Sunday, 14 November 2010

Following In The Footsteps Of Two Very Unlikely Style Icons

I could quite possibly be the least rebellious daughter ever. Never once have I rejected my vegetarian upbringing, have never strayed too far from the non-committal socialistic ideals I was raised with; and last September I smacked the final nail in the coffin of the rebellious, pedantic, persona that never was: I followed my parents to university in Manchester. In fact, the only significant aspect of my life which is diametrically opposed to my beloved ma and pa is my constant preoccupation and borderline obsession with clothes, fashion and pretty much everything associated with the aesthetic.

From their student stories (including their second year spent squatting in Hulme, starting up a DIY cat sanctuary and ending their degree with a baby daughter) the descriptions never sounded particularly stylish, innovative or even 'cool'. It wasn't until I realised about 30% of my wardrobe is comprised of my father's weather-worn, aran cardigans, old shirts and jackets that I began to appreciate that they once ever had any sense of style.

More at home these days in a battered welly boots, what remains of his looted jumper collection; with an untamed mane and generally covered in soil: my father bears for resemblance to an Organic Farming Irish Jesus than an alternative fashion renegade. In lieu of this, it was with genuine surprise and appreciation that I looked, with fresh eyes at old photographs of him at University. Sat in front of a Bob Marley poster, with a can of Special Brew on the floor of a familiarly grimy Fallowfield back-to-back, he looks nothing short of a Withnail/Morrissey hybrid: in the most uncontrived, genuinely original way that is possible to be pulled off. Indeed, the image of the man he was then, forever preserved in the faded, well thumbed photograph, bears uncanny resemblance to the appearance which countless hordes (generally congregated around the Samuel Alexander building by day or Trof of an evening) try so desperately to emulate.

The same is true of my mother. Though completely beautiful throughout all eras of her life so far, she looked so innately stylish in her days spent roaming around this dirty old town, twenty years ago. The undercut hair, layered tops, baggy knits, silk ballet pumps and countless trinkets dangling from around her wrists and neck render her student look eerily current and - though teamed with a full head of marginally cleaner, blonde hair and a decidedly more conscious styling effort – bears serious resemblance to my own.

I guess what makes my parents (or rather them at aged twenty) true 'unlikely' style icons in my mind was the fact that their “effortless” ensembles were quite literally just that. Their efforts were concentrated instead on relishing their student experience (albeit a very unorthodox one) as opposed to to obsessing over what they should wear to make it clear to others that they were doing so. The innately stylish image they had was neither an obsession or a preoccupation, just cheap, thrown together and bohemian, in its truest essence. I guess therein lies my rebellion: I was at my most impressionable at a time when the word “bohemian” was most commonly attributed to Sienna Miller. It's not my fault, I'm a child of consumer capitalism, not the revolution and for the most part, I'm okay with that.

In short, my very unusual, charmingly eccentric and mildly insane parents are truly unlikely, style icons, because, even since Laura Ashley, the nineties and an organic farm occurred respectively between them: there was a time, in this place, when they were infinitely and effortlessly cooler than I.


  1. I couldn't believe it when I stumbled across these photos! Thought I was having flashbacks. :-)
    I've got more photos from that era if you'd like me to send them--and even two short stories featuring a character inspired by your dad. And I remember you crawling around under our chairs during French lectures at Mannie. Obviously you were a good deal smaller then.