Why is it we become completely and utterly obsessed with very specific brands at school?
All it takes is one of the cool kids to wear something with flair and confidence, and then the masses follow like clueless sheep en masse! I am now a parent of modern-day teenagers who suffer from this terrible affliction and I forget that I was once just like them! In fact, thinking about my own 80s teens has reminded me that I maybe should cut them some slack. It’s just something teenagers do.
The first time I noticed this brand-worship phenomenon was around 1985 when people started wearing donkey jackets. They were the height of cool, and even the punks that hung around Preston town centre were wearing them.
I was clearly subliminally brainwashed, and when I was just about to start scary Broughton High School aged 11, my mum took me to Marks & Spencers to kit me out with a warm coat to withstand the horrors of Lancashire winter.
Of course, I went straight for the donkey jackets.
Interestingly, donkey jackets are named after the donkey engines operated by the Manchester Ship Canal workers. They were originally created in the late 1800s to keep the working classes warm during the cold northern winters, and became really well-known as the coat of choice for miners.
Then, as different from a donkey jacket as you could possibly get, there was Ocean Pacific. Mmmmmmm….. so cool.
A couple of years later, as I reached the hormonally-charged age of 13 (circa 1987), the madness really began. Suddenly, if you wore a sweatshirt with Op in the corner, you were the height of cool. If you didn’t, your existence on this earth equated to a speck of something unpleasant on the underside of someone’s shoe.
That was the power of Op.
They came in different colours (mine was white, my best friend’s was blue), and had the Op on the front corner, and a big design on the back. We felt on top of the world, we were the undisputed Queens of Cool. I remember us wearing them non-stop during our German exchange to Bonndorf – the Germans (whose English was far superior to our German, so we didn’t actually speak any German at all) must have thought we were a right bunch of smelly scruffs
And about the same time… Pods! (the shoes…. Do you remember them?)
They looked similar to Kickers, but made you look like you had an orthopaedic problem that needed correcting. But the day I finally got mine, a long-awaited day (I was rarely among the first wave of fashion adopters), I felt like I had hit the jackpot. Life took on a glowy, happy sheen.
But hang on, was I really the kind of kid who mindlessly followed this crazy trend and granted such importance to a ridiculous-looking brand?
Yes – 13-year-old me was really shallow and slightly sheep-like.
… the strange phenomenon of the Head sports bag that everyone had to have.
But you couldn’t just walk along and hold it in your hand by your legs, you had to sling it over your shoulder in a very specific cool kind of way. That’s right, close to that shaggy perm mullet most people had (with hints of orange Sun-In… remember that?!). Humanity has taken some strange twists and turns…. And on they continue. My 13 year-old daughter just ordered a pair of high waist, very wide leg jeans – just like the ones I had in 1990 and used to wear to go dancing at sweaty Lord Byrons in Preston. And yes, they look just as awful today as they did back then!
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