The rock star, the stylist, and a case of missing trousers

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The Independent Online

To most high-earning and globally successful rock stars, a pair of trousers, some earrings, a Stetson hat and a sweatshirt, last worn sometime in the late 1980s, would be long since gone and forgotten. Except for Bono, frontman of U2.

The items have been the subject of a bitter legal dispute over their ownership between U2 and their former stylist Lola Cashman. Yesterday, the wrangle finally reached the Dublin Circuit Civil Court, where Bono interrupted the band's present tour for a personal appearance in the witness box.

The four articles have been held by Christie's the auctioneers in London for the past three years since the group learnt that Ms Cashman was attempting to put them up for auction. She also wrote a book, Inside the Zoo, about her time with the group, published in 2003.

The court was told that the group wanted the return of the items, all worn by Bono during the 1987 Joshua Tree tour, together with around 200 Polaroid photographs taken by Ms Cashman. She was said to have taken the items home to her apartment in London after U2's final concert of the tour in Arizona; she parted company with the band the following year after they were unable to agree a new contract.

Bono, wearing a plain black suit and white shirt, took off his trademark green-tinted sunglasses to give evidence. He said the band had taken the action with great sadness: "You may have wealth and power, but when someone is trying to push us around and blackmail us and threaten us with books, at a certain point you have to say 'Stop right there'. "

The group had been "sad and disgusted" at Ms Cashman's actions, Bono said. Her claim that the items had been gifts was ridiculous. "They sound like trivial items, they're really not. They are important items to the group and we take them seriously."

The Stetson hat in particular was more important than any of the other items because it had a kind of iconic status. "It would be like the Edge giving one of his guitars away. It is not something which will happen," he said.

He added that everyone in the wardrobe department would have known if he had given the Stetson to Ms Cashman. "And I would have been in trouble with the band as usual."

Bono, accompanied in court by the U2 drummer, Larry Mullen, and the band's manager, Paul McGuinness, said the band's memorabilia had sometimes been put up for charity auctions. Other band members, he said, felt he had auctioned too many pairs of his sunglasses.

There was laughter in court when Bono recalled the band's attempts to improve their image. "In a way it was the thing we always thought the last about, as might be obvious looking at the earlier photos."

He denied suggestions by Hugh Hartnett, representing Ms Cashman, that the action was a legal stunt designed to sidetrack defamation proceedings that Ms Cashman was taking against the band in the High Court in London. "How on earth can it be a legal stunt to protect your reputation?" said Bono.

Asked by Mr Hartnett what he meant by the iconic status of the Stetson hat, Bono said that while the word icon was more suited to religious items, the band were aiming for a certain status. "You attempt as a songwriter to place your work, not just on the road, not just in people's cars and homes but into the popular consciousness. It's what songwriters do - we want our songs to be remembered as part of an era."

When Mr Hartnett suggested there was less awareness of the band's iconic status in 1987 tour than later, Bono provoked more laughter when he said: "Oh no, we had delusions of grandeur from the very beginning."

Under cross-examination, Bono said Ms Cashman had bought trousers of different sizes for him during the tour because of his weight fluctuations. He said: "Sadly I put on weight all the time. Oscillate is a word you could use." He added: "It's not particularly embarrassing because it's likely I would fit them again, whether they were a smaller size or a larger size."

He denied being so exhilarated after the final performance he had given Ms Cashman the earrings. "To characterise it as everyone jumping up and down and giving our earrings away ... I said it's unlikely."

In her evidence, Ms Cashman the star had been "a joyous and playful mood" on that night when they came off stage. "Bono was running around... in his underpants with his hat on."She had asked for, and been given, the hat, she said, because it symbolised all her work the "amazing'' tour. Ms Cashman said she had also asked for, and had received, permission for the other items.

The court heard she was responsible for all the band's touring clothing with a budget of around £10,000.

She had been hired by Bono because of a need to change the band's image. "I spent a lot of time with Bono who was very geared up to dragging the band's image into the century," she said. The Stetson hats had been used to give the band a "quite raunchy and rough" cowboy look; she had thrown out much of their old clothing.

The case continues