In Defense of the Awful Clothes I Wore in the 1980s
Recently, I bought a photo/negative scanner with the intent of scanning some of my many newspaper and magazine clippings. Nearly everything I published between 1992 and 1995 exists only as dead trees, and I have a ton of clippings from 1996 through 2001 that were misplaced when the Las Vegas Sun revamped its online archives. If I’m to do a proper job of inflicting this stuff upon an unsuspecting world, a borrowed scanner ain’t gonna cut it. So I got a great deal on a lightly-used Epson on eBay, brought my first Rubbermaid storage bin full of articles down from the upstairs closet, and got myself all pumped up to PDF.
But it wasn’t the carton o’ articles that I’d brought down: It was a bin full of photographs from the 1980s. Surprised, I began to pore over the stack of images, smiling at photos of friends old but not lost (I have to admit that Facebook, though a colossal time suck, isn’t without its benefits) and crinkling my forehead at every single shot someone had managed to take of me. I really don’t like the way I look in photographs. That’s kinda why I picked up the camera in the first place: to control the means of production. Now, in looking through these snapshots, I am confronted with incontrovertible proof that my relationship with the camera has always been one-sided. Also, I used to dress like the world’s worst superhero.
Don’t get the wrong idea: I don’t regret a single one of those photographs. I’m having fun in nearly every one of them, and everyone else appearing in the shots is also dressed pretty badly. I’m content with where I am … and in order for that miracle to have happened, I have had to make peace with where I was. I absolve you, Geoff Carter, of your crimes against Savile Row — both those committed in the Reagan Years, and those you’re surely committing right now, this second.
In fact, I believe I’m ready to defend some of those sartorial choices. You may mock the padded shoulders and acid-washed jeans of your forebears, young America, but know this: You are wrong, and your mother dresses you funny. Ten, fifteen years from now, you’ll be made to answer for the ensemble you’re wearing right now. I hope, for your sake, that you’re as confident in your defense of it as I am in my defense of these:
THE AQUA-NET HAIR HELMET
The pink can; you’re goddamn right. Big hair made your skull look bigger, and people inferred that your brain was bigger than it actually was. Also, some say the polymers made it more difficult for alien influences to infiltrate our minds — important in a decade during which UFO flyovers occurred several times a day.
JACKETS WITH PADDED SHOULDERS
We had a lot of important shit weighing on our shoulders in those days — unemployment, nuclear war, Coke vs. Pepsi. And you never knew when an acrobat might fall out of a Duran Duran video and land on you.
STRETCH PANTS AVEC MONKEY BOOTS
I wore these because I was really secure in who I was, which was someone who was hanging out with a bunch of people — male and female — who were also wearing stretch pants with monkey boots. Besides, you shoulda seen how I rocked that ensemble at nightclubs, and at that one job interview.
A SWATCH! A SWATCH!
I would miss these flimsy, candy-flavored time pieces in the same way I miss Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers (which is not at all), but a quick Google search reveals that the company is still in business and still pumping out hundred-dollar plastic wristwatches, even though the Thompson Twins and the Fat Boys are no longer around to promote them. Anyway, I had a Swatch and it was cute, but Fossil now fills my cheap and trendy wristwatch needs — and I seldom wear my wristwatch, anyway, because I’ve become conditioned to checking the time on my phone, or simply not caring what time it is.
I never actually owned one of these shirts, but I wish I had. They changed color with your body heat. Who doesn’t want a splash of vivid color in their armpits?
WHITE DENIM JEAN JACKETS
All the better for writing on with black Sharpie. We didn’t have Facebook in those days; you had to apply your Likes and Interests directly to your person.
I have no regrets whatsoever about wearing bolo ties. There was a whole cowpunk thing happening in LA back in 1984-85, and bolo ties were worn by some fairly cool guys — Stan Ridgway, John Doe from X, and the brothers Alvin from the Blasters, among others. I actually kept my bolo tie past its expiration date, and I’m glad I did: Last Halloween I dressed as a kind of Lucha Libre executive, and the bolo really brought the ensemble together.
We thought it was the future. Acid! It was going to start falling from the skies any day, so we figured we might as well get a jump on it.
Um, I got nothin’. Pastel blue was pretty stupid.