The story of the Chelsea Boot goes back to the 1830s, when they were known as paddock boots, their elasticated sides, snug fit, sturdy design and relative lightness a boon to the equestrian community.
According to traditional footwear suppliers Samuel Windsor, the shoe was originated by J. Sparkes-Hall, bootmaker to Queen Victoria (who wore them regularly).
In the mid-1950s they were sported as leisure-wear by the monied, young Chelsea Set which gathered in the King’s Road and frequented The Markham Arms, Mary Quant’s Bazaar and her partners Archie McNair and Alexander Plunket Green’s jazz club/restaurant Alexander’s.
Slimmed, with a centre seam and a heightened Cuban heel for Flamenco dancers, London’s theatrical shoemakers Anello & Davide introduced their version, the Baba boot (“a new Italian-inspired version of that long, lean look”) in the early 60s.
Soon the shoe design entered the visual language of rock & roll via fashion-mad teenage beatniks, art students and modernists.
Final preparations are being made to John Simons’ new shop at 46 Chiltern Street, in the simpa area of London’s West End wedged between Baker Street and Marylebone High Street.
The sign has yet to be erected and there are many finishing touches to be made but already the space is shaping up to present a unique offer. “I’m juxtaposing the clothes with my abiding interests in art and design over many years,” says Simons.
As explored in THE LOOK, Simons is the nonpareil purveyor of the finest US menswear brands, in particular those associated with Ivy League and the 50s/60s modernist movement in clothes.
Simons has long been at the forefront of the field, with such rich associations as Cecil Gee in the 50s, The Ivy Shop in the 60s and 70s and J.Simons in Covent Garden for more than two decades up until February this year.
John Simons, Chiltern Street, London W1, November 30, 2010.
INSIDE JOHN SIMONS’ NEW STORE: “A MODERNIST’S DREAM”
[This was originally posted on December 7,2010]
Tomorrow see the opening of John Simons’ smart new retail outlet at 46 Chiltern Street, London W1.
These photographs were taken last week; much progress has been made since, but they should provide a flavour of the environment Simons and his team – including son Paul – are creating.
Formerly the site of a print shop, the premises have been transformed into a modernist’s dream, decorated with art, insignia, branding, furniture and design classics, some of which serve as fittings, such as the Penguin Donkey which will be used to display socks.
THE LOOK has been granted first look at this rock fashion classic: a 50s black leather motorcycle jacket which is being put up for sale by the owner, who purchased it from a thrift store on The Bowery in 1975.
The jacket is in remarkable condition considering that it has been on the road and around the world in the last three-and-a-half decades.
It was also worn for its purpose; the owner ran a Harley for a number of years.
Adorned with Harley Davidson and American Motorcycle Association patches, this is a Sears Roebuck AllState, with black quilted lining and lined, zippered pockets complete with original black suede pulls. There is also a metal-poppered flap pocket.
The belt is retained with a screw in the back panel. Details include epaulettes with star-shaped studs, shoulder vents and zips on each sleeve cuff.
//David Bowie wears John Stephen on a modeling assignment with Jan De Souza in Kingly Street W1 for Fabulous 208, 1965. Photo: Fiona Adams//
//Up on the roof, central London 1967. Photo: Kenneth Pitt. //
//Ziggy Stardust’s first photo call, 1972. Photo: Brian Ward/David Bowie Archive.//
Any Day Now, the new book about David Bowie’s London life between 1947 and 1974, is hands-down the music book publishing sensation of the year.
And THE LOOK has been granted exclusive access to the new book, which has been written and compiled by Bowie expert Kevin Cann and is out next month.
Any Day Now’s 320-plus pages are crammed with delights both factual and visual, charting Bowie from his birth, background and childhood interests in music, design and art through to his beginnings in local beat groups and eventual world-beating success.
//In Paddington Street Gardens, central London, 1969. The bag was designed by Alan Mair of The Beatstalkers (and later The Only Ones). Photo: Kenneth Pitt.//
//Rocking the Keith Relf look with The Manish Boys, 1965. Photo: Bob Solly//
//With Angie (Angela Barnett) outside Bromley register office on their wedding day, March 20, 1970. The couple wore clothes bought the previous day at Kensington Market. Bowie’s Courrèges belt was a gift from friend Calvin Mark Lee. Photo: Kentish Times.//
As a document of the most important image-maker of our times, it is unparalleled, reflecting Cann’s decades-long absorption in his subject and access to original sources and important material.
//In Mr Fish mandress on the cover of Curious magazine with Freddie Buretti, May 1971.//
Any Day Now is a must for fans of music and fashion, detailing Bowie’s stylistic development as he moved through r&b and mod via folkie and hippie to glam androgyny, drawing on such touchstones of THE LOOK as John Stephen, Dandie Fashions, Kensington Market, Mr Fish, Freddie Buretti, City Lights Studio and Kansai Yamamoto.
//At producer Tony Visconti’s apartment in Lexham Gardens, west London, 1968. Photo: Ray Stevenson.//
There is a fascinating foreword written by Kenneth Pitt, who managed Bowie between 1967 and 1970, and contributions from a cast of hundreds, including close friends and fellow musicians.
//Any Day Now Limited Edition.//
A special limited edition of 475 copies is also being published in hardback, numbered and signed in black cloth-bound clam-shell cases with reproductions of tickets, posters and memorabilia. Each also contains a print of a rare colour photo taken of Bowie in 1967 by Gerald Fearnley (who has signed them).
//Any Day Now Limited Edition with signed Gerard Fearnley photograph.//
To find out more and order copies of the limited edition, click here.
In this I aimed to join the dots between Elvis in the early 50s, The Beatles, Biba and Granny Takes A Trip in the 60s, through Bowie and McLaren & Westwood in the 70s and 80s and the rise of MTV to the music/fashion link-ups of today, including Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green, Pixie Lott‘s ranges for Lipsy, and Lily Allen’s new venture Lucy In Disguise.
It seemed to go down well; I was really impressed with the number of teenagers who knew and owned copies of The Look.
The event also gave me an opportunity to plug faves such as Peggy Noland + Ssion and heartsrevolution. Who’s’s to know whether the audience members will take to heart the “Choose your own revolution” message but those I spoke to afterwards were certainly sussed to the fact that the high street is a dead-end.
Check out my contributions to Paul Gambaccini’s BBC Radio 2 documentary Elvis The Brand; the first part was broadcast last night (and is available for the next six days here). The second part goes out tonight at 23.30 GMT.
//Elvis and Bernard Lansky, 126 Beale Street, Memphis, 1956. Photo (c) lanskybros.com//
The programme is part of the BBC’s week-long celebration of what would have been Elvis’ 75th birthday on Thursday (January 8).
In the documentary I cover The King’s style from 1952, when he first pressed his nose up against the Lanskys‘ shop window at 126 Beale Street in Memphis, through Nudie Cohn‘s gold lame suit to the flamboyance of the Bill Belew outfit for the 68 Comeback special and Bob Mackie‘s crazed costumery of the final Vegas years.
This is detailed in Chapter 1 of THE LOOK, which features an exclusive interview with clothier to The King Bernard Lansky.
A surprise Christmas “care package” of nine vintage ties from San Francisco rock&roll fashion collector and dealer Ben Cooney has reinvigorated THE LOOK’s interest in these flamboyant articles of clothing.
Having collected vintage ties for three-and-a-half decades, Ben’s selection has rammed home the joy derived from such simple accessories.
Unlike today’s models – and in particular the ultra-passé skinny noo-wave types still being pedalled by High Street chains – these ties are forever, for grown-ups of both sexes.
The bunch sent by Ben are not the highly-collectible painted variety, but printed in silk and rayon and available in Main Street outfitters and from department stores all over the US from the 30s to the 70s.
Invested with design detail, wit and invention, these come in a variety of styles, featuring everything from atomic art, kinetic decoration and tragi-comic fizzogs with saws such as “Don’t cry over spilt milk” to French beatnik illustrations, canine and equestrian imagery and geometric abstractions.
Would that modern articles of clothing were created with such care and attention.
They also provide glimpses into a nearly forgotten past; who knew, for example, that Hemphill-Wells was “a Camelot of men’s style” in Lubbock TX from the 20s to the 50s? It make you wonder whether Buddy Holly ever visited and considered Countess Mara’s cream-on-green dog-leash adorned necktie.
Interest in these discreetly extravagant creations is regularly revived; the late Johnny Moke recalled in THE LOOK how the Bonnie & Clyde look of 1967 coincided with hipsters such as himself scoring kipper ties to go with their demob suits, while Let It Rock and Acme Attractions retailed them in the early to mid 70s.
As the story in the Evening Standard clipping above attests, Johnson’s in Kensington Market and the King’s Road was doing a roaring trade in vintage ties in 1980, by which time forward-thinking clubbers such as Chris Sullivan and performers led by August Darnell were making sure they became an essential part of that decade’s wardrobe.
//Chris Sullivan, 1980. Photo: Graham Smith//
The 90s Swing revival and the 00s rockabilly/burlesque scene witnessed re-entries of the colourful and often wide vintage tie. Wherever we’re headed in the ’10s, the hundred or so in THE LOOK’s possession will remain an essential part of the wardrobe (though not worn all at once, obviously).
Launched recently by collector David Watkins and his ad copywriter wife Amanda Hughes-Watkins, San Francisco-based Goodbye Heart majors in leather garments from such historic outlets as North Beach Leather, Oshwahkon and Vanson as well as East West.
//Military boots with BF Goodrich soles: $95/East West parrot jacket: $2,750//
The parrot jacket is in leather and suede in shades of pale blue, green and brown tan and of a typically small size for the period: the chest measurement armpit to armpit is 18″, as is the length from collar to bottom.
Goodbye Heart features clothes from the 1910s onward, including such brands as Levi’s Big E, Louis Vuitton and Schott, as well as homeware.
Johnny Moke, who has died aged 63, was the London fashion luminary who will be remembered not only as a Mod exemplar and a leading member of the retail scene around Kensington Market and the King’s Road from the Sixties to the Noughties but also as the self-taught creator of elegantly crafted shoes who nurtured fresh design talent.
//Johnny Moke in his King’s Road shop, 2000. Pic: Robert Holmes//
Designer Antony Price recalls the footwear Moke supplied for a 1988 catwalk show. “Johnny produced exquisite black satin shoes with an extremely high heel to go with the architectural dresses I had come up with,” says Price.
“The underside was made out of peach-beige leather, which accentuated the pin-thin heel and made the models – including Yasmin LeBon, Talisa Soto and Naomi Campbell – look stunning.”
Born John Joseph Rowley in Walthamstow, east London, on September 2 1945, Moke developed a precocious interest in style. Interviewed for THE LOOK, he recalled that his dressmaker mother encouraged him in his first shoe purchase at the age of 13: a pair of pearlised crocodile Densons with Cuban heels and gold buckles.
In the early 60s Moke was a member of east London’s select group of clothes-mad modernists which also included Mark Feld (later Marc Bolan) and by 1967 was occupying the tiny work-room/basement of Granny Takes A Trip, selling antique clothes, mainly women’s. With partner Mickey Oram, this business lead to the formation of Rowley & Oram in Kensington Market.
It was around this time that ownership of a series of then-trendy Mini-Mokes inspired the new surname. “Mokey had one car in bright yellow with red bumpers,” says Lloyd Johnson. “We’d all leap in it and drive around being very ‘Swinging London’ for a laugh.”
//Exterior 396 King’s Road, London, 2000. Pic: Robert Holmes//
Fashion developed through personal relationships with pop stars: “I’d design, say, yellow and pink velvet trousers and somebody like Ronnie Wood would see them at The Speakeasy and ask for a pair,” said Moke, who also befriended Jimi Hendrix and made multi-coloured corduroy trousers for the guitarist’s festival appearances.
Moke was the first retailer to stock an outrageous new design from young shoemaker Terry de Havilland – three-tiered patchwork snakeskin platform sandals which proved popular with Bianca Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, Britt Ekland and Angie and David Bowie.
In the early 70s Moke opened the Hollywood Clothes Shop in Fulham. The designs and the interior paid tribute to the golden age of the movies. Cinema seats were installed, moveable fittings portrayed scenes from classic films and the clothes were placed on mannequins of 40s stars. Marc Bolan bought a sailor suit style pair of 30s pyjamas for a performance of Hot Love on Top Of The Pops.
Moke recalled how the most popular line was a bomber jacket with elasticated waists and cuffs in boldly-coloured Prince Of Wales check; one was so favoured by George Harrison that he wore it well into the 90s. The Hollywood Clothes Shop closed in 1972 and Moke opted out of fashion for a few years, travelling the countryside in a caravan and settling on a farm. In the late 70s he returned to the clothes business with Adhoc, which was established in the basement of Kensington Market with his associate Willie Deasey.
In 1979, as the mod revival went into overdrive as a result of the release of The Who’s film Quadrophenia, Moke’s name was introduced to a fresh generation of sartorialists when he collaborated with Richard Barnes on the book Mods!, to which he provided many original items.
//Interior 396 King’s Road London, 2000. Pic: Robert Holmes//
Adhoc was sold on the dissolution of his partnership with Deasy, and survives to this day with an outlet in the former BOY premises at 153 King’s Road. He launched his own outlet, a shoe shop, in 1984 at 396 King’s Road. The crafted footwear drawing on traditional forms soon attracted a faithful international clientele which included Bryan Ferry and Paul Weller.
In 1999 the Johnny Moke label was the subject of three intriguing ad shorts art-directed by Mike Keane and created by agency Broadbent Cheetham Veazey.
Johnny Moke held out longer than most independent boutiques against the invasion of the King’s Road by multiple retailers, chain-coffee shops and mobile phone outlets.
Expressing his disillusionment that fashion “finished with the 20th century” at the hands of globalisation and mass-marketing, Moke reinvented 396 King’s Road with a new label NOWE (an acronym for New/Old/West/East).
He augmented his shoe designs with ethnic clothing created by independent companies from all over the world. Moroccan slippers and Peruvian neck-chokers proved popular as did rails of vintage items such as Burberry raincoats and new lines by young British designers including Kate Sheridan, Alice Temperley and Alison Willoughby.
“The concept is to do anything I want, working with artisans from India to South America,” he told THE LOOK. “It may be fashionable, but it’s not fashion.” Moke finally closed his outlet in 2002 and in recent years his shoes have been available via international licenses, mainly in Asia.
//Two of Moke’s cards for RCA Secrets 2008//
Last year Moke contributed six pieces to the Royal College Of Art’s annual Secrets postcard art project.
Johnny Moke died of a heart attack in Mallorca on April 28.
THE LOOK is a rich source of material for the excellent documentary series Men Of Fashion currently on BBC Radio 4 – listen here to Paul Gorman‘s contribution to episode 13 The King’s Road: Granny Takes A Trip…Into Punk.
//Left: Colin Woodhead 1966. Right: John Pearse 2000. Images (c) Woodhead and Pearse//
//Left: John Stephen Carnaby Street 1966. Right: The King and Bernard Lansky, Memphis, 1956. Images (c) Rex + Lansky Bros//
Presenter Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen casts aside his foppish persona (apart from in the publicity shots) and emerges as an informed anchor harnessing the wide range of facts and views packed into the programme with authority.
Find the Men Of Fashion home-page here, where there is an opportunity to listen to other episodes on Teddy Boys, the influence of sport, Hollywood and royalty.
//Slow Death: Let It Rock drape and studded leather 1972//
THE LOOK witnessed the San Franciscans supported by The Ramones at the legendary (and sweltering) Roundhouse gig on The Fourth Of July 1976, apparently in the company of the punk-rock cognoscenti. The only encounter which sticks in the memory is a bout of speed-fuelled aggression from an out-of-control Shane MacGowan.
But The Roundhouse show was not to herald the much-deserved commercial breakthrough; as their manager at the time, the late lamented Greg Shaw, told me years later for In Their Own Write, the oncoming punk storm overshadowed the headline act that night.
Which is a great shame, because the Groovies were armed with fantastic tunes, attitude to spare, and, as worn by Cyril Jordan that night, this amazing velvet jacket.
Cyril had it made the previous year by tailors Foster & Tara, who usually serviced Granny Takes A Trip, though the King’s Road store was at that time in disarray following the departures of Gene Krell and Marty Breslau.
//Back: Martin Cook, Tara Browne, Gary White. Front: David Vaughn, Dudley Edwards, Douglas Binder//
Foster & Tara was operated by the father-and-son team of Pops and Cliff Foster, and had been set up with Guinness heir Tara Browne, whose tragic death at the age of 21 in a car accident on December 18 1966 inspired The Beatles’ A Day In The Life.
//Tara Browne + Paul McCartney//
There is a completely wild conspiracy website claiming that Paul McCartney actually died in the crash; the current ex-Beatle and former husband of Heather Mills, is, apparently, none other than Tara Browne!
The Beatles’ connection to Cyril’s jacket is more verifiable. “I’d seen a photo of Ringo wearing one of the coats in purple or burgundy in an issue of Beatles Monthly,” says Cyril, who these days pours his musical energies into his band Magic Christian.
//David Wright (far left) in his F&T jacket 1976//
“I took the magazine photo to Foster & Tara and Pops told me he still had fabric which Paul McCartney had brought back from Paris years earlier for clothes for all The Beatles. There were rolls of water silk, sharkskin and velvet in various colours. We got such a kick having jackets made from the same material and designs.”
The coats weren’t cheap, coming in at £600 apiece. “The day we picked up ours, these guys from Showaddywaddy came in to fetch their drapes,” recalls Cyril, who points out that the back and front cover photos of the Shake Some Action sleeve were taken across the street from Foster & Tara.
//Roll Over Beethoven on French TV//
The band members wore their red coats on stage for years, all around the world. Now Cyril is clearing space in his archive and is willing to sell his, an extremely rare piece and one imbued with pure rock & roll provenance.
Interested parties should direct inquiries inquiries via: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will pass them on.
Christie’s much ballyhoo-ed sale of “the finest collection of 20th Century fashion in private hands” last week achieved a respectable total of £270,000, with sales secured for 165 of the 225 items.
//Paco Rabanne dress: £15,000/YSL suit: £10,000//
Highlights for vendors Mark Haddawy and Katy Rodriguez, co-owners of US retailer Resurrection, included Paco Rabanne’s aluminium panelled dress fetching three times the estimate at £15,000 and a YSL safari suit achieving nearly 10 times the predicted price at £10,000.
//Pierre Cardin cape: £5,000//
With such one-offs as the red vinyl Cardin bubble cape attracting £5,000, the vintage business is using the sale to steady the buffs during this stormy economic period. Hence this week’s claim by Cameron Silver of LA retailer Decades that “many people are turning to vintage as a guilt-free way to shop.”
//Nostalgia Of Mud and Witches dresses: £1,000 each//
Although many World’s End items attracted buyers, the Christie’s website does not record sales for more than a third of the 47 items from 430 King’s Road.
This, combined with the withdrawal of four before the sale began, underscores the increasing nervousness over authenticity of pieces purported to emanate from the shop between 1974 and 1980 in its guises as Sex and Seditionaries.
//Unsold: Estimate £2,000-£4,000//
Among the 18 not present in Christie’s sale results are a number previously flagged as fake by Malcolm McLaren (whose name is omitted from the design partnership he conducted with Vivienne Westwood in the online auction results).
//Unsold: Estimate £1,500-£2,500//
These include a “Destroy waistcoat” and “No Future jacket” as well as three muslin tops, a “No Future jumper” and pairs of red corduroy, serge/satin and fringed bondage trousers.
//Unsold: Estimate £2,000-£4,000//
Two challenged by McLaren were authenticated by New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain and sold: a gilt leather hood went for £1,250 and a pink sleeveless Peter Pan shirt made £1,125.
//Sylvain’s hood: Sold for £1,250//
McLaren remains sceptical, describing Sylvain’s assertion that he supplied the guitarist with the hood as stage gear as “outrageous”.
Withdrawn items from the catalogue included a Chaos armband with an estimate of £100-£150 and muslin shirts which went on display in New York but did not make the journey across the Atlantic.
These were also rejected as fake by McLaren when he viewed them at the company’s starry presale which was one of the events kicking off New York Fashion Week and was attended by Agyness Dean, Chloe Sevigny and Henry Holland.
//Christie’s NY: Muslins withdrawn from the Avant Garde sale//
“We thought there were simply too many muslins for the balance of the sale and for the current market,” says Christie’s textiles specialist Pat Frost, who was quoted in the Financial Times 10 days ago claiming McLaren hadn’t “handled the pieces”.
//Malcolm McLaren at Christie’s presale show NY September 2008//
Centred on artefacts from the New York, SF and English punk scenes, the heading is something of a misnomer since the sale also features a catch-all from a 60s poster for Barbra Streisand to Frank Kozik skateboards and Kidrobot vinyl toys.
Punk/Rock has nine lots claimed to be designs from 430 King’s Road, including a number of ties ($2,000-$3,000), two Cowboys t-shirts ($1,000 – $1,500 each) and a pair of Seditionaries bondage trousers ($300-$400).
//Seditionaries bondage trousers?//
Since the latter appear to THE LOOK to be dubious, there is little doubt that the punk-rock fakes furore ain’t going away any time soon.
Visit here for the auction results from the Avant Garde Fashion sale.
The shift from good, honest thrift, good will, charity, second-hand and dead-stock clothing into the catch-all “vintage” has to be one of the most depressing facets of contemporary style.
//THE LOOK’s top six from LA//
Formerly prime sources in London are too self-conscious while New York stores have become pretentious, overpriced and overly reverential.
$1500 for some nasty Rive Gauche or an Abigail’s Party Ossie Clark For Radley dress?
We don’t think so.
It’s heartening to report that a few stores in Los Angeles, at least, have kept the faith, and to celebrate the publication of JB Taylor‘s excellent new book Vintage LA THE LOOK today digs out half a dozen of our top purchases from second-hand and thrift stores there.
1. 60s cardigan. Purchased 1991. Price: $25 from American Rag Cie, 150 S. La Brea, LA CA 90036.
2. 40s Georgette printed dress. Purchased 2008. Price: $30 from Ozzie Dots 4637 Hollywood Blvd LA CA 90027.
3. 60s shoes. Purchased: 1995. Price: $45 from Re-Mix 7065 1/2, Beverly Blvd, LA CA 90036.
4. Brown 60s quilted leather jacket. Purchased: 2002. Price: $65 from Ozzie Dots.
5. 70s scarf. Purchased 2008. Price: $10 from Aardvark’s, 85 Market Street, LA CA 90291.
COPYRIGHT: Text: All text copyright Paul Gorman/THE LOOK. Images: Reasonable effort has been made to trace copyright holders. If there are omissions please alert us. Powered by WordPress and the QPwilm! theme. Design by Caz Facey. Images hosted by Flickr.