Not all pouffy hair bands are alike.
We here at RTH are interested in an in-depth understanding of music and all the minutiae that goes with it, including the musicians (David Bowie!, Paul Weller!), the culture (Hippies!), the way in which we listen to music (Headphones!), the ranking of the output of a band or artist (Top 10 Lists!)…and The Look (Sideburns!). So when Mr. Mod recently made this comment in regards to Paul Weller and the 1980s UK fashions, it made my blood go cold:
I don’t need anything beyond a couple of ABC, Orange Juice, Haircut 100, New Order, and Human League-type singles from that v-neck sweater/pouffy hair scene.
We at Rock Town Hall can not stand for this egregious misunderstanding of the fashion of an era! Just as we focus and comment on the subtle differences in a musician’s use of a Les Paul vs Fender, it is crucial to discern an artist’s or era’s fashion trends and the possible meaning behind those trends. And it is of utmost importance that when we include descriptors such as “v-neck sweater, pouffy hair scene” we know exactly whom we are talking about.
While the UK music scene of the early ’80s could be a swirling tea of fashion over function, each band worked very hard to craft a particular “Look” that acted as a signifier to other musicians and the music press.
Orange Juice: In love with VU, the Byrds, and Andy Warhol Pop Art, they adopted Ray-Ban glasses, nautical striped tees, fringed suede jackets, raccoon hats, plaid shirts, and jellies.
ABC: To reflect his love for disco and Roxie Music, Martin Frye et al adopted a slick, tailored look, which included gold lame suits.
New Order: Although the band members went on to disclaim the Third Reich references of their name, their early look was very similar to fellow Factory Records band, A Certain Ratio, and included military references such as tailored white shirts and shorts. Bernard Sumner appeared to have watched “The Tin Drum” too many times.
Haircut 100: I’ll give this one to Mod: when I think of Haircut 100, even I imagine those pretty blond boys with their sweaters and nicely-coiffed hair. And Nick Heyward’s smile was just so sparkly.
Human League: Who can forget (even if we try) Phil Oakey’s asymmetrical hair cut and heavy eyeliner? But before the girls came along, Human League’s dark, futuristic music and look were pretty gloom-and-doom and even featured some facial hair.
Perhaps Mod (and others?) are reacting to the way that these bands were promoted and adopted in the United States, and how they spawned such evil fashion offspring as Wham and Kajagoogoo. But to lump them all together would be a crime that we at RTH should not stand for!