I could never really get the Fred Perry to work for me, which is why I’ve always felt there’s something unresolved about it as a brand and as a garment. During the mid-1990s I enthusiastically embraced a whole host of clothing tips I learned from the likes of Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker and Brett Anderson, and the most significant were generally influenced by mod fashion – desert boots, three button jackets, skinny ties, etc. I probably looked daft, but I had the right frame for those clothes and enjoyed dressing up.
I know I write on here a lot about Blur, but I was never the sort of fan who obsessively collected everything by them, tried to imitate them in every way, etc. But there weren’t many kids with similar tastes to me at school and the need to assert myself as an identifiable member of a tribe was always important to me, meaning I spent as much time looking at the clothes people were wearing in The Melody Maker as reading the reviews. Stylistically Damon Albarn made the running for a long period of the 90s, which is probably why everyone – including me – dressed like him. But I make that distinction to (attempt to) demonstrate that I was more interested in looking like Blur’s audience, than Blur themselves.
Anway, Damon, particularly, seemed determined to pillage the early to mid-80s in the way he dressed, probably inspired by the likes of Terry Hall and Madness, and so his audience followed his lead and I too picked up old Adidas t-shirts from charity shops, retro trainers from Carnaby Street, horrible white Harrington jackets (see below) and even a few badly judged tracksuit tops. This more casual, laddish look – I should have realised at the time – was something I’d never really pull off. It only worked for Damon because he had a terribly fortunate combination of features; a good, strong jaw and feminine, sensitive-looking eyes. It made it possible for him to be simultaneously blokeish and effeminate. Those of us who followed in his tracks failed miserably – if you weren’t pretty, you looked indistinguishable from an Oasis fan, and if you were slight, like I was, the look was totally mismatched.
In particular, I had trouble with my Fred Perry polo. In the first instance, I wasn’t really sure what separated a Fred Perry from a Lacoste polo shirt in the first place (the distinction was important, of course) and secondly, I looked terrible when I wore it. It simply didn’t really fit. You need muscles to make a Fred Perry work, even if they’re only faintly discernible. Mine were non-existent. At the time, knowing I was a small teenager, I imagined that if I held on to my Fred Perry it would one day fit me perfectly, assuming I’d beef up eventually.
Well, I didn’t keep it forever and I certainly never beefed up. I just figured out it looked bad and persisting with it wasn’t getting me anywhere. Besides, by ’97 fashions had changed anyway and the average British indie-kid was starting to wear baggier jeans and looking less retro generally. And by that point, I’m pleased to say, I was finally starting to think less about what other people wore and more about what looked best on me. This is lucky as I spent most of the last few years of the 1990s listening to the Wu Tang Clan, whose look I couldn’t possibly imitate.
When Blur reformed last year, Damon Albarn got his old Fred Perry out of the cupboard (he’s stopped wearing it again now that his focus is Gorillaz) and all of a sudden I remembered how much I wanted that look to work when I was a kid. Damon still looked good, but I was canny enough to know I wouldn’t. Nevertheless, I did linger, at one point, over a single-tipped knit-shirt from Fred Perry, which was a finer, softer material, and an exact replica of a 1964 design that was cut a bit slimmer than the usual. Because it was limited edition, and made in Italy, it was really expensive, which was probably for the best because, of course, I look bloody awful in that style of shirt, so should know better.
Anyway. I think the only reason I still think about Fred Perry shirts is because I failed with that look in the first place, and it’s always niggled. Once again, I find myself looking at them again now, as I learn that they’re producing a new set of shirts with Liberty prints; they’re really pretty awesome, I think, and a good step away from the macho associations of the brand.
Again, however, it’s not something I could wear. Anyway – have a look.