FASHION / Real people

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The Independent Culture
REAL PEOPLE are people fashion doesn't deal with. 'I'll use a real woman if she's a size 8 with legs up to her neck]' is one of the more memorable quotes from a stylist I once worked with. Real people, you see, don't look right. Real people don't buy designer clothes. Real people can't afford them. Real people are bigger than a size 12 and smaller than 5 feet 6. Real people spend their money on food and then holidays and then, maybe, a new jacket. Real people spend a lot of time at Marks & Spencer, but not necessarily in the food department.

In 1969, when beautiful people abounded, it was impossible to find models who looked like ordinary people. So an agency was set up to provide people who looked 'real', and because they weren't beautiful the agency was called Ugly. Nearly 25 years later, 'Ugly's' is still going strong, but now it provides people with 'character' rather than people who frighten the living daylights out of you.

Every few months or so, they have casting sessions and add a few new faces to the list. Don Blackhurst, the oldest hippy in Guildford, arrived at Ugly's about 15 years ago, wearing roughly the same clothes he's wearing in the photograph here. Mr Treacle, the gurner in the main picture, has spent a long career in music halls; his specialities include yodelling. Emil Flop, the mime artist 'wandered in one day', says Jill Searle, one of the original founders of the agency, 'with his big ugly nose and a nice warm character' and he's been there ever since. Joe Sands is 6ft 5 and used to be a wrestler.

Uglies get paid the same rate as glamorous models and enjoy a career of bit parts in films and advertising commercials, travelling to Europe for some jobs. Quite a good life being ugly. And the clothes? The sort ordinary people will be wearing this summer. From Marks & Spencer. In sizes beyond a 12.

(Photographs omitted)