In the second part of Fiacha Harrington’s indie fashion interview with Nick Triani the topic is style from the 1980s to the 2000s. The discussion covers men's fashion from Orange Juice, The Go-Betweens, to Pavement and The Strokes.
Preppy, colorful and daring
In the 1980s Nick Triani was a young musician living on the outskirts of London. The way bands looked mattered as much as the way they sounded. Nick remembers his biggest influence from the early 1980s: “Of all the indie bands of the time I’d say Orange Juice had the look that endured for me personally. The band became a clothes horse for indie fans in general. Orange Juice took elements from the past and mixed those with a postmodern outlook to create something not really seen until then. A bit like their musical mix of Chic and The Velvet Underground. Orange Juice were casual, but they were also unafraid of colorful clothes, which was refreshing amongst that Northern doom coat gloom. Orange Juice could sport shorts and vintage sandals with white socks, like a preppy schoolboy look. They’d mix these with chinos, fringed suede jackets and loafers… (very stylish) – Davy Crockett fur hats – all of a sudden there was a bit of fun in what people were wearing (it reflected the good feeling of the music). Again, most of this was vintage or secondhand. Their look had a certain innocence about it, a twee aspect which became very influential.”
The Pastels were another influential band as they introduced the anorak to the indie style bible which influenced Belle & Sebastian and the later Bowlie/twee pop movement. “The Pastels took the most functional elements of the Orange Juice style, bringing in a more casual academic look: the 1960s librarian. The tartan duffel bag was a real part of their style.”
At some point in the mid-1980s there was a 1960s revival in the indie scene, which fully caught on in the mainstream later with the Stone Roses. Some of the early Creation Records bands like Primal Scream dressed in a manner suited to the West Coast cool, bands like The Doors and Love. “I think I bought into that quite a bit, I was playing in a band, The Bluebirds, by then. There was quite a lot of 1960s influences combined with this pre-grunge noisiness. When talking about the grunge look you have to mention someone like Neil Young. If you look at Neil Young circa Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere he’s wearing tight jeans, cowboy boots or biker boots over the top of his jeans, then a checked shirt and a suede jacket with a fringe. We started to see something similar when grunge appeared in the early 1990s. Again it was an old style with new elements.”
Concurrently emerging in the early 1980’s was a whole new electronic sound, which exploded with the New Romantic Movement. David Bowie had been seen as a figurehead to the movement, the timely release of Ashes to Ashes cementing his relevance ”Early in the 1980s I discovered Nic Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth movie and that seemed to define the Thin White Duke period for David Bowie. Like a sub-period of Bowie fashion that covered Young Americans to Station To Station. I think that this Bowie look became as iconic as his look during the Ziggy period. The look was easily achievable, it wasn’t so outlandish. I remember I had the orange hair there for a while.”
Nick remember what followed: “Out of that scene came bands like Depeche Mode, the whole synth thing was massive, Visage, early Ultravox with John Foxx. The whole new romantic thing was massively influenced by Bowie. Spandau Ballet were interesting because they came out of the fashion scene. Magazines like The Face took them seriously. They had a real connection to the fashion world and they were given credibility because of that, but unfortunately musically I always thought that they were terrible. For me fashion was always tied in with the music and I think the look of a band was always as important as the records. If a band looked a bit shit, no one was interested.”
For me fashion was always tied in with the music and I think the look of a band was always as important as the records. If a band looked a bit shit, no one was interested
“The Go-Betweens had a very indie look but still different. They were a Postcard (label) band – they had some of that look. At some point Robert Forster became influenced by Prince (at least with his onstage demeanour). All of a sudden there was this quite awkward looking guy who started wearing jewellery and makeup. He would have shirts exposing his midriff and wear quite flared bell bottoms, in something like yellow with a cuban boot. Through all these movements the indie scene had still remained quite reserved. Clothing was still conservative in way, bands like Joy Division had their look but there was nothing outrageous about it. Then Robert Forster became quite a style guru and became quite well known for breaking that mould.”
Dylan, recycled ideas and branding
One of Nick’s style icons is Bob Dylan. Dylan’s message has certainly dwarfed his personal sense of style, but the growing nostalgia for rock’n’roll has pitched early to mid-1960s Dylan as an individual fashion guru in some quarters. “I think that period between 1965 and 1966 Dylan was really important generally and obviously in musical terms. In the documentaries Don’t look Back and Eat The Document Dylan looks extremely stylish. Black leather jackets and jeans, but Dylan mixed this with tailored suits, sharp collared shirts with cufflinks” Looking at that period in pictures you see that Dylan’s look wasn’t a million miles away from the look that we associate with early Velvet Underground, the tight black jeans, the cuban heels and the curly mop top.
Our conversation finally comes around to The Smiths, who encapsulated the whole 1980s indie look. Nick was at one of the band’s earliest shows: “I saw the band very early on, before a record release. When they first appeared the band were wearing quite basic indie uniforms, but Morrissey was distinctive. He had brogues and Levi’s 501’s dripping off his waist. The shirts – I think when he started he was maybe wearing Oxfam shirts – but very soon he started having very expensive, tailored or designer shirts. Of course there was the quiff and the national health specs which were ubiquitous.” Here we have one person that embodies all of the elements of those who came before him.”He had that James Dean look, very influenced and still very working class and surprisingly masculine. The Morrissey aesthetic could be seen right across the band’s output from record sleeves and promotional photos. All of this was a love letter to an England that perhaps wasn’t really there anymore.”
Looking at that period in pictures you see that Dylan’s look wasn’t a million miles away from the look that we associate with early Velvet Underground, the tight black jeans, the cuban heels and the curly mop top
“It’s important to acknowledge that most of these artists appropriated styles and ideas from the past, but always emboldened them with a modern twist, it wasn’t retro – in fact it was a very post-modern idealism. I think one of the reasons that these looks have endured is that many of those bands became iconic and their fashion sense has endured with the music. That sense of style has been passed down. ”
As the 80s progressed Nick became disillusioned with the developments in fashion. “I think the last real movement of the 1980s was the baggy movement and the whole ecstasy movement. There was something futuristic, but of course there was a real harp back to the 1960s with the flares and all. There was a definite correlation with the hippie movement, but again it was updated, because there was a lot of sportswear involved with it. You had cagoule (windbreaker) being omnipresent and of course there were brands like Nike and Adidas. I didn’t lose interest in fashion and I still thought it was very interesting to see what a band looked like, but the brand association for bands and artists (something very much brought to the fore with hip-hop) was less interesting to me.”
Grunge, Britpop and the year 2001
This brought the 1980s to a close and straight after the baggy scene came the grunge period. Neil Young was the prototype grunge icon. After a period predominated by flash and brands, things reverted back to second-hand clothing in the 1990s, but this time around it was US-led and much scruffier. Grunge’s second wave saw the emergence of bands like Pavement, who could be best described as non-fashion. “A band like Pavement had this student look, but it was like nothing. When I think of Pavement’s style, I don’t think of a special kind of fashion. I think there really was an anti-fashion thing going on, as a reflection of what had happened in the 1980s. Think of R.E.M. for example: Michael Stipe was a very stylish dude, but what was their style? Pavement were quite important for me in that sense, but I kind of gave up on fashion and didn’t have a clearly defined style like in the past.
It’s important to acknowledge that most of these artists appropriated styles and ideas from the past, but always emboldened them with a modern twist, it wasn’t retro – in fact it was a very post-modern idealism
Back in London in the early to mid-1990s Nick’s band Supermodel were just getting going. Things were still quite grungy in the indie scene. Then came Britpop, which was very much a brand-led look. Nick remembers: “You’ve got Adidas trainers, a straight-cut pair of jeans, a windbreaker or a casual jacket and that was your look (it required no effort) – that was like really boring to me.”
In 2001 The Strokes came along and they recycled the whole Ramones punk aesthetic with influences from The Velvet Underground. Nick says: “that was the movement with the converse and the skinny jeans – which we are still seeing in 2016. That was the last major indie look I feel, I don’t know if there’s been another one since.” I agree with Nick on this. Now fifteen years later everything is pretty much the same – just more fragmented. Nick continues: “You can look at an EDM crowd and what they are wearing or you can look at a hip-hop look, the bling that is very ubiquitous now. I think that is a style that has crossed into the mainstream and is kind of the predominant thing. Then there is the norm-core movement and the 1980s flamboyance has also returned.”
In finishing I ask Nick if he had to choose one person who most influenced his own personal style who would it be? “If I had to pick someone that was massively influential to me it would be a young Edwyn Collins from Orange Juice. He was always very stylish and he had great hair. I was such a fan. Collins always looked immaculate, it was kind of effortless with that guy.”