23 September 2015

The Collapse of the British Subculture

Last week, I spoke to Paul Weller and John Varvatos for AnOther Magazine and it got me thinking: the sixties and seventies stand as a romanticized period of idealist life for many a nostalgic teen, held victim to the lure of Richards’ riffs, McCartney’s charm and Dylan's lyricism, alike. A British sub-culture would stand firm in its time of prominence; its presence a structurally sound force to be reckoned with. You could easily tell your punks from your hippies and your rockers from your mods but nowadays, you's be hard-pressed to tell the Beyonce-obsessed from the Mozart devotees. As present day musicians generally allow their style to change and evolve as if you’ve grabbed the remote and pressed fast-forward, fans simply aren’t able to keep up. The tribal behaviors have mellowed out and dissolved over time with the sub-culture structure crumbling in the hands of a helpless generation. 

Paul Weller: “Growing up, the first time I became aware of music and clothes, the two were very much entwined. If you were into a band because you liked their music, you also liked the way they looked, their shoes and their hair – the whole thing. I think that music and fashion were much more entangled; they said something about you and defined you as a person. I don’t think it’s the same anymore, not in a big, cultural way.

“The post-war years in this country were so tribal: teddy boys, mods, skinheads… But you don’t have that anymore. There’s a good and a bad side to it: the bad being that you don’t get so much individual expression because people pretty much wear the same stuff, but the good side of it is that you can go out and not get beaten up all the time!”

John Varvatos: “When I was growing up, if you loved the Rolling Stones, then you loved their look. Whoever it was, it just made it even better if you loved everything about them. The last time that happened was the grunge era, which was bad fashion but people purposefully dressed that way. Then there was also Madonna thing where there was thousands of girls imitated her style, but there really hasn’t been influence from the music industry the same way in recent years.”

American menswear designer John Varvatos and British icon Paul Weller share a mutual love of music and style. As Weller rose to fame as the side-burned and suited frontman of The Jam, his distinct Mod stylings became as readily identifiable as his music, while Varvatos was looking to Jimi Henrix, and Weller himself, as he launched his career as a designer, moving swiftly from Ralph Lauren to Calvin Klein to form his own eponymous fashion house in 1999. But it wasn't until 2012, when the designer invited the musician to star in his Mod-inspired A/W12 campaign alongside Miles Kane, that the two finally met, striking up a firm friendship. Last week marked the opening of their second collaboration – this time for Weller's clothing line, Real Stars Are Rare – in the form of a pop-up shop hosted by Varvatos in his Conduit Street store. The installation, situated on the basement floor, boasts a capsule selection of Weller's timeless menswear designs, alongside limited edition boxsets and Weller's book, Into Tomorrow.