Neil Primett, 'The 80's Casual Classic' owner
The differing worlds of 80’s Casuals past & present
In the process of building up the 80s Casual Classics website / ebay business, we have heard many buyers recounting just how much this era meant to so many people as their first real passion towards branded clothing. I am the first to admit everyone offers up different memories and it is very clear that different areas bore many a differing casual, and the home counties, in my case Mid-Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire borders, is just a small part of a much bigger picture. I can see how the ‘Scousers’ lay claim to being the first real casuals with their Europe conquering days and likewise how London embraced it and gained much press recognition. My London buyers tell me how they afforded the clobber as their dad had it away in the 80s boom time business, their big brothers had it etc. If the 2006-2008 casuals are anything to go by certain areas like Birmingham , Reading, Dundee, Aberdeen are now seriously making up ground. I sense with many modern day buyers they are not just reliving the glory days they may now fulfilling owning their childhood dream brands / styles.
Home Counties Village Casuals
Lets get things straight we may have played a major part in the 2006 re-launch of some key casual brands along with a certain film, however Liverpool / London fear not I wont be wishing to stake any major claim in our Home-Counties villages being a leading light in where it all began. We loved our football, but mainly as players (Sunday league/school/local park), TV spectators- Jimmy Hill match of the day, Bob Wilson football focus and at a 11 years my specialist subject was possibly the Rothmans Annual Yearbooks 77-81. Realistically we were never likely to become football terrace casuals. Our Bedfordshire lower schools saw that, by 5-6 years of age, we were supporting Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal, Leeds. I can’t recall much else, maybe a QPR, a few years later the next generation of kids were supporting Luton Town. On choosing to support Liverpool I remember sitting in my away kit watching the FA cup in 77 when the treble looked well within our grasp, little did I know at just 8 years old that the passion for a football team and to sit in front of my TV in my team kit would lead to a passion for clothing and an association with a recognised group of branded terrace dressers termed ‘Casuals’.
The ‘Casual’ crew at our school in ‘83-85 largely left behind a punk/mod scene and we were listening to an eclectic mix of The Jam, UB40, Level 42 , Luther Vandross, Chaka Chan, Herbie Hancocks Rokit, Freeze - to name a few. Looking back we were young kids and easily influenced, but we new what scene we wanted to be part of. A lad arrived at the school in 1983 from London, big wedge fringe, sovereign rings and gold chains he would ‘big-up’ his London past and would head back to London to get his clothes, footwear and jewellery. For a short time he was on his own as we all looked on.
One thing the rest of us had in common is that we all loved our football and played in our school footy team and Sunday league, we aspired to wear sports-wear we always had be it for a kick about at the park- Adidas treefoil tees , Adidas kick trainers, I thought I was an athlete in my Nike wally waffles. I recall the main lad at our village park who could impress the girls by doing a 100 kick ups, in the early 80’s, wore Puma GV and we would admire these beauties as a key part of his art.
By ‘84 there were around 6 of us, 15 year old Casuals, in our small town upper school year, possibly a mark of how elitist the Home-Counties village Casual was. The school casual uniform was light grey Farah’s, if you could get a note as to why you could break the school colour rules, footwear a pair of Pierre Cardin patent crocodile skins in burgundy with gold strap and the statement allowable casual piece, the kagoul or ski jacket. I recall a London trip with our casual leader where we looked at premium Ellesse, Fila, Tacchini in Selfridges and settled on Kappa down at the Chapel market, Islington. On that same trip I recall buying the roll necks, a well negotiated Fila zip off sleeve, polyester in grey, navy and yellow (arguably the piece of the day) and the Jacguard Lyle and Scott knitwear. On such a trip we spent all of our Saturday/evening job cash and these became outfits we were set to almost live in outside of school uniform.
A local youth centre disco at an army base near us every week saw a few bigger town guys turn up in full Italian sports attire for a dance floor face off between rival dance floor mini town casuals body popping and break dancing in full white Dallas tracksuits. The drink downed outside would be Tennants Super or White Lightening cider and of course ‘Snake Bite’. I also recall the long lost trend of slow dancing to the likes of Wham’s Careless Whisper and Spandau’s True. We all had our smoothy casual outfits of Lois Cords in mustard, electric blue or burgundy or Farahs, Kappa, Lyle and Scott roll necks, Pringle, Lyle and Scott and Slazenger knits, leather boot lace tie poncho-style leathers in multi coloured cut and sew patchwork and boy racer 50cc Fizzy and AP50 mopeds all with 80 bore kits. Footwear, for us, was Diadora Elites in white and navy blue, a cheaper alternative to the infamous signature Borg white and gold’s and Nike Wimbledon’s a mark of the influence of Borg and McEnroe’s on court footwear. By ‘83-84 my mum had handed over all the rights of the family allowance, she bought paid work home such as filing and my brother and I would sit and do it. This along with Saturday supermarket shelf-stacking and evening work was all in the pursuit to have cash for clothes whilst still at school.
A few years previously all my money was spent on punk records - Pistols, Clash, SLF, Damned, Sham 69 and Buzzcocks. We were too young to wear punk clothes and with big brother punks it seemed clever to pogo at home and simply have attitude and angst. I am sure my mum was pleased when punk records turned into clothes and wedge-like big fringe haircuts. Ahead of the arrival of gel, a can of hairspray was a must for some serious fringes and it was seen to be a stark contrast from the Punk who was seen to be the rebel. On recollection due to the cost of being Casual this was a more rare elitist breed in our neighbourhood than the punk scene ever was.
In our local small town of Hitchin we could get Farah’s, Lois cords, bleach jeans, hardcore jeans, ball jeans, Kicker boots, Slazenger knits and Pierre Cardins from stores like GB’s and Baron John but that was it. A store in the larger town of Bedford emerged, “Sportabella”, with some Tacchini and occasional Fila. The story told is that a box would turn up and it would get raided by local Casuals, with all key styles selling out in days. I recall looking into the window at a rack of trainers with white / gold signature Borg Elites placed at the top with the greatest price tag and the dark navy and red sitting below and Nike Wimbledons. The Bedford town street crews had the slits in the lois cords and even the sewn in dallas bottoms ?
As we all left school apprenticeships and YTS was the order of the day and by the time the family took a cut many of us were worse off than our part-time job school days, we all kept an interest in looking good and London shopping trips continued but until 2006 it was laid to rest as a youth fad where most of us only scratched the surface of product like Fila, Tacchini and Ellesse all brands that we mainly only dreamed off.
Fast forward 20+ years to our new casual highs opening boxes from Italy full of items once dreamed off tempting bids at £998 for a full Fila terrinda tracksuit on ebay and now actually owning 3 colours made in 82 at around 60 weeks school boy wages this was simply out of our league mid 80s. I sense we are still only scratching the 80s casual revival surface the modern day can accommodate £60-75 track tops all day long and enough people will have an ebay punt at £300.bring it on!