Friends are like clothes, they are either in or out of fashion, they make you look good or not.
As a teenager I defined style as the point where politics and music intersected.The Clash were the only band that mattered and after reading Orwell’s ‘Homage to Catalonia’ I ruled out communism in favour of anarchism with a touch of pacifism. I already had green army coat and black army pants, I just needed one extra piece of garment to complete my style, and so I asked my mother to knit me a sweater in the colours of the FAI (Federación Anarquista Ibérica) flag. This anarcho-syndicalist group fought on the losing side of the Spanish Civil war, but stood solidly on the right side of morality. Now my armour was complete; the right music, the right conviction and the right fashion statement. Had I known about Joe Strummer’s shoe doctrine (‘always wear shoes that are good for running or fighting’) I would have also worn Dr. Martens, but in my youthful ignorance I associated Dr. Martens with skinheads and Nazis.
All of my friends wore similar outfits. In this sea of uniformity t-shirts quickly became a defining piece of garment. I also needed a t-shirt that would confirm my identity, and so I went t-shirt shopping with one of my friends. We quickly found a brilliant one; a t-shirt with the cover picture of The Clash’s first album. Only one problem: there was only one and we both wanted it. My friend managed to convince me it looked better on him. I was too shy to object, too devoid of any real friends to risk the relationship. I gave it to him and bought myself a P.I.L. t-shirt. Not a bad choice, but it still felt like rejecting my one true love. If I didn’t cry that night I will do in retrospect today.
My friend stole my love. he ran off with my (musical) girlfriend. He wasn’t really into The Clash. I was. It was my love, not his, he just stole my love for the sake of parading her around. Politics, music and fashion, it was all the same to me. Not to him. Only a few years earlier he called the British invasion of the Falklands a necessity, a matter of principle. That view shocked me beyond words. Had I known Fad gadget’s ‘Under the Flag’ at the time, I would have given it to him, as mandatory education.
Looking back, me and my friends used our music and our style to mask something else: our obsession with girls. One problem: they were all into U2 and for us U2 were just a bunch of sissies. Maybe our music of choice was interesting, but it didn’t leave much of an impression with the ones we desperately wanted to impress. Only the package of Joy Division, teenage alienation and exaggerated melancholy brought something, but it was only motherly attention, not the love we were craving for.
Only one of us played a better game. It was a new friend who recently moved from the big city to our provincial town. He quickly saw we were playing a losing game. Aggressive and obscure music would never create female attention. He opted for reggae. Reggae was political, but also uplifting and cheerful. All the girls loved reggae, and him as the reggae toastmaster.Tweet