Tuesday, February 12, 2008

South London Casuals 1983

From time to time I am forced to stand in line at a shop called White Hall Clothiers in Camberwell Road buying school uniforms for which they are the monopoly supplier. But once upon a time it was different - in the early 1980s casual boom, it was the centre of the South London label cult according to this article in The Face in July 1983:

Forget Kensington Market and the Kings Road, this is street fashion. Style is almost an irrelevance: the label is what matters.

The story of White Hall Clothiers, 77 Camberwell Road, London SE5 is typical. A couple of years ago it was a school uniform shop: blazers, badges, ties, a bit of sportswear. Now what little is left of the uniforms is shoved to the back, soon to be gone for good. The rest is tocked to the hilt with expensive brand-name sports and casual gear - Lacoste, Fila, Diadora, Pringle, Fiorucci. What's more, business is booming.

The staff are amused when someone who knows the shop as it used to be wanders in, looks around at the unfamiliar range, the young customers milling about, the assistant holding that Fila tracksuit top up for inspection for the tenth time in half an hour, the ten-year-old in the Pierre Cardin T-shirt covetously eyeing the Lacoste range, the mum being nagged by her 14-year-old son to fork out upwards of £30 for a pair of Diadora green flash kangaroo-skin train­ers when those much-cheaper Adidas ones would do just as well ... looks around at all this and mutters: "What's happened?"

What has happened? Specifically, 18 months ago White Hall Clothiers noticed that certain lines of sports gear were outselling everything else, so they stocked up. The grey flannel Farah
trousers they got in sold out immediately. So did the Lacoste tennis shirts, and the Pringle diamond pullovers, and one thing led to another.

Generally? Brand-names are back. And with a vengeance. The standard outfit down the Wal­worth Road goes something like this. From the top:

• Wedge or wetlook hair; highlights are in, deerstalkers (popular until recently) now out. Lacoste, Fila or Ellesse tennis shirts. Gabicci are definitely wrong, Cardin are acceptable but passe, Lacoste are getting that way. Girls also like Benetton rugby shirts.
• Pringle (squares or stripes, not diamonds, plain for school only). Lyle & Scott and some­times Benetton pullovers and cardigans. Lacoste and Cardin again popular but fading, Bannatyne cashmere or Armaini arriving.
• Fila or Sergio Tacchini tracksuit tops (some­times whole thing) for boys, Club Sport for girls. Lacoste: same story. Burberry jackets.


Anonymous said...

yeah but what about Fred Perry hey??

Howie G said...

Sportswear and where you buy it is not a rational choice, it's not about getting the best. Like us, we like I like harlem, and this is all, at http://harlemface.com

Jel Weeks said...

I remember White Hall Clothiers in Lewisham which was and still is a bus ride away. Just across the road was a shop called Riverside Sports which stocked every classic 80s trainer under the sun. It had all trainers across every wall in the shop. Rockbottom in Deptford sold a few casual bits including Lois jeans and jumbo cords amongst other things.