I was reflecting, at this reflective time of year, on the people and things from my past, which have had a long-standing and critical influence on what I do and the way that I want to dress and look.
Two people in particular spring to mind. I don’t know who they are, but I saw both of them once and it stayed with me forever.
The first was a boy. In fact probably a man. It was a very hot summer night and my I was driving back from somewhere with my parents and my sisters. We were at a petrol station and we sat in the back of the car, dumpy unglamorous pre-teens. A twenty-something boy, probably 23? But he could have been 19, sauntered past the car in a sloppy white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to below his elbows and some knee-length shorts. He was very tanned and had his sunglasses on his head. He walked with his hands in his pockets.
The most crucial detail was that he wasn’t wearing any shoes. Just sauntering along, stretching his legs during a long car journey with no shoes on. I imagined how nice it would be to be feeling the tarmac still hot and dusty from the boiling day on the soles of my feet. I imagined how nice it would be to be free to do that, not to be questioned on why I didn’t have any shoes on by my parents and sisters.
He wasn’t even very handsome. But the insouciance of his manner, the shoelessness, has stayed with me for years. You will rarely catch me wearing shoes and I have my hands in my pockets almost constantly – except when I’m talking to a teacher, obviously.
The second person was a woman at a press day for Monsoon (stay with me) which I was waitressing at when I was about twenty. She was slight with long blond hair that fell in a hippyish wavy way about her face and fell to somewhere between her shoulder and her elbow. She had fine gold and colourful slim bangles on her wrists (none of which I reckon were from Accessorise) and tons of little gold necklaces.
As I served coffee or whatever it was, my stupid slippery thick red hair tied back or up in some unflattering way, I stole glances at this nereid. I only really remember clearly the way that her hair fell against the back of her arms.
It has taken me 16 years to work out how to make my hair do that sort of hippyish blonde wavy thing and it falls, almost precisely to somewhere between my shoulder and elbow.
And let me tell you, there will need to be some sort of family intervention before I willingly cut it off.
How about you? Who are the random people from your past whose images are burned on your fashion and style memory?
When I was about thirteen, a terrible TV version of Sweet Valley High was screened on children’s TV on a Saturday morning. All the girls were Californian, tanned, blonde, and shapely. (It was the nineties.) They were probably played by twenty-year-olds. I remember wondering why I didn’t look like that (I’m pale, dark haired and have the body of a boy) – cue at least ten years of bleaching, tanning and Wonderbras. I needed a slap from Audrey Hepburn.
Tales from the middle ages says
What an interesting question! I yearned for straight shiny blonde hair from about aged 5 when my mum bought Abba Arrival and I first saw the blonde one’s hair. Sadly this was 1977, i while I was at least blonde, i was cursed with wild curls and decent straightners were not to be invented for many years to come – so I was more Robert Plant than Agneta. Fortunately I have now mastered the straight look and like you, it would take an act of parliament to make me have it cut and even then I would have to seek asylum in Sweden.
You probably weren’t wearing any shoes in the car either, because when you were little you kept taking them off and throwing them out of the window. Now THAT’s freedom
Chantal Quak says
I was about 18 and wandered into this shop in Amsterdam, and saw a very very very hip shop-assistant. An older woman -well at least older than me anyway- and she was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Short black hair, wide jeans, tattoos and the most expensive skateboarding sneakers. I was impressed because I assumed you weren’t ‘allowed’ to wear sneakers anymore once you hit 35.
I’m 41 now and still wear them!
1. Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Not the Givenchy stuff, but the bit where she’s burning the dinner in a big roll neck jumper, and still looks effortlessly chic; and you realise she wears all the designer stuff with the same nonchalance, and that the nonchalance is key to the glamour. Anyway, I’ve always been attracted to a big jumper since then. And sunglasses with everything.
2. Art teacher who used to wear these androgynous suits, black with white shirts, tailored trousers and brogues. She used to kind of slouch around with her HANDS IN HER POCKETS. She had the type of short hair I would never be able to carry off, but she looked so cool and feminine without seeming to try. She had some diamond stud earrings and a diamond engagement ring, and they really stood out. I’ve always favoured that slightly masculine styling, not going over the top with accessories, but making sure what you do wear is really good. Still waiting for the diamond studs.
3. My brother’s ex-girlfriend left almost no impression on me except for a love of scarves – I’ve had a twinkly, hippieish collection of scarves since I was about 13 as a result, but then the whole world went a bit scarfy for a while so I scaled it back a bit.
I can’t think of anyone from my early life right now but I am SERIOUSLY girl crushing on Christine ( and the queens)
I’ve always been a girlie-girl and I’m a bit sick of it now at 33, not feeling very stylish at the moment.
I watched Glastonbury on tv & saw her – really loving her look/dancing – she just doesn’t give a fuck
This isn’t from the past but one of my daughters is insanely chic and she’s 10 (the other is 8 and channels Rita Ora sartorially so we can safely say it’s something you are born with and cannot be taught). Tilly will not wear anything with embellishments but will entertain a stripe occasionally and carries off black leggings, white tshirt and flipflops which such aplomb that people stare at her in the street. I think it’s an inbuilt chic-ness that some people just have. It’s also to do with body shape. She’s got long limbs and fingers and feet and whilst not being especially amazing looking just looks GOOD in clothes.
Carly Simon on the cover of her No Secrets Album. 70’s braless waif thing, even though I’m not waiflike in the least and would be buried in an anthill rather that be caught braless. I am a complete sucker for a pair of flare leg jeans and floppy hat business.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’m an uber Jackie (O) Kenedy fan. All that intentional elegance is mind boggling.
I’ve battled with fine limp hair all my life. Long, short short, all colours, permed, straightened to extra lank. Then only recently, say two years ago, Claire Underwood came into my life. I’ve had her shorter do – and compliments – for all that time. That’s me done, forever.
Mrs Copperfield, pottery teacher circa 1978. Hippy chick with long coppery hair, bracelets aplenty and quite the obsession for an Indian skirt. She cut a dash and brought exoticism to life in a northern town.
When I was about 13 my best friend’s 17 year old sister (who was beautiful in an ‘I don’t give a fuck’ way) had these knee-high brown leather pull on boots with slight chunky heel that she used to slip into before waving us goodbye to attend some rave or another with her hot drug dealer boyfriend – every winter since I’ve been trying to find a pair of boots as cool as those.
Also: Pink in that ‘There You Go’ video. Hello? Long hair was done for me then.
I was about fifteen, travelling home from Exeter. Opposite a girl, I’m sure she was a student, with longish hair which she deftly twisted up and secured with a biro. I just stared at her like a loon, I’m sure. That undefinable something.
I’m pretty sure I can date my addiction to floppy grey sweaters with a white vest or coloured bra strap visible from my addiction to “Melrose Place” and “Beverly Hills 90210” (the original). My husband even says “floppy grey sweater?” when he sees me walking in with a Zara bag in my hand. My Mum’s aunt (now passed) always had an armful of glorious silver bangles, collected from her world travels, and I loved looking at them. I now have at least one on each wrist.
Can’t narrow it down to specific individuals, but you have captured so perfectly the admiring, covert, covetous scrutiny to which I have subjected (and still do) anyone whose style catches my eye. Like laurawelsh’s daughter, for example- always been drawn to people who’ve perfected chic simplicity. Never worked out definitively whether it’s the clothes or the person who’s wearing them.
I followed a lady around waitrose yesterday! (in a non- creepy way, honestly!) she was about 5’10, model-like figure, but she was dressed in sportswear, Nike leggings and trainers, white t shirt, Levi’s denim jacket and a khaki baseball cap- she looked so effortlessly cool. Her HAIR was what got my attention though, she had the between Shoulder and elbow length hair, wavy at the ends- blonde/sun kissed but obviously a natural redhead- a bit like your hair actually, Esther! I have naturally red hair too but COMPLETELY the wrong complexion carry off the blonder thing, even with a meagre tan! I’m always v envious of those who can pull it off and look great!
my hair has gone hideously brassy as I don’t use a specialist dyed hair shampoo and have been in the sun and in a lot of chlorinated pools. I look like pat butcher
jo dodsley says
A boy called Michael w red hair wearing a blue velvet jacket on my 2nd day at uni. He was like a sprite. Weirdly I got to know him later on but he was at the vending machine in the language dept and I just stood still, thinking mainly “ah. Uh. Yum. Ugh.” And “Cool. I need a jacket like that. Oh. I’m at uni. I can wear anything I want.”