Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

My Generation

One of the more intelligent and perceptive clients I once worked with gave a paper on marketing to the older consumer.

He observed that as a boy he was aware of senior citizens in his northern home town all looking rather similar. Waiting outside the pub ( those were the days when enjoyment was rationed) or chatting outside the Co-op ( no cafe culture back then). Their fashion tended toward sturdy shoes , baggy trousers, tweed jacket and waistcoat, and flat cap.
As a child he assumed that this was what you ended up wearing when you got to a certain age.
It was only after having been in marketing for a while that he revisited this assumption. And his realisation was that these chaps were simply wearing the clothes that had become them many years before. Given the period, this was probably similar to the de-mob outfit that those lucky enough to have survived to the end of 1918 were issued with.
The clothes were signifying the wearer's age by referring back to their youth. The time when they dressed up for Saturday nights, and strutted their stuff on the dance floor.
He invited his listeners to dispense with any preconceptions about what older people currently looked like, or ought to look like, and prepare for marketing to pensioners in denim jackets and Rolling Stones t -shirts. If marketers don't understand that people identify most strongly with their youthful selves they will end up making wrong assumptions and being clumsily patronising.
I think he was remarkably prescient.
Now I am of a certain age I wonder if I have become set in my ways. And in contemplating this I wonder if I have a choice of what ways to be set in.
It's true , I do seem to hark back to earlier periods in my life. I am currently growing my hair ( yes, I know I am lucky). This references student/ hippy days ( but I will forego the crushed velvet trousers and cheesecloth shirts). I am also drawn to the slightly earlier mod ethos. A bit of tailoring with a slightly fitted jacket , or a casual Harrington. Sharp shoes . A well pressed shirt. And then the career era. Suits and shirts of distinction. This isn't a big deal. But at least I am avoiding nostalgic rock and roll merchandise. Or fake vintage / post modern garb.
It means that I look for stuff when I am shopping, not really knowing what I am looking for, but having to think whether it resonates in the way I want.
And of course there doesn't seem to be a single shop that caters for me.
Where is Lord John when you need him?


Trevira said...

Great post. This is an eternal truth you have hit on here. So many hang on to the styles of their youth, after which point they lose interest in fashion.

For myself, growing up in the late 60s/early 70s I remember numerous matrons with bright frosty blue eyeshadow and extraordinary beehive hairdos (imagine Winehouse with a few more pounds and years, and perhaps a nylon chiffon headscarf tied under the chin). Not to mention the ageing teds with thinning quiffs and thickening waists.

They never progressed beyond the styles of their prime - their youth - although curiously I don't remember any antiquated mods. I think they were more self aware and moved with the times.

As I approach my mid forties, this issue is of increasing importance. Its funny because I had a major 1940s revival thing as a teenager in the 80s (wearing lots of genuine vintage gear), and I've returned to it periodically ever since then.

As your body starts to lose definition, good tailoring can give it back!

But I do find the prospect of 60+ year olds with waistbands down around their hips, and boxers or (eek) thongs visible above, very depressing. Some things you have to leave behind or you look ridiculous.

btw, the Lord John link didn't work.

Harry Fenton said...

Thanks Trevira....I've fixed the Lord John link.
I wanted to put that photo at the bottom of the post, but can't work out how to.

Linda Grant said...


lagatta said...

Harry, if you are still hairy, bully for you. I don't mean Radovan Karadžić in his alternative healer mufti, but I do like to run fingers through hair if there is any hair left to run them through.

Rosaria said...

Harry makes good points, as one gets older....

"It means that I look for stuff when I am shopping, not really knowing what I am looking for, but having to think whether it resonates in the way I want."

Shopping for the clothes on our backs (ahem) used to be such a trivial pursuit.

I now buy less and my purchases are far more considered. Good tailoring, indeed, becomes more important.

"And of course there doesn't seem to be a single shop that caters for me."

Odd, that. When the shops are stacked against me, I have learned to simply go home. There's always another day.

Linda Grant said...

I should explain that Harry and I were at the same university at roughly the same time in the Seventies, and I do vaguely remember him at that period. What's interesting is how he is returning to his Mod roots rather than the cheesecloth shirt and velvet bellbottoms of my recollection (of him). Because Mod was all about tailoring. With a twist. And that is exactly what Harry does to this day.

rosaria said...

So glad it's not cheesecloth and velvet with a twist...

What did you wear in those days? And is there any infleunce remaining?

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, thought provoking post (my favourite kind). I often think about how people stay in their self-perceived prime years, without realizing that there is more to explore. As you pointed out though, even those that do explore come back to their prime outfits - but usually (hopefully) in a slightly different way.

Duchesse said...

Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight
And I'm going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it
But I probably will.
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
A little of the glory of, well time slips away
And leaves you with nothing, mister, but
Boring stories of glory days.
Bruce Springsteen, "Glory Days"