July 1976: dungarees and leisurewear are standard of perfection for the latest fashion – skateboarding.
Photograph: Frank Martin for the Defender
For two years there have been a group of builders put together on a site at the end of my road. Day after day they turn up in dungarees and defoliated torsos, or on cooler days, navy blue boiler skirts. They are a cheery, good looking lot but until this summer I intent not have called them fashionable.
Now, should the spirit and the bank level take them, they could scrape the grime from their get involved in nails, attach a limpid blonde to the left arm and join the meleé on the steps of Merton’s of Mayfair, or some similarly “in” set up and scarcely be noticed.
Scarcely, but the difference is that they partake of not donned the creations of Marshall Lester, Jeff Cooper, Fiorucci or any other now names; their casual gear is for real and will indisputably continue to do good service long after the fashionable outbreak of dungarees, shadow suits, cat suits and all-in-ones have been discarded in advocate of the next commercial gimmick.
Leisurewear, as these garments are recalled, have become the fashion catchword of the seventies: an easy, undefined call which covers an eclectic assortment of clothes for unspecified bring on, and isn’t the stalwart of an ailing rag trade industry. When the steady victuals of clothes for office, parties, evenings out with the new lover or uninterrupted the home do not pull in the customers in sufficient bulk, hey presto, we get a new leisurewear inclination.
Commercialism, then, is the mother of invention, but at minute it has given us a practical, enjoyable look this time. There are mountains of standard blue denim jump suits and dungarees to be had in such machine shops as Jean Machine, Jean Junction and other denim expert stores. But for this page I have taken a selection of the common designs which would cause an orchestra of whistles on any structure site.
Miss Mouse has designed blue and white hamper dungarees with a nipped in elasticated waist; Strawberry Studio, too, go for the ribald fifties look with their candy stripe hull hugging suit; my favourite is Marshall Lester’s crumpled cotton indelicate dungarees with cutaway bodice and well cut bottom half; Fiorucci, the neat Italian firm, have a variety of dungarees and we photographed a chopped off yoke with bib.
But what’s the use of leisurewear if you don’t know the fashionable way to be leisurely? If James and Bob, the two teenaged Americans we met in Holland Park are anything to go by, skateboarding is what you do in your show-off gear. This crazy sport which consists of equal on a very expensive board fitted with precision positions, and then zooming hither and thither, has, I am told, swept California and is in to take us by storm.
Not if London’s park keepers have anything to do with it. They comprise already chased James and Bob from Hampstead Heath and Regent’s Parking-lot, and the boys are off in search of a different form of leisure – surfing in Penzance.