Although I’ve never been a ‘labels’ kinda person I do understand that the currency of wearing branded attire can validate the wearers claims to be part of some sort of ‘club’ or ‘affiliation’.
In my early years I was afflicted by an un-requited love of the attire emerging from the Addi-Dassler factory of
Germany whom at the time, in my
opinion represented the fulcrum in which sporting prowess met street-cred
Those three thick, zigg-zagged edged, white striped vertical left-leaning stripes adorning their sneakers and other apparel opened the eyes and broadened the horizons of marketers the world over to the possibilities of exploiting the emerging ‘Leisure’ market.
I harassed my mum to buy me the latest in primary school age apparel circa 1976.
What I got back was Bata Scout drill shoes, grey shirts, grey sock and a jumper that must have been designed with a pledge to being the most-itchy ever designed.
I observed and lamented from afar the vantage point of exclusion.
Replete in my Target, Harris Scarfe and Dimmeys attire I could never be confused with some school yard dandy and my last years at Kew Primary school were made even more painful as the fashion passed me by.
What started as a demarcation of sorts between the cool and the not of the school yard, was hammered out to a
Damascus forged loathing of labels of any
Whilst my twenty–something friends were adorned in the surfy logo-ed attire from Reg Mombassa then Stussy then Mooks I steadfastly held my nerve, determined that my sextant for non-compliance stay doggedly true to its chartered course.
So for the eschewing decade or two, the labels appeared on the scene, came and went unburdened by my purchases.
I was always a keen op-shopper, right from the get go, from my teens gravitating toward winkle pickers, stove-pipe trousers and over coats, to my twenties fascination with weathered leather, old football shirts and vintage sneakers.
One day I turned up to a rowing regatta with a zoot suit, war medals, a lariat tie, collar tips, arm bands, a mighty quiff and the pointiest shoes imaginable.
The older rowers sniggered and messed up my hair and one of them took me aside and earnestly enquired if ‘I had joined a cult?’
What is it about ‘different’ clothes that make people anxious?
These days I suppose I’m much more conservative. In fact I rarely if ever buy any clothes that are expensive, preferring to take my chances at looking acceptable with the duds that are availed to everyone in the big box retailers.
As I look through my washing a thought hits me with a dose of irony though. It seems that my entire wardrobe has been homogenised to the point that only one or two makers are responsible for kitting me out. In fact I could be a, gulp, Brand Ambassador for freaken Big W’s
Oh Lordy, what have I become?! Tweed River
Is 'Tweed River' an actual place or a state of mind? If it were the latter I prefer to imagine it a place where
Harris jacketed chaps lean on poles pushing the punts along whilst eyeing off the ruffled petticoats of their female companions both tipsy with Sancerre and desire. A place where chums would gather at the Free House for real Ale, cheddar and pickles. Where the foreign girl would arrive on the college lawn in a cashmere sweater, A line skirt and blood red lips forever etched in my memory. Of dreaming of a life at sea, eating octopus in Crete and sipping Rum in Sailor Jerry's Antigua. Of mornings of writing and afternoons of lovemaking, the billowing curtains lapping me with a cool afternoon breeze. Perhaps even secret meetings in underground jazz clubs, the marijuana smoke as heavy in the air as the lids of its patrons, the warm melting the brylcreemed setting of my combed cowlicks. Dib dib dob dob and all that chappy, message in hand right to the club and the CO, a hand delivered code rewarded with a neat scotch and a seat in the chesterfield.
Ah, Tweed River, how I identify with thee.
However, the reality of Tweed River is probably more like a brick veneered three bedroomed suburban dwelling in Porpoise Spit, celebrated abode of Muriel or perhaps the cashed up bogan heartland of Sylvania Waters. Cast with white teethed and toupeed Bob Jelly's(Sea Change) league clubs, shopping malls and fake-tanned, pneumatic, barbie-doll-like Stepford Wives..
Or maybe I'm just thinking too much about my sudden realization that I've become reliant on these cheap clothes and how this might reflect my identity? Do the marketers of Tweed River expect such existential angst in their consumers? Is there a helpline?
While I'm on it, is there a guarantee that the people making these evocatively named garments are being paid fairly and treated respectfully? How does a $5 pair of shorts actually pay for itself? Do they live in peril impeded by a locked door in the fire escape? Is there a fire escape?
Its an odd thought to have chosen not to adorn myself with labels only to find myself almost exclusively clothed by one, a bargain basement brand trying to carve out its own identity.