My favourite X-mas related eppie of a show, ever

A Tribute to Soul Train

If you have any interest at all in soul, rhythm & blues, and funk music (the primary genres featured on the programme), you have no excuse to have never heard of this groundbreaking television show. As best as i can tell, in spite of its syndicated distribution (meaning it wasn’t tied to a single network, and local markets, especially independent UHF stations and, later, cable access programmes, tended to pick it up, depending on local demand), it aired only in the United States, but many British musos, when on tour in the States, including Elton John (who was later a guest musician on the show) often cited it among their favourite American programs.

The show’s origins began with Chicago-based radio personality, Don Cornelius, and origins have also been cited in local Chicago UHF programs, Kiddie-A-G-Go and Red Hot & Blues, the latter of which was especially notable for its predominantly African-American dancers, and the former, well, today it would be said to aim for the “tween market”, but back then, if you were between the ages of eight and twelve years, you were just a kid. While I can confirm that both programs first aired in 1965, both seem to have ended within a few years before Soul Train. The format of each programme seemed similar to American Bandstand and other, similar programmes that produced and aired locally: Play some of the latest singles of the day, feature a popular band or two, the host MC of the show might hold some Q&A with one of the music acts featured, and some sort of featured “game” or quiz based around a record featured on the show.

I would like to apologise for being unable to find any video for Red Hot & Blues.

Now to Don Cornelius: In addition to his radio work, he also hosted a travelling series of “record hops” around Chicago area high schools as an after-hours activity, and this became nicknamed his “soul train”. WCIU, which had previously hosted Kiddie-A-G-Go and Red Hot & Blues, soon took note of Cornelius’ success with the travelling record hops, and made him an offer to basically tweak the format a little and put it on television. On 17 August 1970, Soul Train first aired on WCIU, as a local Chicago program, after securing a sponsorship with the Chicago-based Sears & Roebuck company.

It didn’t take long at all for Soul Train to prove a local success, and the Johnson Products Company (the makers of Afrosheen and Ultrasheen; not to be confused with Johnson & Johnson, the baby shampoo people), also based in Chicago offered to co-sponsor the program for national syndication, which began on 2 October 1971.

(apologies for the awful rip, just be assured that I had nothing to do with this)

Initially, the program was only picked up in seven local markets in the States, in addition to Chicago: Atlanta (Georgia), Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco —all cities which, at the time, had large African-American populations, except perhaps San Francisco, but then again, this is San Francisco. In Chicago, Soul Train was also unique, at this time: Cornelius moved production to Los Angeles, upon gaining national syndication, but wanted the Chicago production of the show to remain on WCIU, in spite of Chicago’s CBS affiliate picking up the national version, so professional dancer and co-host in the earliest pre-syndication episodes, Clinton Ghent, hosted the WCIU Soul Train until 1976. Chicago essentially had two versions of the show for most of the 1970s —and unfortunately, I can’t find a single pre- or post-syndication WCIU Soul Train, not even a clip, on the Internet.

The first theme song for Soul Train was King Curtis’ “Hot Potatoes”, recorded in 1962, but this didn’t last very long. In 1973, the theme was replaced by “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)”, and though it only lasted until 1975 (though with re-recordings featured as the show’s theme from 1986 to 1993), it became the programme’s best-known theme song, and has been covered several times, with one notable version by Dexys Midnight Runners —which is oddly appropriate, as the piece is essentially an instrumental with prominent horns and strings, and horns and strings certainly define the DMR sound.

Don Cornelius wasn’t all that keen on the comparisons that Soul Train got to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, in spite of the similarities in format. One of the reasons is likely cos in 1973, Clark sought to compete with Soul Train, and produced Soul Unlimited, which didn’t survive a full television season on ABC. Soul Unlimited was presented by then-DC area DJ Buster Jones (who later became best known as a voice actor), and a lot of the program’s critics, including Jessie Jackson and record producer Clarance Avant, felt that Soul Unlimited pandered to stereotyping by alleged use of “deliberitely racial overtones” —being a white kid born long after Soul Unlimited left the airwaves, and having only very limited access to clips from Soul Unlimited, I can only guess on what this was all about, but I do sense the “jive talk” enunciation in Jones’ voice in a few interview segments, which has been a problematic portrayal of African Americans since the 1920s, and his wardrobe tended to be a bit more flash than Don Cornelius.

…I think the biggest reason for the outcry against Soul Unlimited was ultimately that it was conceived of and produced by a white man who clearly was attempting to take over a television niche popularised by an African American who worked very hard most of the prior decade to gain he success he had earned from this syndicated program —and that program had become successful beyond what many, I’m sure, expected of it. In the end of Soul Unlimited, Clark agreed to work with Cornelius on a series of soul-themed network television specials for ABC.

While Soul Train remained culturally important throughout the 1970s, its relevance was believed to decline in the 1980s. Why? Hip-Hop.

Don Cornelius was a bit conservative in his tastes, and didn’t feel that even a lot of the downright silly early rap of the 1980s portrayed a positive-enough image for the African American community, which he prided himself over. He eventually brought on Hip-Hop and rap acts, though often making sure to choose who was featured very carefully. He was also critical of a lot of the more overtly sexual dancing popular on the East Coast in the 1980s hip-hop scenes, and apparently claimed to have been frightened by the theatrics and the prominent Black Panther imagery adopted by Public Enemy. One of the few hip-hop acts to have made several appearances on Soul Train throughout the 1980s was Whodini, likely because their best-known songs are indisputable “positive” and, well, rather tame:

Though Don Cornelius stepped down in 1993 from his role as presenter on Soul Train, the program continued (with several different presenters) until 2006, securing it as the longest-run program in national television syndication, an honour some sources site as being previously held by Hee-Haw (a similar program based around Country/Western and American Folk music) and The Laurence Welk Show (another similar program, but centred around early 20th Century pop, big band, and music hall selections).

Currently, Soul Train reruns in the United States on Aspire, a cable network owned by Comcast and Magic Johnson —which can probably be described as “The African American ME-TV” (there’s a huge rotation of African-American programming from the 1960s and ’70s, including the subtle espionage farce I Spy, featuring a young Bill Cosby, and Julia, starring Dihann Carroll, before she did Wookie porn), but with the addition of station-IDs that feature various current African-American singers, actors, poets, cellists, ballerinas, and so on. The cable network, Centric (formerly BET Jazz) also hosts the Soul Train Cruise and formerly hosted the Soul Train Music Awards.

Don Cornelius’ health had been in decline for some time, and apparently, in 1982, he underwent brain surgery to correct an abnormality in a cerebral artery, but being a private person, few knew about this. In 2008, he’d also been arrested on domestic violence charges, to which he pleaded no contest and served a minor probation term. Finally, on 1 February 2012, he took his own life. An autopsy revealed that he had been suffering seizures as a complication from his 1982 surgery (and which may have very likely contributed to his 2008 DV charge), and a close friend believed that Cornelius had also been suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, and Cornelius’ son claimed that he had also been suffering extreme chronic pain, citing Don Cornelius’ last known words as “I don’t know how much longer I can take this”. While Soul Train certainly had its peak influence in the 1970s, its legacy continues on, and the archive footage certainly serve as a time capsule for US urban music and fashion during the 1970s.

Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra

Let me be clear: By standards of the subculture as it was, Lee & Nancy were not Mod —but because the only way to define “Mod music” is thusly:

Mod Music

  1. Music played by people who self-identify with the Mod subculture
  2. Music widely enjoyed by people who identify with the Mod subculture

…it simply cannot be denied that Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra have gained some cred over the years. Granted, this is not without reason.

It’s argueable that in 1966, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” was kind of an ironic anthem amongst Carnaby Street girls and American youthquakers, outfitting themselves in go-go boots. Hell, one of the earliest covers was by The Artwoods (also released in ’66), and three years later, Symarip released the first altered version on Skinhead Moonstomp. Written and produced in its original version by Lee Hazlewood, and written for Nancy Sinatra, whom he suggested to sing it as if she were “a sixteen-year-old girl who fucks truck drivers” (for the curious, Nancy was twenty-six, at the time it was released), it’s clear the song has a long history not only as a traditional 1960s pop standard, but also as a kitschy favourite amongst Mods and Skinheads. It is thus only logical that, at some point in the 1980s or ’90s revivals, people would get interested in other work written by Lee Hazlewood, especially works performed with Nancy Sinatra.

It’s hard to categorise Lee Hazlewood’s music, as a whole — he wrote and performed but pop and country music, and was probably one of the first musicians to write music that would later be called “alternative country” —which pretty much seems to be a sort of catch-all phrase meaning approximately “quirky rock or pop music with a strong country or folk vibe to it” and has been applied to people and bands as diverse as Cracker, k.d. lang, Wilco, Murder By Death (???), Mumford & Sons, Amy Rigby (I highly recommend Diary of a Mod Housewife), Holly Golightly, and others. I’m pretty sure I once even saw the term applied to Elvis Costello, but I’d rather not think about that. I kind of wince at the notion of people referring to his music as “Cowboy Psychedelia”, because with possible exception of “Some Velvet Morning”, his music doesn’t really fit any kind of “psychedelic” definitions.

Well, maybe “Big Red Balloon” touches on some of those “trippy” elements, too:

While Nancy, with and without Lee, did have a steady stream of hit singles in the 1960s, most of her career was a staple of the “Beautiful Music” format radio —which today would be “Soft Adult Contemporary”, basically a middle-of-the-road, wholly inoffensive format that takes few (if any) risks, musically, and its selections are chosen to appeal to adults over thirty (in the 1960s –the current MOR formats aim to appeal to the 50+ crowd).

Upon examination of Hazlewood’s music compared to other Beautiful Music standards of the 1960s, it’s really hard to imagine how he got relegated to such a format, leaving a fair amount of his music without Nancy fairly obscure (most of his own records never charted, and if he hadn’t already been a successful songwriter, he would easily be described as an unappreciated genius.

Nancy Sinatra herself was also far from a hit factory. While she did maintain a string of char “hits”, most of these settled between numbers twenty and forty-five on any given Billboard chart for that year. The now-iconic “Sand” from the record Nancy & Lee peaked at #107 on the US Billboard, and only broke the Top 20 in Australia. The longevity of her popularity amongst the underground subcultures seems to rest on the fact that she’s one of those singers who was too cool to be square, but too square to be cool. Sure, she had a couple odd television specials, which might lead one to think that she was a major performer of the time, but keep in mind: The 1960s was before rock-n-roll was considered anything more than a gimmick, commercially. Sure, a few gutsy adverts used rhythm & blues-infused rock music in a jingle or two, but these were very few and far-between. Sure, rock music did appallingly well in the charts, when compared to traditional pop musicians, but but the corporate world was still a bunch of old men refusing to budge on anything that might make the company seem less old-fashioned.

If you’ve seen Mad Men, ignore the fact that there are all these spectacular bouffants and bullet bras, and it makes you want to go out and buy a tube of Brylcreem. Think about it and remember all the various scenes where Don Draper is practically running into walls because jackasses older then himself are still treating his successful adverts as a fluke, or how often Peggy or Pete bite their tongues because while their ideas are clearly innovative and eye-catching, some white-haired jackass in a suit doesn’t quite get it and wants them to basically make the same ad the previous agency did, only “new”, somehow. This is why Nancy Sinatra and other people who barely sold records in the 1960s got some television specials: They were young-enough and just quirky enough to appeal to teenagers, uni students, and the general under-thirty crowd; they were also considered widely “safe” and “inoffensive” enough for ma and dad and grandma, and doc boy to be entertained, as well. Her recording of the Lee Hazlewood-penned “Sugar Town” is clearly a revival of 1940s-styled post-swing vocal pop reminiscent of The Andrews Sisters or similar.

…but then, speaking of “Sugar Town”, Hazlewood often mentioned later in life that the song was about LSD —that he went to some club in Los Angeles, and these younger people had lined up some sugarcubes, and applied something to them with an eyedropper. Since he avoided drugs, he wasn’t sure what they were doing, so he asked one of them, and was told “it’s LSD, man, a real sugar town”. He claimed to have intentionally dumbed-down the song with inane lyrics so that the kids would be certain as to what it was about (even though he intentionally avoided divulging its true meaning, at the time), but adults, especially those running the record company, would be none the wiser. Though “Sugar Town” only peaked at #5 on Billboard’s main US and UK charts, it was a #1 on the US Adult Contemporary chart in 1967. A lot of his other songs could also have an intentional double meaning like that, illustrating just how clever he was, especially when compared to other artists derisively lumped into the “MOR [Middle of the Road] pop” category, named such for its apparent simplicity and inoffensiveness. While he certainly entertained the tragically kitschy pop genre of Neil Diamond and others, his aspirations as a lyricist were clearly subversive enough to rival the Factory hangers-on numbly nodding along with The Velvet Underground.

By 1977, Hazlewood retired from music for a time, and Nancy Sinatra semi-retired in the late 1970s, stating she wanted to focus on motherhood for a bit, and released a country record with Mel Tillis in 1981, being pretty much the bulk of her activity until 1995, when she jump-started a new career with a spread in Playboy at the age of 54. Nancy is still with us, but Lee passed off this mortal coil in 2007, after a brief career relaunch and several years battling cancer. Maybe they didn’t get much cred amongst the Mods and Youthquakers in the mid-1960s, but they certainly have earned it since.

Spot On Etsy: Strawberry Wine

So, I had originally planned a treasury that’s been in my drafts for longer, titled “A Very British phenomenon”, but then Middleton had to go and take all my birthday Twitter attention away from me. So then I had half a mind to go into PhotoShop and crudely draw a crown over Kate Beaton’s “Shut Up About Babies” t-shirt, and have that be my “Spot On Etsy” for the day.

…but I’m over my urge to throw a tantrum, now, and I bring you this fine Etsy Treasury I’ve created, “Summer Wine”:

The following badges have also been added to my on shop:

…and badges from my shoppe have gotten nods in the following treasuries:

I also wanted to remind everyone that there are four copies of New Dance back in stock, AND, for the rest of this month, use the coupon code HAPPYBIRTHDAYRUADHAN for 16% off all purchases of $3 or more (before shipping).

I also wanted to acknowledge that yes, i HAVE neglected the newsletter, but I’m transitioning it to monthly rather than fortnightly, and wanted to take some time to reconsider the format. It *should* be ready to start back up in August.

Modcast for 22 July 2013


The Triffids – “Love & Affection”
Go – “Don’t Take Her Away”
Sharp Ties – “Get That Beat”
The Killermeters – “Twisted Wheel”
The Go-Between – “On My Block”
The Distractions – “Something For the Weekend”
The Merseys – “Sorrow”
Pizzicato 5 – “Sweet Soul Revue”
The Monochrome Set – “Crystal Chamber”
The Saints – “Simple Love (original)”
The Art woods – “Keep Lookin'”
Sharon Forrester – “Silly Wasn’t I?”
Les Elite – “Get A Job”
The Prisoners – “Go-Go”
Billie Davis – “Nobody’s Home to Go Home To”
Sandie Shaw – “How Can You Tell?”
The Chesterfield Kings – “Time to Kill”
Squire – “Live Without Her Love”
Jean Dushon – “Hitch Hike!”
Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band – “She Shot a Hole In My Soul”
Gloria Jones – “Stage Coach”
Wall of Voodoo – “(Don’t Spill My) Courage”

Evolution Control Committee – “The Fucking Moon”

In honour of the 1969 moon landing.

Tips for Mod Style on a Tight Budget

fred-perry-640x495I frequently see people bemoaning how expensive Mod style clothing is — and I admit, the “premier” clothing labels are something that someone barely earning above the minimum wage can justify, barring receiving something as a gift or scoring a once-in-a-lifetime sale. Now think about those of us, no less “Mod” by definition of personal aesthetics, taste in music, literature, films, and so on, but pull in even less income — disability allowance supplemented with freelance writing and Etsy barely makes diddly, and I’ve only recently worked my way up to diddly. ben4

Now, I know I don’t conform to the strictest idea of a Mod fashion aesthetic, but in part cos I’m hard to fit off-the-racks, and in part cos a lot has influenced my own personal style and the idea of sticking to an über-strict interpretation of a Mod look just doesn’t make sense to me, anymore. On the other hand, as I said, I’m broke, and if one can look as well as I do whilst being as broke as I am, obviously I must know something.

So here are some tips I have for the kids, or anyone else who might need them:

Forget About “Lifestyle Brands”, They’ll Get On Just Fine Without You and You Without Them

fred-perryHere’s something that I’ve suspected a long while, but recently had confirmed by some oldsters on the Mod Generation forum: If you’re on a tight budget, the look is more important than the brand. “The originals” knew this. Sure, it was nice if some-one could score expensive clobber, but even today, there is no shortage of “knock-offs” (and in big coastal cities, plenty of brand forgeries) that look just as good and hold up just as well for a lot less. Yes, sometimes the adage of “you get what you pay for” is true, but I’ll get to that further down.

Just remember that “the originals” didn’t always have THE brands to own, and some of the extreme brand loyalty portrayed as an obsession amongst all the Faces in the ’60s is largely a product of limited oral histories spotlighted by media outlets, and at most, it seemed dependent on who your friends were. Jimmy Quadrophenia Fred Perry And sometimes, THE brands to have varied by location, age, and mates: One gent on The Mod Generation seems very insistent that THE brand of denim jeans he and his friends wore was Lee, and Levis were for dockworkers and rockers —but if you go to other sources, it’s Levi-Strauss that’s the brand for Mods to wear. What we can ultimately take away from these divergent stories is that the look was more important than the brand, especially now, when there are dozens of brands that make perfectly fine clothing for all manner of Mod looks, and not to mention a revolution in home businesses, and surely plenty of people who’d be more than willing to craft bespoke clothing as upstart designers.

Branding Is Not Necessarily Indicative of Quality

andreas-image-529216-article-ajust_930This is something that a lot of people just can’t shake, but here’s a secret that I’ve learned from friends who work in small clothing boutiques, in “chain boutiques” at shopping malls, and actually for certain “lifestyle brands” including Retail Slut, Lip Service, Boy London, Griggs (Doc Marten), and others: If you see a “lifestyle brand” at a large chain boutiques in shopping malls, even the middle class department stores, like Macy’s, it’s probably not the same quality item that you could get from a smaller, independent boutique, or better yet, a boutique owned by the brand itself.

This is generally not public knowledge (though many loyalists to certain brands who’re not-necessarily-in-the-know have suspected it for decades), but it’s pretty common for quality brands to make cheaply-made versions of their items —cheaper versions that are otherwise identical— to sell to “big-name” chain stores. bensherman The chain store wants to move items at a price that it “competitive with” (less than) the prices offered by other stores or the brand itself. If the brand sold the high-quality items at the price the chain wants them for, bankruptcy would likely ensue. So what’s a high-quality lifestyle brand to do? Offer the chain a cheaper version for the scene tourists and fad whores, and hope the lifers and brand loyalists notice a difference in quality and eventually bypass the chain boutique for the brand’s website.

It’s borderline crooked and arguably wasteful, but that’s how Capitalism, works, kids: Merc-Wine-Tonic-Suit-£230-jacket-£150-Trousers-£801 the brand has to offer a cheaper product of lesser quality for the sake of exposure, while producing lesser quantities of the quality product that will hopefully preserve the brand’s reputation.

When buying Quality, Less Can Become More

I’ve seen a lot of American fashion rags call this “the European habit”: Buy only one or two high-quality items of clothing a year, and you’ll eventually have a lot of gorgeous, high-quality items without busting your bank account. The key being to focus on buying high-quality items that may be a little more expensive, but are durable and always in style for your look. pretty_green_parka_black_front_400 I don’t see what’s so “European” about this idea, but it’s a great idea for extra holiday or birthday money, tax-return season, and so on —indulge in *one* high-quality shirt or pair of shoes, or a seasonal suit, or so on (after more-necessary expenses are taken care of), and you may not have the most-envied wardrobe, but it’ll be respectable, and within a few years, have some really nice things.

When buying high-quality items, you end up replacing things less frequently —in part because the extra attention has been paid to selection of materials and the quality of the work gone into making and inspecting the items, and one is also more inclined to actually make minor repairs (when possible) than throw away an item with a busted zip or torn seam. 1357762294-07026500

…which reminds me:

Learn the Art of Mending

People don’t do this much anymore, and I don’t understand why. Well, OK, I understand a little — when cheap clothing is so prevalent, it’s far more convenient to replace things than to fix them. This is a really bad habit to get into. For starters, if you can only afford inexpensive items, this can quickly turn into money going right into the ragbox. Secondly, if you’re not in the habit of repairing a cheap polo shirt or darning a pair of dress socks from Target yourself, if you can ever score a quality item (be it a holiday pay bonus or a gift), you’re going to be at a loss when that item finally needs a repair. Merc-Fleming-T-Shirt It’s like oral hygeine: If you don’t start teaching children at a very young age how to brush and floss and use a rinse as soon as they can hold a toothbrush, it’s going to be harder to teach them to make a habit of it when they’re older. Well, it’s like any good sense habit — the sooner you get into it, the better the chance you have of making a lifelong habit of it.

If you have a laundry day, set aside the next day as a “mending day”. It’s easier to make repairs to items that are clean (especially socks, for what should really be obvious reasons), so this works out fine –just examine each item before you fold, and set it aside for mending, if you need to. For shirts, a fine, but strong thread is best, and a finer needle works best. It’s all hand-sewing, and there is no shortage of tutorials on YouTube; lambretta-clothing-024 eventually, you’ll be able to figure out what stitches work best for which particular kinds of tears, but if you’re ever at a loss, as around to friends or on-line, if you have to. If the crotch of your jeans are rubbing thin, some iron-on patch on the inside will extend the life. Darning socks is relatively easy, as well, and again, there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube —but you’ll need a specialised needle (a proper darning needle is very large for a hand needle, and while there are a few sizes for different thickness knits, they also tend to have duller tips), some thick cotton thread, and it goes by much easier with an “egg” or “mushroom” tool. il_fullxfull.394757181_1frj It’s also completely possible to do it all by hand, but in my experiences, that ends up with a tighter weave that ends up fraying around the edges faster. In a pinch, if you have one, you can use a shot glass.

The cost of mending is naturally very inexpensive, compared to replacement items: A basic needle and thread can repair up to a hundred shirts, maybe more, and will cost between $2 and $7, depending on the thread. Each shirt you replace could cost between $5 (if you’re lucky enough to find something on an extreme clearance or at a rummage sale) and $40, or more. MERC_8 Sure, a standard six-pair bag of athletic crew socks may only cost about $7 at K-Mart or Woolworth’s, and a darning egg between $5 and $15, the cotton up to $5 a spool, and a card of darning needles about $5, but that spool of cotton will easily last dozens of pairs, and will work just as well on darning the rubbed-out heels of most dress socks —it’ll look more obvious, but only when the shoes come off, and in my experiences, the repaired area can last longer than the original weave (at least after I became rather experienced in darning my own socks.

Learn the Art of DIY

lambrettacloth01 Sure, there’s a big difference between mending a shirt and making a shirt, but after you learn the fundamentals of sewing by mending, it’s not a huge task to learn to make whole outfits. True, to make your own clothes, you need a lot of time, patience, and you can’t expect to make your own bespoke winter and summer suits until you’ve cut your teeth on a few shirts (and other, simpler projects), first, but most of the price of a tailored suit is in the labour, and always has been. If you can score quality textiles, and have the patience to do it, you can make your own suit for one third the price of one tailored at a shop or less!

Mary Quant, at work

Mary Quant, at work

If you don’t have the patience, another option is to buy something off the racks and have it tailored to fit you perfectly, but depending on the skills of yourself or your tailor, it can look a little awkward.

More Importantly, Take Good Care of Your Things

Did you know that machine washing and tumble drying actually contributes to damaged clothing? It really does. If it says “hand wash”, your machine may have a “hand wash” setting, but it’s really best to get a washboard and learn how to do it yourself. dresses-by-betsey-johnson-for-paraphernalia-and-opaque-tights-by-solar-1966-dave-mccabe When weather permits, line-drying is always best, and it saves a lot of money in energy, and some things are just best dried flat or on an indoor rack, anyway.

ValetMag, which tends to cater to men’s sartorial interests, has a “Handbook” on clothing care that everyone should learn –especially the decyphering of care labels and hanger use (both of which will make HUGE differences in the life of your clothing — plastic “tubular” hangers should be banned), and their “When to Wash It” guide will also give you a decent guideline on how often certain items need to be washed, at least given normal use and hygiene habits of the wearer. A little bit of an unscented “clothing refresher” (like Febreeze), applied lightly, also helps, depending on the season and any hygienic peculiarities 1358356956_3977_MV_card_2_323_448_c1_center_top (like maybe you shower twice a day, and use powder and deodorant sticks, and are even a fair size for your height, and you still have issues with sweat). Basically, don’t wash your clothes after every wear, unless it’s a foundation garment (vests, pants, socks, brassieres, etc…), or thin knits (t-shirts or polos). If you change your clothes a couple times a day, for different activities, then you have even less reason to launder clothing after every wear.

If you spilled something on it, you may be able to get by just touching it up with a stain stick at home, letting it set a few minutes, and then hand-rinsing in the sink for another wear; not all stains, of course, but you’ll soon learn which ones are easier to get an extra wear from and which are not.

mary-quant-4255The really important lesson here is that machine washing and tumble drying after every wear does more damage to the life of your clothing than you can imagine. Certain expensive washer-dryers promise to reduce this, but wouldn’t it make more sense to cut even that amount of potential damage in half? Technology is no excuse for mistreating your clothes.

Make Friends

It may seem a tad skeevy to just come right out and say it, but here’s the truth of the matter: You can’t go dustbin shopping on Carnaby Street or Park Avenue or Rodeo Drive anymore. The high-quality deadstock at vintage clothiers is usually for very tiny people, because it’s the crap that didn’t sell. Furthermore, the prestige of deadstock at vintage shoppes will be reflected in the price; why? By nature, it tends to be more scarce than even things that were purchased and worn only once, or never worn but lack tagging and are technically no longer “deadstock”. 610174850_7b5baa2f0a_z You can’t afford these things, the shoppes are no longer giving them away due to a very minor defect, and you want these items. So what are your options? Well, you can whine about it on the internet, or you can make friends.

Whether it’s inexpensive tailoring jobs or or discounts on readymades at the vintage boutique, people are notorious for giving favours to their friends.

Here’s the catch, though: You have to REALLY become friends to these people, and show it. Friendships are based on shared interests and, often, mutually beneficial arrangements between the involved parties. I might give a friend of mine a discount on badges for his band, and in return, he might give me the latest single on 45. 6a00d8341c2f0953ef01676866d706970b-700wi

Go to a shoppe, introduce yourself, hang out a bit if you’ve got nothing better to do, and offer to do little jobs to help out — sweep up, help sort things, suggest arrangements for the window mannequins, and so on. If you work on the university paper, offer a discount on an advert, if you can, or just pay a percentage of the advert for the shoppe, if you can’t offer a real discount. Offer to spruce up the shoppe’s Facebook page or take photographs for their website. Seriously, you can do all sorts of little things for local shoppes that will endear you to the kind people running them, and *could* result in discounted merchandise.

Betsey Johnson tinsel motorcycle jacket 1966 Paraphernalia showroomHere’s the other catch: This is no guarantee. See, small shop owners will also gladly take any free help they can get, and not every person running a small shop believes in compensating hopeful young people for their time with a measly 10% off that Paraphenilia dress that fits you just perfectly, or that empty Mary Quant compact that would make a great business card case. A lot of shop owners also feel that they can easily sniff out the people who’re just hanging out there looking for free or cheap merch by doing odd jobs —and maybe you’re genuinely interested in the shoppe and were just wrongly accused. Oh well. If a shop owner makes it clear that they can’t or simply won’t give you a discount or freebies, no matter what their reasons are, accept that. Remember, this is best treated as a long shot, and it’s one of those things that, in my own experiences, is most-successful when you’re very young and earnest, or the owners feel they know you very well, and even then, it’s a total crap-shot. They have bills to pay, too, and the store likely doesn’t make much money.

On the other hand, if you are very young, say 13-16 in age, hanging out at the shoppes and doing little tasks around the store is a great way to engage the employees and owners, and learn about the clothes and styles. Most of these stores are owned and run by enthusiasts of vintage and subculture styles, so hanging out after school and doing coffee-runs for the employees can be a great way to learn things, so even if you don’t get a discount on that dress or suit, you’ll get knowledge and meet people. It’s also a great way to actually getting a job there, or at least an employment reference.

Don’t Cheap Out On Shoes

Assuming you’re done growing, this is very important. You really need the best you can afford, even if it means that they’re going to cost more than a similar K-Mart shoe or a forgery you found at a Chinatown shop. Griggs, the company that makes Doc Martens boots, has met people halfway on the little branded habit of expensive but high-quality things at the showcase boutiques, and cheaper things at big chain shops: The “Made In England” line, and their cheaper line produced in a factory in China. Now, while Griggs insists that both lines meet the same standard of quality, I’ve been wearing predominantly (and sometimes ONLY) Doc Martens since I was fourteen years old (and my feet only really went up by a single size at about the age of twenty-five), I have the complimentary book that came with pairs of Docs in 1999, a good five years before they shifted most of their work to a factory in China. There is a clear difference in quality between a Chinese 1460 in leather and an English 1460 (which are only in leather), and the quality is directly reflected in the price.

Shoes can bring the whole outfit together and finalise the statement your clothes are making. Cheap shoes with an otherwise quality outfit might not seem obvious if the shoes are brand new, but it will become more obvious with wear.

Shoes, by their very function, also take more of a beating than the rest of your wardrobe ever will. You’re not going to literally beat 125lbs+ of pressure into your trousers, against the pavement, literally hundreds of times for your twenty minute walk to your bus stop in Hyde Park, Chicago. You’re going to do that to your shoes, though, and a little extra money for a high-quality shoe with a durable sole will be worth its weight in gold, in the long run. And if you end up walking through the soles of your high quality shoes? (I’ve literally walked through the soles of my Docs several times.) Call around, most cobblers can replace the sole for under US$75, so see who has the best reputation and the best price for their quality of work.

A Proper Dandy Can Even Look Smashing in Rags

Later in his life, Andy Warhol, renowned as a Mid Twentieth Century dandy, took to mostly black items, and some people noted that the only reason they could tell his outfits were different was cos otherwise identical items showed crude signs of mending in different places. Now, Warhol, by that time, had built up his own personal style and eccentricities for over thirty years, he had the name and notoriety and accumulated a sense of personal dignity to carry it off well. Maybe this won’t work for you, but if you give a lifetime of building even local notoriety, it might work. Or hell, maybe you could get away with saying that you’re applying the artistic symbolism of Dexys Midnight Runners’ “ragamuffin” phase with the classic Mod aesthetic?

The point is, being a proper stylist is about more than just clothes: You need an attitude, a confidence, and a bit of talent. You need a knowledge of what looks best on you, and a sense of how to maximise it. You also need a personality that makes people remember more than the clothes. You can’t buy any of that with any amount of money.

Spot On Etysy: Red with Purple Flashes

So, this week’s Treasury is inspired by The Creation’s record title Our Music Is Red With Purple Flashes:

New badges this week:

There are four copies of New Dance back in stock, too!

…and remember, for the rest of this month, use the coupon code HAPPYBIRTHDAYRUADHAN for 16% off all purchases of $3 or more (before shipping)

DJ RJ’s Modcast for 15 July 2013


Saint Etienne – “Railway Jam”
Department S – “Whatever Happened To the Blues?”
Dexys – “You”
Paul Bevoir – “Changing Places”
Madness – “Believe Me”
Gli Evangelisti – “Un ragazzo di strada”
Tony Clarke – “Landslide”
The Out Cast – “You’ve Gotta Call Me”
The Smiths – “Work Is A Four Letter Word”
Purple Hearts – “Plane Crash”
The Small Faces – “Tin Soldier”
The Meddyevals – “Place called Love”
The Kinks – “Village Green”
The Ordinary Boys – “Over the Counter Culture”
The Monochrome Set – “Two Fists”
Prince – “4 the Tears In Your Eyes”
Skandalous All-Stars – “Cult of Personality”
Alexei Sayle – “The Winebars of Old Hampstead Town”

Spot On Etsy: I Love Tab

So, the picture I had of myself on Etsy from December 2012 until early in June 2013 was a crappy tablet pic of myself, wearing a Secret Affair t-shirt and a b&w zebra-print with hot pink trim “santa hat”, and drinking a can of Tab. I actually got a few Etsy convos from people expressing their love of that photo, and at least one person says that she decided she HAD TO make her purchase based solely on the fact that I was drinking Tab in the photo.

So in homage to that, here’s an I ♥ Tab treasury:

New Badges in the Odd Mod Out Shoppe

And I’ve had actually two badges get featured in the following Treasury:

Totally Tubular – 2 Tone


It’s my birthday later this month, but I’m giving YOU a present with this coupon code:


Good on any purchase of US$3 or more, and gives a 16% discount ALL JULY!

And lastly:

If you’re waiting for me to replenish my copies of New Dance in my shoppe, mark your calendars! I’m due to get a few more copies on 22 July 2013 (my birthday!), and if they pass inspection, they’ll be up for sale within a day or two, and I’ll have more of the free gift put together by then, as well.