Never cool

For a few weeks, in the spring of 1981, I tried to be trendy, or whatever was the appropriate word forty years ago.

I can date my trendy period very precisely. I dropped out of my undergraduate studies at the London School of Economics at Easter 1980 and returned a year later.

The lost year probably didn’t assist my efforts. I had enjoyed the music of the Ska bands a year earlier so decided I would wear black and white when the rest of the world had moved on. The New Romantics were in the ascendancy, young men wore extravagant hairstyles and make up. The collar and tie of Madness and the like had become like a relic from two decades before. At least I hadn’t bought a pork pie hat.

Wrongly dressed and not liking the right music, between April and June of 1981, I still made an effort to connect with a world that was a mystery to me. I bought New Musical Express and Melody Maker and read reviews of concerts and records by bands of whom I had never heard. I bought a Teardrop Explodes tee-shirt in the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street for £3.50, a lot to pay for a tee-shirt at the time. It faded after a single wash. Had I not washed it, I could have sold it in more recent times for a sum considerably greater than £3.50. Perhaps I tried too hard, I never discovered what it meant to be cool.

Moving to live in Northern Ireland in 1983 meant moving into a world which embraced the past. Wearing flannel trousers and a collar and tie and a V-necked woollen pullover put me in the mainstream of church culture. When I was ordained in 1986, the greys and blacks of clerical attire meant there was no need to be concerned with what was trendy.

Forty years later, wearing everyday a middle aged teacher’s garb of collar and tie with a sports jacket and trousers, or a dark suit for parents’ evenings, I wouldn’t be able to describe what was now considered to be fashionable. The young people whom I teach seem diverse in their tastes and their hairstyles.

However, a connection with the days of forty years ago has been made possible by Mojo magazine. Switching my Lloyd’s Bank account to an account called Club Lloyd’s has brought me a magazine that gives me a monthly insight into the mysterious world of music. What is most reassuring is that some of the names have endured those four decades -as cool now as I was never.


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