Fashion: deja voodoo
Sunday 20 September 1998
That first spring, dancefloors were suddenly swamped with football fashion and "old-school" Seventies trainers. Girls wore satin shorts, knee socks and platform shoes with three white stripes (like Adidas football boots). Boys wore football shirts from exotic foreign clubs: Juventus, Barcelona, Santos or Flamengo. This was partly a safety-tactic - wearing domestic team colours might still get you in to a fight - but mostly because British club shirts (remember Arsenal's infamous "bruised banana" away strip?) were uglier than ever. Vintage replica shirts from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies were also a la mode. Slim-fitting, elegantly designed and without adornment - save for the team badge - they made perfect clubwear.
This new aesthetic signalled that club culture was no longer driven by an art-school elite, but by the masses. The reference to more innocent times (most of those wearing retro-styled trainers and football shirts had been at school when they first appeared) was a gesture of hope in the future as well as a wish to relive the carefree days of youth - for although English clubs were still banned from European competition, there was a palpable sense of the game emerging from a dark, ugly period in its history.
By 1990 crowd violence was fading, as increasing numbers of football fans took Ecstasy the night before, or even during, Saturday's match. Hugging your enemies, rather than kicking them into unconsciousness, became the defining gesture of masculinity. To quote from Boy George's book Take It Like a Man: "During the acid house days I realised something, watching all the football hooligans running around out of their minds. For a brief moment ... maybe all night if they dropped enough E's, they released some of that Rottweiler anxiety and were free to tell strangers they loved them."
This mood of goodwill was largely superficial, but its mythic power undoubtedly changed expectations. Lad embraced lad and looked forward to a new beginning. Anecdotal reports of rival gangs meeting on dancefloors, only to end up dancing together, became commonplace. In the new, neutral ground of nightlife, all locations were theoretically the same location; and therefore everyone could play at home. All that, just by wearing a football shirt ... !
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