When discussing British fashion, expect to hear the names of Burberry, Paul Smith, Barbour and Savile Row alongside tweed, smoking-jacket, top hat and ambiguous words like ‘heritage’. But British fashion has arguably been the most varied of any country – think Punks, Mods, Hippies and Rockers. British fashion has never been just for protection against the British weather, it’s about the British mentality, the British identity – a shoe saying as much about the individual as
Highlighting this British diversity was London’s triumphant Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Games 2012. The ceremony celebrated such things as the British countryside, Bond, music and Mr Bean but included hopping Punks, colourful Beatles look-a-likes and a house party with Dizzie Rascal at the mic. It was a celebration of the people, for the people, kick-starting what promises to be a fantastic 3 weeks.
This Mood Board Fashion article is an extension of this celebration of the British people (minus 7,000+ volunteers) and their unique style. Specifically, we will look at the distinct style of the British working class of the 80s. As far away from Savile Row and bowler hats as can be imagined, the aesthetic of the British working class from this era is of hard work-wear, big boots and checked shirts.
It’s a look that has bags of masculinity and some very versatile pieces, which can be easily adapted into your current outfits.
A good guide to the kind of look we’re creating in this article is the 2006 film This is England and the following TV series’ This is England ‘86 and This is England ‘88. Revolving around a bunch of working class skinheads, it showcases how important clothes are to this group – not only as a symbol of their identity, but to look good and feel confident too:
The film includes clothing that is easily available (and probably already in your everyday wardrobe) but typically worn with more unusual items or in a different way. It’s a gritty style that has masculinity and an attitude reinforced through tough accessories and bold footwear. It’s the look of a man who shy’s away from spending too much time in front of the mirror, but knows the importance of looking good – achieving it with minimal effort.
These summer and winter collections, from Calvin Klein and Andrea Pompilio respectively, show an updated look to the This is England characters and how to make the transition from summer to winter.
Both collections contain statement denim pieces, showing how these pieces adapt from summer to winter. Calvin Klein prove double denim can look stylish with denim shirts under jackets with jeans – with varying shades stopping you from looking like a mess of denim. The collection also shows how a simple denim or leather jacket over a white shirt or vest can look effortless yet stylish.
Andrea Pompilio’s collection has similar signature attributes but adapts them for the autumn/winter months. In one of my favourite shows of AW12, Pompilio’s collection is a celebration of the everyday, showing a variety of looks quite clearly influenced by a street-style rather than high fashion; the exact ethos of the Working Class Hero look.
The collection features a relaxed aesthetic, with layering of different textures and colours bringing the looks together. Woollen cardigans are thrown on over simple t-shirts and under a heavy-duty jacket. The diversity of a worn pair of jeans is also apparent, and serves as a reminder for those who dropped them in favour of chinos that they still work with nearly every combination of clothing.
A particularly nice touch comes in the form of shoe laces used as belts – similar to the unique accessories seen in This is England. Chunky shoes can also be seen here but in more formal styles, such as brogues and loafers with thick soles.
When it comes to shirts, this look will take anything. Checked, prints, vests, white shirt – each will add something to the aesthetic. Look at the This is England cast’s checked shirts under dark denim or a dark blouson, or a simple shirt tucked into a pair of jeans with a pair of braces.
Look at the Calvin Klein collection for that double denim look or the Pompilio collection for that effective layering of coats over jumpers over shirts. The products below are a selection that could easily be combined with many different outfits and form the base of many of the possible looks.
It’s all about denim here. Jeans are such a versatile and everyday item that they can often be dismissed as being a simple, almost unfashionable piece. This is obviously not the case. It’s their versatility that means a pair of jeans can look equally great with a simple t-shirt as they would dressed up with a blazer. For the look we’re trying to achieve in this article, the jeans are more often of a slim fit and change between raw and washed denim.
Raw denim is often darker and works well with both formal and casual wear. It looks especially good with other dark clothing but to add a shot of colour, try a checked or bright shirt under the darker jacket.
Washed denim will be a stalwart piece of this look. The Calvin Klein and Pompilio collections show how washed denim can be worn in both S/S and A/W, emphasising how this classic piece can be worn effectively all year round.
Chunky shoes have been making quite the resurgence recently. Think Prada’s chunky golf shoes, Burberry’s raffia shoe and the reemergence of the creeper shoe on the high street. It’s this type of silhouette that will complete the look we are trying to achieve. To be truthful to the hard, masculine aesthetic of the This is England crowd, a pair of Doc Martens are what you’re after:
The above video explains how Doc Martens were the shoe of the marginalised and the disillusioned of society during the time of This is England but today they are the shoes of the trendy and are built to withstand the toughest of weather conditions. Worn with turned up jeans, a pair of Doc Martens will always get style kudos.
A nice alternative to the Doc Martens, as seen at the Andrea Pompilio show, are formal shoes with a thick vibram sole. Very much on trend, these shoes are both formal and edgy, whilst also being completely practical during the autumn/winter season.
As we all know, accessories will add personality and individuality to any outfit instantly. The great thing about the look we are trying to achieve today is that the key accessories are those that are often under-used within men’s fashion.
It takes a brave man to pull off braces and a felt/wool trilby, but as you can see in the This is England lookbook, they did this with effortless ease. Having the confidence to utilise such accessories is the key, as anything other than 100% conviction in how you wear them will ensure your look doesn’t feel congruent.
When opting for braces, please remember to remove your belt, as this is the most common faux pas I see by males who try to sport them. Opt for skinny or thick depending on your body type (wide shoulders with wide braces and vice versa) and bear in mind you do not have to wear them up – loosely dropped down around your waist can be a great way of individualising a casual everyday look.
For those whose head shape doesn’t suit a trilby, you can look at flat cap and beanie alternatives. Again, they were usually seen in dark monotone colours, with the latter coming in smaller styles or rolled up slightly in order to make a statement.
This look could be seen as your typical jeans and a t-shirt combination at first, but as you delve deeper it becomes a really easy way of turning a casual outfit into something that exudes attitude, style and masculinity. Even better, each of the items can be rotated into a variety of different outfits, keeping your looks from becoming monotonous.
Furthermore, the collections from Calvin Klein and Andrea Pompilio prove how diverse this look can be, transcending through S/S and A/W effortlessly, whilst the ‘This is England’ characters show how it isn’t just a seasonal trend, but a way of life.
Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below, and feel free to share themes/inspirations you have utilised this season in order to develop your own personal signature style…