80s Casuals - A Brief History

We live in an information age where virtually anything can be characterised in a nutshell and passed off as “knowledge”, whether it’s political, scientific or simply a history of the 80s casuals movement, that terrace trend that influenced street fashions to the present day. 80s casuals are now in their 40s and showing no sign of letting up on their dark fetish. It’s creeping into the media in ever greater quantity along with all the bios, biopics and documentaries about Joy Division, Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses. These days people know it all. They can tell you the exact day the Hacienda opened and closed ‘cos they’ve read it on Wikipedia or heard it on a late-night discussion between television hipsters. Experts, they truly are.But beyond the pedestrian mode of the casual Casual, there are the professional Casuals - a whole other kettle of dogfish. There’s blokes in Leicester and Carlisle who can rhyme off every major “label” worn by football casual hooligans from 1979 to 2009. They’ll describe in intricate detail the colour of the boxes the latest re-issued Adidas trainers come in, and why (Chinese or not, etc). 80s casuals are still admired in ways the lads of the mid-70s certainly aren’t. But shouldn’t they know better, these 40-odd-going-on-16 designer fetishists? They cram onto internet message boards to compare notes on the finer points of lace-dyeing, edge-piping repair (as in the piping on a vintage hiking jacket; these lads aren’t discussing plumbing) and reissues of various Adidas classics in new and scandalous colourways. It can be quite serious; “Korsika” from Bradford once deregistered himself and flounced off in a massive huff after “Estaban” from Barnsley commented that, based on the photo evidence, his new cord shoes were “fucking shit” (he deregistered after a few months and is now firmly in the grip of his addiction, you’ll be pleased to learn). These men spend a worryingly large fraction of their lives sitting at computers debating the finer points of Barbour wax jackets and vintage Patrick cagoules. Best of all are the debates which begin with a post entitled, “Are these snide or wott?” followed by a vigorous rally of observations and arguments centred on a pic taken from eBay; whenever a forum member plans to purchase a coat, t-shirt, or sweater that looks moody it must be first subjected to the intense scrutiny of all concerned before Paypal are brought into the picture. The things these chaps notice would put a forensic scientist to shame; the wrong tone of blue used in a stitched font on the inside label of a polo shirt, the width of a tiny stripe around a collar, or the stitch pattern on the breast pocket of a Lacoste jacket, salvaged from 1980 and placed for auction on the internet behemoth. eBay features heavily in the designer fetish equation and its reach knows no bounds when combined with the heroic favour system inherent on these forums; an 80s casual living on a remote farm in Saskatchewan can access eBay’s inventory and have gear delivered in good time, thanks to other lads accepting packages before posting them on to further legs of their journey

Casual culture started sometime in the late-70s in Liverpool. Nobody knows exactly when, but Liverpudlians claim 1977 as the year it appeared there. Some even claim 1976 but this is surely preposterous. Manchester’s story is also hazy; there was a group called the Perry Boys (or Perries, as those in the know called them) roaming the city since the early-70s who closely resembled the classic casual. What later became Boys, or casuals, in Manchester was surely influenced by the Perries, but they weren’t quite the same. The main difference being the casual movement was part of football, whereas the Perries were part of the Northern Soul scene. One thing is for sure though; in Liverpool and Manchester, this unnamed and peculiar movement didn’t come from nothing. It was the result of unrelated fragments that suddenly galvanised and created an attitude, a look and a sense of accomplishment in those who started it. I would honestly say that 1978 was the year I first wore plainer (i.e. not comical) shirts, jeans and shoes. It was also the year that designer logos such as Adidas and Levis appeared on t-shirts and shoes, not just jeans. I was 12 in 1978. I used to wash cars for pocket money. I remember having a white small-collared shirt with a black chequered pattern on it, made by a company called Dillinger. The label simply had the name on, across the top of a breast pocket. On the inside label was a picture of the famous bank-robber. I also wore Levis shoes, a funny combination of denim and rubber which came in several different species. Round-necked Adidas t-shirts had replaced replica football shirts as the choice of sportswear and narrower jeans had replaced the ridiculous flares of yesteryear. It wasn’t 1977 anymore and everybody knew it.

Adidas training shoes were at the heart of the matter from the beginning. The Adidas Stan Smith, which some Scousers claim was worn as early as 1977 but which enjoyed its most popular phase in early 1980, was the shoe that kicked the casual thing off in the form it was to adopt and keep forever. We’d seen Adidas Kick, Bamba, Mamba and Samba come and go since ’78 and later the suede magnificence of Jogger and Bali. But Stan Smiths were different; architecturally they resembled white pumps like Dunlop Green Flash, but their leather uppers and rubber soles bespoke a durable edge to their unprecedented style and plainness. Adidas Kick became Bamba became Mamba became Samba. Samba didn’t become Stan Smith; Stan Smiths were of a completely separate lineage. Only the blue suede Bali and Jogger could hold their own against Stan Smith, with that same rubber sole which fascinated and obsessed the minds of northwest lads for the next several years. In time, even the Stan Smith itself was forced to give way to a superior form of tennis shoe.During 1979, Lois and Lee jeans became popular. Lee featured the unusual spade-shaped pockets and Lois had the sign of a bull on their leather label, with an additional little triangular leather tag on the small change pocket above the front pocket. The wearing of Adidas trainers with a pair of Lois was the thing to do. The sweater of choice was the burgundy Peter Werth striped polo shirt. The Peter Werth featured a low shoulder seam and three buttons leading to a small collar. They were made from a fine soft and baggy wool. Stan Smiths were worn in Liverpool in 1979 along with Lois and to a lesser extent in Manchester. Christmas 1979 saw lads in both cities go crazy for Stan Smith and Inega jeans. By the end of ’79, Inega jeans were replacing Lois as the jeans to wear in Manchester. Inegas would be themselves replaced in the spring and summer of 1980 by Ritzy and Razzy jeans, which Scousers had already been wearing for a couple of months if not longer. The white trainers were worn as is before someone dyed theirs. There followed a dyeing craze that saw the shoe appear on northwest football ground forecourts in every colour imaginable. An alternative to the Adidas Stan Smith was Le Coq Sportif’s Arthur Ashe, a white leather shoe with similar perforations in it and a blue heel tag with the Coq Sportif logo on it. Kio Riders hit the streets in early 1980, a copycat Stan Smith designed like street shoes rather than sports shoes. They came in white like their Adidas counterpart but later in 1980 were sold coloured. Most distinctly, Kio’s bore a red rectangular insert in the side of the rubber sole, as well as a larger one on the bottom. The red rectangle had the word Kio’s on it, in relief. Kio’s were a cool and exciting development; the first shoe seemingly manufactured just for us and our secret fashion. Even though I knew Stan Smiths were of superior construction, I couldn’t resist buying a pair of Kio’s. They came in various colours, of which the strangest was a shade of violet known officially as “petrol”. I had petrol Kio’s and so did a lad known as Pike, who sadly is no longer with us. Most lads bravely settled for red or blue.

Kickers were a shoe or boot which had lurked at the background of the scene and became popular in 1981, along with FUs jeans, which bore a stitch-pattern similar to Razzy and Ritzy on their back pocket except it was curved rather than angular. But it was Adidas once again who produced the masterwork of the period, in several styles. Sometime in late-1980, an advanced form of tennis shoe, featuring a thick white soft rubber sole with a blue bottom appeared on the scene. The first of this type were Adidas N?stase, a white trainer with blue stripes, made from some kind of synthetic weave. The white sole with the blue bottom bent one’s head out of shape, they were so amazing. N?stase was quickly followed by Adidas ATP, a white shoe like Nastase with blue stripes, but made of leather. The sole was a denser type of compressed rubber, denser even than Jogger, while the sole of Nastase was lighter and spongier. ATP was followed by Grand Prix and Wimbledon, white oxhide trainers with navy stripes, or in Wimbledon’s case two navy with a red stripe in between. The legendary Grand Slam was soon to follow, with its special pegs inserted in the sole. This tennis shoe selection was a truly beautiful thing and remains so to this day. By the time it was old hat myriad others had come and gone. K. Abdul Jabbar boots, Forest Hills, Puma Argentina, Diadora Borg elites (in kangaroo leather) and Donnay strapovers.The adaptations were plentiful and rapid but the truth was, by late 1982, Casual had run its course, evolutionarily; there was simply nowhere left to go. When Adidas introduced the shoe range, including Korsika and others that resembled moccasins or regular brown leather shoes, the whole trip had come full circle and had run out of steam. Anyone who was there at that time should have known. Hush Puppies soon replaced Adidas shoes and the whole energetic transmutation came to rest in an earth-toned patchwork of leather, suede, lambswool and tweed. It was 1983. The end.

But it wasn’t the end, not yet, not ever; the rest of Britain were to pick up the pieces and while Madchester slowly gathered steam, casuals continued to create and indulge in the race for credibility between individuals, neighbourhoods, cities and regions. The information age was upon us and telephone boxes became mobile phones became computers. Top boys from various “firms” began to establish communication with the enemy to facilitate ease of engagement. It was only a matter of time until the message boards were created and, together with the mellowing effect of drugs like marijuana and Ecstasy, things changed for the positive. Many sworn enemies who’d grown up hating now discovered they had much in common with lads from the other end of the country. The internet was now used to move clothing and music and invitations more than it was used as a way to organise violence between football firms. Which brings us back to the boys on the messageboards. Some are there to sell, some to buy and some to do both. It’s a very queer glass of water but it seems to work. Why am I writing this? Fuck knows.

 

Taken from the respected perry boys website - http://www.perryboys.com