The Hippy-Goth-Punk shop: a UK institution and a teenage rite of passage. Whilst I may have moved on from the scandalous “Barbie is a Slut” t-shirts and tie-dyed sarong skirts, I still get nostalgic for Saturday afternoons spent browsing boutiques that reeked of patchouli and had The Pixies on the stereo.
These shops played a big part in shaping the way that I dress and shop in my twenties – be it the love of bold jewellery or the many (and expensive) experiments with nail art. The hippy-goth-punk shop planted the seeds of my style.
Here are the three things for which I am forever grateful to Rowfers, Wolverhampton for:
Cheap Nail Varnish
Nowadays, it seems like a new cult nail polish is released every week. All that’s needed is a novel shade name, a weird finish and cute packaging - et voila! Flog it for £12.00 a bottle.
Things were different in the mid-nineties. It was either Mia Wallace inspired Rouge Noir or pearly Avon pink. There were rumours of brands like Hard Candy and Urban Decay from the States, but they were way out of my papergirl budget.
Thank heavens for Spectacular - a small UK-based cosmetics company that specialised in loud colours at low prices. A bottle of their nail varnish could be picked up for a mere £1.00. The must-have shades were the glossy black and the rainbow sparkle topcoat.
Spectacular is no more, but their colourful legacy lives on in brands like Stargazer, Barry M and Models Own.
When it came to accessories, subtle was never my style. I liked my jewellery big, plastic (or imitation silver) and ideally covered in rhinestones. Some would say “tacky”, I’d prefer to go with “challenging the boundaries of taste”.
My pocket money treasure included a variety of hippy love beads, woven friendship bracelets and bright plastic bead bangles. There were many failed attempts to launch my own jewellery range, using beads from the Rag Market and little bits of bent wire. I managed a few sales but, with hindsight, I think my customers were humouring me.
My love of loud accessories has stayed with me into adulthood, though my Tatty Devine habit does far more damage to my bank balance than my adolescent bead hoarding ever did.
Striped tights, glitter tights, floral tights, paisley tights, neon tights...
Statement hosiery is now a mainstream trend. Back in 1995 unusual tights were the sure fire way to weird up your look. Wearing colourful tights instantly marked you out as some sort of dangerous radical, out to outrage the powers that be with, err, colourful tights. Yeah! That’ll show ‘em!
Striped tights were quite a big-ticket purchase, costing about £7.00 a pair. So I only had two pairs – one purple and one green. They were always teamed with a denim mini-skirt, Dr Marten Mary Janes, a Hole T-shirt, a tiara and a perma-scowl.
You only have to look at ranges like Henry Holland for Pretty Polly, the rainbow colours at Tabio or the utterly bonkers Les Queues de Sardines to see that crazy hosiery is still going strong.
Jen Evans is a journalist specialising in culture. She still loves to challenge the boundaries of taste by wearing far too many sparkly patterned things. You can read more of her writing on her blog, Bookish Brunette.
Images via Keepwaddling1, Hanna's Photos, Jillian Rose Taylor and Mckaysavage's Flickrs