Fashion: Everyday people

Street style in the Nineties is less about shock, more about blending in - the difference is in the tiniest details, chronicled here by photographer Henry Bond

he idea of "street style" now seems strangely old-fashioned. In the Eighties and Seventies, London's street style was inspirational and influential. Designers came to London to hang out on the King's Road and soak up new ideas. Then, the term referred to DIY fashion: punks, girls in stripy tights and shocking pink hair, boys in shocking pink mohair and stripy Mohicans, kids in ridiculous shoes, and all other forms of sartorial weirdness. In the slick, sleek Nineties, however, street style is not so much creative as corporate.

When photographer Henry Bond, a regular contributor to the Face and i- D (the magazines that charted street style through the Eighties), spent a year on the streets of London photographing innocent passers-by, he was, he says, "struck by the use of brands and how important they have become" in the Nineties. The result is a lush coffee-table book, Henry Bond: the Cult of the Street, as much a rich social document of the way we actually dress (rather than the way fashion designers like to imagine we dress) as a study of everyday people and their urban surroundings in the late Nineties.

"The power of street style is in the details," says Bond, who should know after months loitering with intent to shoot any two-legged creature that passed in front of his lens. And the detail is in the branding. It might be the mixing of totally disparate brand names, such as Prada and Nike, or a whole range of accessories that might include a can of Coke (more branding) or a mobile phone.

"A lot of street culture is about playing a character," notes Bond. "My formative years were during punk, when there was a culture of self-expression and individuality." It would appear from his reportage photographs, taken mostly between 1996 and 1997, that the idea of dressing to stand out in a crowd has been replaced by one of wanting to merge with one's surroundings - a kind of urban camouflage. Just as fashion shops the world over are selling identical products, so, too, are we beginning to dress like those around us. There is a uniform: in the city, pinstripes still prevail; in clubs, crop tops and shiny satin are the thing.

Bond became interested in the whole ritual of dressing. On a Saturday afternoon out shopping, the look is casual - often a bit too casual. "There was a real nonchalance and boredom about the shoppers,

a sense that people were refusing to be fazed by anything," he says. "There was a definite idea of people - both men and women - not wanting to try too hard." Of course, to look so casual and so unkempt is quite an art.

Some things never change, however. Bond noted a surprising confidence in the way women wear provocative clothes, "revealing and sexy in both shape and form". He also found the builder's bum eyesore still very much a vibrant part of the street. "Builders are the ultimate vulgarians." Tamsin Blanchard

`Henry Bond: the Cult of the Street', pounds 23.99, is published by the Emily Tsingou Gallery, 10 Charles II Street, London SW1. An exhibition of nine life-size photographs from the book continues at the gallery until 27 June. Enquiries: 0171 839 5320.

Captions: Bond spent a year on the streets of London photographing innocent passers-by. The resulting pictures are a rich social document of the way we dress (rather than the way fashion designers like to imagine we dress ) `A lot of street culture is about playing a character,' notes Bond. `There was a real nonchalance and boredom ... a sense that people were refusing to be fazed by anything'

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