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IF THEY'LL LET YOU ON THE PLANE WITH THEM HERE ARE THREE BOOKS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
by Andrew Vaughan
'PITCH INVASION - adidas, puma and the making of modern sport' BY BARBARA SMIT
This is a book about two world wars, numerous world cups, Olympic games, feuding families and bloody pumps!
It is all pretty much about what is says on the tin as many of the major sporting events are covered and it becomes apparent how the Dassler family have in fact shaped modern sport. While it is basically a business book that could probably have been written about any family business that has gone global what makes this tome stand out is that this business is based on footwear, fashion and sport. And if you are not interested in at least one of those subjects then there is really no hope. If, like me, you are interested in all three then this is a rip-roaring read.
I've no idea how accurate the story is as my knowledge of their business before reading this could have been written on the sole of a Gazelle. But it has everything bar patricide as the Dasslers go to war. Nike, Reebok and all the other main players enter the fray with characters such as Bernard Tapie, Johan Cruyff (who comes across as astute and arrogant as you'd expect), Ali and Pele being an intrinsic part of the plot. There are takeovers, business disasters, bungs and a whole host of despicable rogues. It's all great stuff.
'THE WAY WE WORE' BY ROBERT ELMS (PICADOR)
I have a confession to make. I like Robert Elms. He's a fine broadcaster and his radio show in London is good and I even like his writing. Well, some of it anyway! As a devotee of The Face magazine all those years back I thought some of his stuff was very readable. And while I think his novel 'In Search Of The Crack (sic)' is, well frankly cack, his book on Spain 'Spain. A Portrait After The General' is one of my favourite travel books.
My view on his latest book 'The Way We Wore. A Life In Threads' is somewhere in-between. It's about clothes, Elms' lifelong obsession with them and about Elms himself. The first half of the book is glorious and is beautifully written as he describes his working class upbringing in the family's Burnt Oak home. Life was a struggle as it was for many of us and Elms writes touchingly about his family (especially his elder brother Reggie who he plainly idolises), his friends and of course the clothes that he remembers so fondly. He knows his stuff and his observation to detail is acute as a subject like this deserves. He also gets full kudos for reminding me that I too owned a Wrigley's Chewing Gum Belt.
Where the book goes wrong for me is about the same time as I moved to London myself. I'll forgive him for his observation that he and others got into punk because of the clothes because I'm sure that was the case. For the other 98% of us that love punk it is for the music! In fact Elms' big problem is that he sees everything as clothes led when (apart from the casual movement) it is plainly obvious that music has led the youth cults. However that is his view and as Elms moves from punk to New Romantic it is here that I - and I guess many readers also would - lose my affinity for his writing. He was obviously there at the beginning of this movement and as I know some of the characters he mentions he reports it accurately. The problem is, that however you dress it up, the New Romantic/Blitz movement meant absolutely ball-all to most people and musical and sartorial culture in general. By now I'd moved on from punk to what he describes as one that wears "bed-sit depression chic". I and 98% of the others! Quite simply I'll see your Spandau Ballet and raise you Gang of Four, Echo & The Bunnymen and Joy Division. Put simply Spandau and the Blitz lot meant nothing to anybody bar a few wannabe dandies and some 80s pop fans. Not even style over substance in their case.
From there on Elms guides us through his WAG Club days and his much-maligned "Hard Times" period, a small take on the casual era and his transformation into a bespoke suit-wearing London media whore. It all ends for him with Acid House and a visit to Shoom in 1987 where he is horrified at the dress sense of the clientele. Maybe they are there for the music, Robert. Maybe people are always there for the music.
So is it worth the eight sovs for the paperback? I'd say, yes but with reservations! The strength and weakness of the book is Elms' opinionated views and while you'll undoubtedly not agree with many of his viewpoints you have to say he argues his case well and sticks to his guns. In conclusion I'd say it's a good addition to the genre and as I said at the start the early stuff is lovely to read.
'KING'S ROAD - THE RISE AND FALL OF THE HIPPEST STREET IN THE WORLD' BY MAX DÉCHARNÉ (WEIDENFELD & NICHOLSON)
Staying on a threads thread, as such, Décharné's book does what it says in the title. Most of our vintage will associate the King's Road with the punk era and he covers this in the final quarter of this 400-page tome. It is arguable that this is the least interesting aspect of the book; probably due to the period being over-chronicled already. The first three-quarters of this selected history of the King's Road is of the greater interest to myself. Especially where the sixties metamorphoses into the seventies as Granny Takes a Trip down at Biba's Boutique.
The book has been painstakingly researched and the bibliography is almost as long as the book. But the research means he really gets to the often chaotic, shambolic heart of the King's Road. Covering the music, clothes, theatres, pubs and characters of the various eras.
For anybody interested in sixties and seventies clothes and culture then the book is a must-read. As for everybody else you'll think it's a load of flippant gossip and irrelevance. For me any book that includes Alex and his droogs, Dracula AD 1972, Nick Drake and Diana Dors' swinging parties is alright by me.
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