Maybe Eighties fashion wasn’t so bad after all…

I’ve hesitated to go down this route but I’m afraid I can’t avoid it any longer: It’s time to talk big hair, shoulder pads and leg warmers.
As a dedicated follower of fashion, I dare say few people are as qualified as I to discuss the notorious clothing fads and hairstyles of my youth. I jest, of course.
Someone cruelly dubbed the Eighties ‘the decade that style forgot’. I prefer to think of it as ‘the decade that style disowned’.
Granted, there were a few positives – classic looks and new accessories which have gone on to stand the test of time.
I’m specifically thinking Ray-Ban sunglasses (à la Tom Cruise in Top Gun) and Calvin Klein underwear – as modelled by Michael J Fox in Back To The Future.
You see, prior to the Eighties no-one gave a monkeys who made the pants you were wearing but suddenly, almost overnight, people became ‘brand aware’.
At the same time, there was also an awful lot of: ‘I grabbed the first three garments I could find at the church jumble sale and threw them together. Good eh?’
Until the age of 11 (1983) all I cared about was going out to play footie with my mates and, frankly, I was happy to wear anything mum fished out of the wardrobe.
Then I hit high school and suddenly I started to notice girls and become envious of other lads in my class who were better looking/thinner and dressed cooler than me. Often all three.
I distinctly remember the day my friend Richard Murphy arrived at school sporting blond ‘streaks’ in his regulation brown hair.
I looked at him as if he had got off a spaceship.
I would like to point out that I never went for highlights in my hair but I was somewhat envious that Spud Murphy had engineered a talking point for the top tottie in my class.
I recall also being deeply jealous of Mark Duckworth who – in spite of having an horrific core flick in his fringe – was always wearing the latest ‘designer clothing’.
One such item was a blue and grey Nike cagoule. I hated him for owning that jacket – especially as when I asked mum for one I ended up with a similar, dark blue unbranded cagoule from Vale Market.
Then there was the fad for Pony trainers which came about because Channel Four became the first UK TV channel to screen American football which led to all the lads adopting a team. (LA Raiders, in case you were wondering)
Another lad in my class, Ashley Coates – a gifted left-footed footballer – had a pair of the aforementioned trainers and I was desperate to emulate him.
In the end I did get a pair – but in a bizarre white and fluorescent blue colour which made me a laughing stock at break times.
I didn’t have the heart to tell my mum, of course.
The only cool things I actually ever owned during my school days were a pair of Pepe Jeans (or Peps as we called them) which came with a must-have red plastic keyring and a pair of white Converse boots (or Cons) which seemed to last an eternity.
In my defence I don’t think I dressed outlandishly during my college years or towards the end of the decade.
This was a) because I didn’t dare and b) I’d have had my head kicked in up ’Anley had I turned up looking like Crockett or Tubbs from Miami Vice wearing a jacket with the sleeves rolled up.
I was basically a jeans and T-shirt kind of lad who shopped at Geordie Jeans, Stolen From Ivor and Next.
This was to be expected given my fondness for two types of music: ‘Hair metal’ (Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Poison etc.) and ‘Shoe-gazing’ (Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, The Charlatans etc.).
I also went through a phase of wearing jeans ripped at the knees in the style of Matt and Luke Goss from Bros. Didn’t we all?
I actually consider myself to have had a lucky escape because, had I been born five years earlier, my formative years would have collided with some of the Eighties’ most horrific fashion trends.
As it was I never wore parachute pants and my foppish hair only ever had the faintest touch of mousse to hold it in place.
I am also delighted to say that, unlike my friend Mark Williams, I never, ever had a mullet.
Similarly, my girlfriends were sensibly attired – no miniskirts, huge earrings, finger-less gloves, over-sized tops or leg warmers that I can recall.
They were also way too young for the Dynasty power-dressing look of shoulder pads – much to my relief.
However, they all sported beautiful 80s perms as modelled by the divine Susannah Hoffs from The Bangles.
Come to think of it, maybe Eighties fashion wasn’t that bad after all…

The Eighties is the decade most of us remember fondly

The original Now That's What I Call Music album.

The original Now That’s What I Call Music album.

Sunday, December 25, 1983. Christmas Day. That’s when I officially fell in love with the Eighties.

I sat in my bedroom marvelling at my brand new copy of the original Now That’s What I Call Music album, my shiny new record player and the sturdy black singles box containing my first 45s.

I’ve still got that album and all the seven inches – Status Quo’s Margeurita Time, Paul Young’s Wherever I Lay My Hat, and Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, among others.

That day I played them from the moment we’d finished the turkey until I was ordered to bed.

Suddenly, at the age of 11, I realised music wasn’t the sole preserve of my parents.

Apparently, there was more to life than Elvis and Roy Orbison – despite years of brainwashing by my mum.

Money saved from my Sentinel paper round was soon being spent on singles and albums.

I walked up to Hanley on Saturdays and bought everything from Adam Ant, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran to Bruce Springsteen and the mighty Bon Jovi.

Through music I discovered that girls weren’t just things to make you flush red if they looked at you in class or, heaven forbid, spoke to you at break time.

I took umbrage with Michael J Fox because a certain girl in the top class at Holden Lane High called him ‘dreamy’ after watching Back To The Future.

I was mesmerised when Kim Wilde or Belinda Carlisle came on the telly – and fell hopelessly in love with Susannah Hoffs from The Bangles.

I am delighted to say that while the Eighties may be the ‘decade that taste forgot’ it is also the decade that has stubbornly refused to go away.

Of course, it helps that my generation of 30 and 40-somethings are now in control of so many TV remotes and perhaps have the most disposable income.

But it is a fact that, for some time now, there has been a genuine appetite for 1980s nostalgia.
An internet campaign brought the Wispa chocolate bar back from the dead.

Monster Munch crisps have been relaunched.

Hit 80s TV shows like Starsky and Hutch and The Dukes of Hazzard have, sadly, been turned into big-budget movies.

What’s more, you can’t move for Eighties bands and singers hitting the road again to relive past glories.

People like Rick Astley, Bananarama, Midge Ure and, er… Kim Wilde (blush), who all performed at Alton Towers’ 30th birthday party at the weekend.

We lap it up because of music’s wonderful talent for forcing us to don rose-tinted Ray-Bans and reminding us of a special time in our lives.

When my sister-in-law celebrated her 40th birthday earlier this year it has to be said that the highlight of her raucous party weekend was the 1980s music.

I danced – I use that term loosely – until 3am and, as I lay in bed that night it occurred to me that I couldn’t see children of the Nineties or Noughties yearning for their formative years with quite the same enthusiasm.

For some, the Eighties was a grim decade of industrial unrest, high unemployment, terrible hair and worse clothing.

But, to me, as a child growing up in the Potteries, it is a decade that will always be golden – a time of great certainties, household names and sunny optimism.

In the Eighties, our milk man delivered bottles of pop in a variety of radioactive colours and the ‘outdoor’ at the top of our road sold Black Jacks and Fruit Salad sweets for half a pence.

Royal Doulton and Wedgwood seemed like immortal employers and a job on ‘the Mich’ (Michelin) was a job for life.

It was a time when Hanley still had family businesses like Bratt and Dyke where I could spend hours just mooching around.

It was the decade when the Boothen End proper at the Old Victoria still roared its defiance and when a certain bloke with a flat cap took over the reins at Vale Park – promising nothing and delivering the best era in my football club’s history.

It was a time when this newspaper still produced the much-anticipated Football Final on Saturdays.

It was also the decade of the Garden Festival that transformed 180 acres of derelict land in the heart of Stoke-on-Trent into the thriving retail and business park we all now take for granted.

Yes, the Eighties may well be ‘the decade that taste forgot’.

It’s also the decade that I, and I suspect many others, are most happy remembering.