My sister with Pete Doherty, three years after telling me how awful he is.
Okay, so I haven’t actually set any trends, but I’ve noticed a fair list of items, fashions, objects, which I sported to much mockery from family and friends, and which subsequently became ubiquitously popular; from the F.R.I.E.N.D.S pencil-case which I was the first to have and later became the favoured pencil-case of every girl in the year, to the desire to wear skirts over jeans or trousers, which my mother told me made me look ‘a lesbian’ but which, following the Spice Girls girl-power era, became a fashion staple for a couple of years in the mid-nineties.
This isn't me, I'm just illustrating the trend.
I don’t wish to sound like I think I’m some stylish trendsetter, because it couldn’t be further from the truth, but I just find it curious, sort of like when you’re reading a book and the word you’re reading is said aloud in the room or on television, at exactly the moment you read it, it’s a strange peculiarity.
An example is Jack Wills. Now, I’m not claiming that I invented Jack Wills. No, that was the ingenious work of Peter Williams and Robert Shaw in Salcombe, Devon, back in 1999. However, long before I knew anything about Jack Wills or had even heard the name, my family used to call me scruffy and weird for wearing tartan pyjama bottoms and chunky knit jumpers. I used to love nothing more than coming home from college, or later, work, and settling down on the settee in comfy pyjamas and a jumper, it’s just so cosy. Now, Jack Wills charges £49 for what they call ‘Loungepants’ but are essentially very well-made, high-quality tartan pyjama bottoms designed to be worn during the day, as loungewear. When I first discovered Jack Wills, walking into their shop in Chester was like walking into my own mind. I felt they’d captured every idiosyncratic thought I’d ever had about an outfit, and made it reality. Does this mean I’m a genius? I think, more probably, my predisposition for wearing pyjamas in the daytime was shared by a great many other people, mainly students, to be fair, and this was noticed and capitalised on by Jack Wills, who have since made it extremely popular. Nevertheless, at the time, it felt like they’d stolen my thoughts.
My next point of conjecture, good people of the jury, is The Libertines. Now, this point is more personal, but still serves a purpose. Back when Pete Doherty and Carl Barat actually played together, before they broke up and reformed for a lucrative festival deal, I loved them. They were the epitome of everything I worshipped about music, and their songs were good, too. Some years later, when my sister reached that age when teenagers start forming their own opinions about music, I tried, as a big sister, to make suggestions. I was desperate for her to experience what I had experienced, feel what I felt. The Libertines had been broken-up for years, their music was never played, not many people ever mentioned them, they’d faded into musical memory. I wanted to show my sister the wildness of those early gigs, when they’d line people up and tattoo Libertine across their arm. I wanted her to hear the music that was full of passion, energy and poetry. She refused. Still not quite over the break-up of her beloved Busted, but never into McFly, she said the Libertines were junkies, dirty and refused to listen to a single song. Fast-forward two more years. My sister began going out with boys who loved the Libertines, and so began listening to their music and very quickly warmed up to them. Nowadays, she knows more lyrics to their songs than I do, is a personal friend of Pete Doherty, goes to parties at his flat, has been photographed in Elle and Grazia walking down the street with him, has been in a taxi with him, has Libertine across her arm, which was drawn by Pete himself and then tattooed over.
My sister in Grazia with Pete Doherty.
My point is, I begged her to listen to them, and now she’s more of a Libertine than I am. So, does this mean I started a trend, if only in my sister? I think so. I have very similar stories for the films Withnail & I, the film (coincidentally) The Libertine, and Sylvia Plath. She always resists but concedes in the end. Also, The Smiths, but I can’t take all the credit for that one.
My sister at Leeds, wearing a Libertines jacket to see the long-awaited reformation.
Back in, probably around 1997, I was the first person in my year at school to have a mobile. To be fair, this is probably less to do with the fact that I’m a perspicacious mogul and more to do with the fact that my Dad was flogging moody phones that topped up £10 every time you turned them off and on again. Still, I started the trend for mobiles at my school, in one way or another.
So, you see, my point is not that I began trends and influenced people, more that I had a desire to wear, listen to, or do something, which later became very popular. Back in 1990’s Runcorn, I longed for a vague ‘something’ which I couldn’t define, which involved loving good music, wearing floral dresses, a sort of mixture of 80’s, 70’s, 60’s, something cool, vintage, old-fashioned, and which later developed as a little trend we know as ‘Indie’. I was indie before I even knew what it was. Growing up, we wore tracksuits, listened to whatever was number 1 in the chart, bought our cd’s from Asda with the weekly shopping, went to McDonalds, and didn’t really think about anything else. I had a tingling; an itch which was finally scratched when people started talking about indie. I’d come home. Just like, I suppose, all of us.