out with the old in with the new

My greatest sadness as a parent of three now nearly adult kids, is that I’ve never been properly appalled by what they wear. It has always been portrayed as one of the rites of parental passage that you have a stand up row with your son or daughter about their hair and/or attire, as the sartorial generation gap is made manifest in the latest tribal teenage style shocking mum and dad. But it never happened. I never got to utter the immortal words: “You can’t go out dressed like that!” My kids all dress far too well, far too sensibly, to ever really provoke much more than a mild smile. They are cool, decent, tidy reminders that British youth no longer play the great street style caper, which so marked out my generation. And I think we are all a little poorer for that.

In The Way We Wore, written over ten years ago, I stated that I thought the glorious stylistic lineage of Teddy Boys, mods, skinheads, soul boys, punks, new romantics and casuals, which took us from the 50s to the 80s had run out of steam. Acid house was that last great truly new, truly British upsurge of collective sartorial and musical lunacy from our nation’s disaffected youth, and I thought at the time it would be the last. This whole story which started with dapper lads in bomb damaged London aping the style of Edwardian dandies and dancing to rock ‘n’ roll came to a grinding halt gurning in a field in lilac OshKosh dungarees somewhere beyond the M25. And there has been nothing new since.

Not that kids can’t still look stupid. The arse showing, jeans around the knees trend of a couple of years back was patently preposterous, but it was a direct lift from US ghetto life, not an indigenous British style. It was also remarkably tame compared to say the Sex Pistols in Bondage gear or Boy George in full 80’s slap. This innate conservatism is also a sign of the rampant globalisation and corporatisation of teen style. There was a time when I could tell which part of London kids came from by the socks they wore. Now young people dress identically in LA, Lagos, Latvia and Ladbroke Grove. Unfortunately the marketing men have won and the global brands from Nike to Levi’s have triumphed. Street style always came from the gutter up, now it is promoted and marketed from the boadrooms on high with compliant ‘celebrities’ as their main marketing tool.

But the real reason today’s youngsters aren’t as sartorially and musically obsessed as we were – the two were always hand-in-hand, though in TWWW I argue it was always the clothes which came first and the music made to fit the look – is because they’ve got lots of other things to do. Back in the 60s and 70s when I was first appalling my parents by adopting a number one crop with a razor parting or wearing a kilt and wing collar shirt to a nightclub, clothes and records were all we had. Street style was a largely working class invention and working class kids back then often only had the clothes they stood up in.

Music and clothes simply do not matter as much anymore to a generation that is more likely to define itself by computer games or social media, and spend its money and energy on the digital accoutrements of modern life. My kids like music and have loads of all kinds on their phones, they buy nice clothes and care about their appearance, but neither of those define who they are, they do not have the tribal urges to dress and dance in such a way that marks them out. They all go to festivals in jeans like everybody else.

And all of this makes me slightly sad, the nostalgia perhaps of a middle-aged man who loved the days when the streets of London were a riotous teenage catwalk for the competing tribes fighting glorious style wars.

The Way We Wore is available to buy from Autharium now. The paperback version is available through Amazon.

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the way we wore

The Way we wore is now available again as a proper physical book, made of paper and everything. Read all about it here…



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what to wear on a cycle

You’ve got to look good on a bike. When I first fell in love with cycling, it was the style and élan of the men and the machines that really appealed.  To read more…….

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The Way We Wore


It’s back. For a few years now I’ve had a stream of people asking where they can get a copy of The Way We Wore, the street style memoir I wrote back in 2004, and rather frustratingly I’ve had to tell them all it is not available. You could spend increasingly large sums on a second hand copy – evidence of the fact that it has acquired something close to cut status – but could not buy one through the normal channels. Well you can now.


I’ve linked up with a company called Autharium to republish The Way We Wore as an e-book for you to download onto your digital thingy. They will also print you off an old fashioned physical copy if you ask nicely and give them a little extra dough, so now you have no excuse. If you want to follow the adventures of Britain’s remarkable trouser tribes, from Teddy Boys, through mods, skins, soul boys, punks, new romantics, up to the end of the whole teen clobber caper with acid house, well you jolly well can.


As part of this process I have re-read the book and I am still very proud of it, and it brings back amazing memories of terrible haircuts, great music, good friends and bad hangovers. So if you want to read about solatio box top loafers and pink pegs, bondage trousers and bowling shirts, ties in pins, hankies in pockets and shenanigans in Soho you can.


The Way We Wore is available from Autharium.

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20 years

20 years today that I have done my show, you can listen  to the live show from ronnie scotts between 12 noon and 3pm. I am immensely proud of such a relationship with such a city. My life’s work.

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32 londoners

Tonight I will be taking part in 32 londoners;

-There are 32 pods on the London Eye.
-Each pod represents one of the 32 London boroughs.
-Place in each pod an enthusiastic speaker strongly associated with London.
-Let the speaker discuss his or her favourite Londoner.
-Let the guests choose a cocktail from a selection of 32, inspired by the London boroughs.

On 1 May, the 32 Londoners happening brings together all these elements. Speakers include such notables as Andrew Motion (on John Keats), Dan Cruickshank (John Stow), Claire Tomalin (Samuel Pepys), Ken Livingstone (Herbert Morrison), Robert Elms (Adam Faith) and Kate Kray (on her former husband Ronnie Kray, and his brother Reggie). Other speakers will enthuse about A-Z pioneer Phylis Pearsall, David Bowie, Zadie Smith, Joan Littlewood and Charlie Chaplin. If you fancy a bit of science, Londonist editor Matt Brown has chosen Michael Faraday, who was born close to the London Eye near Elephant and Castle.

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london transport museum

I shall be talking to Leon Daniels, who is responsible for looking after our wonderful bus system –  the most used public transport mode in London and the UK’s largest bus service. During the evening Leon will discuss his immediate and long term vision for the London  Bus and its network in what is the first of a year-long programme of events to celebrate the Year of the Bus in 2014.

4th Februray 6.30pm – 8pm.   london transport museum

love the old steam train that you can pick up from dungeoness to hythe.

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My wife Christina is part of a sale on Friday, she will be displaying her photographic wares, cards and prints, while Maude is baking one of her legendary cakes. There will be lots of other stuff including hand made ceramics, jewellery, homemade chutneys and unusual gifts.   There will be tasty bites to eat plus mulled wine - so save the date  - friday 29th November from 12.30pm to 7pm

Home Sale 77,  Basement , 77 King Henrys Road, London NW3 3QU


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in conversation with suggs

I am in conversation on sunday with my old mate and camden town lad Suggs from Madness;  he has written an autobiography ‘That Close’, which is a fascinating look at his life both before and during the Madness years.  Always great company, it should be a really entertaining evening.

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london transport museum

Join me and the expert panel who selected the 150 exhibition posters, for an evening of conversation and film during which the panel explain how and why these posters made the cut, and also reveal their favourite posters from the whole exhibition. The evening will consist of two short films each followed by a panel conversation to delve into the history and background of poster art and design on the Underground and explore the role of commissioners and commissioning. To round off the evening there will also be the opportunity for a Q&A with members of the poster exhibition selection panel.

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