a tv presenter’s Pringle sweater e.t.c.

Indeed, the sartorial destiny of a ‘crew’ revolved around the performance of their football club. If your team drew Italian opposition in a European Cup tie, their stock rose dramatically.
If they supported Sunderland, they had to make do with a coach trip to London for the sole purpose of visiting the one shop that sold that one particular fashion garment, be it a polo shirt, cardigan.......or whatever.

The golden age of Casual was ended by the Heysel disaster of May 1985.
A ban on English clubs in Europe curtailed shopping/shoplifting expeditions, the media had cottoned on, and sportswear manufacturers had moved onto a new high-end fashion market, flaunting even more flamboyant and pretentious styles and designs.

The nature of Casual still lives on a quarter–century later, for better or worse!
Its longevity, far beyond its natural shelf life was due in part to its relationship with sports clad wearing celebrities from all walks of life.

Sadly the ‘Chav’ phenomenon (Burberry garments, tracksuit bottoms tucked into socks, Hackett polo shirts) is a direct result of Casual, along with ‘sports shops’ that sell nothing one would actually dare to wear on a playing field.
On the plus side, it excuses certain men in their forties (like myself) and upwards from discarding the comfort and style of a nice pair of trainers.

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