Archive for December 13th, 2009

A casual buy No. 5

December 13, 2009

It is a widely acknowledged fact that casual culture started in Merseyside in the late 1970s. Hordes of Liverpool scallies followed their team on their successful runs in the major European football competitions around this time. Being true scousers many took the opportunity to raid the poorly secured continental clothes and sports shops. The scallies were the first to be seen wearing such sporting goods labels as Lacoste, Sergio Tacchini, Fila and Ellesse on the bleak football terraces of late seventies Britain.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, other young male football fans were either dressed in biker leathers, flares, club scarves, bobble hats and knitted tank tops (the regions); or, especially in the nation’s capital, bovver boots, donkey jackets, sta-prest trousers, braces and Fred Perry jumpers. London youth was immersed deep in the mod revival/skinhead movement, and the terraces of all the London clubs were full of unruly suedeheads and latter-day sawdust caesars.

When the cockneys saw the scousers at the match in their bright Italian sportswear, their “wedge” haircuts and adidas trainers, they most likely died laughing. The scallies saw the cockneys as muggy boneheads with no style. But, eventually the casual look caught on, especially when the London boys realised how easy it was for the effeminate looking northerners to evade the police – who were still out looking for shaven-headed louts in club colours on matchdays.

So, the casual scene grew and all the mod and skin clothes were eventually thrown away or kept on the backs of older lads who would never look like the “facking poofs” in their Trim Trabbs and Fila Bj trackies. All the old clothing labels died out, all except one that is, and that label was Fred Perry. The Manchester version of the scouse scally was even named after Fred’s clothing line.

The Fred Perry V-neck jumper in burgundy has outlived them all, it has seen the original 1960s mods come and go, the original skins, the new waves, the casuals, the Stone Island/Burberry clones of the 1990s, and can still be found on the backs of well dressed lads at the football or when they’re out on the tiles on a Saturday night.

The Specials' Terry Hall models a rare limited edition Fred Perry V neck with oversized laurel

If you own only one item of casual clothing, this is the one it should be. I’m a bit of a mod too, in clothes and musical taste, so how can I not own the only item that managed to straddle the gulf between so many antagonistic subcultures? What I’m saying here is that the Fred Perry V-neck is THE item of football fashion, but it is much more than that – it’s as much a British cultural icon as the Mini Cooper, or Big Ben, or Doctor Märtens’ famous boots, OI! That is why you’ll see old blokes, scruffy students, superannuated mods, and smart football dressers all wearing it. It’s a beaut.