This article originally appeared in the June 19, 1987 issue of the Boston Phoenix.
You must have cool hair. If you are a woman, this is easily accomplished by visiting your local men’s barber. Ask him to make you look like Jack Lord on Hawaii Five-0. Then rely heavily on hair extensions, falls, and full wigs to achieve the variety you crave. If you must dye your hair, bleach it white. White hair is the perfect palette for those temporary hair dyes in gumball colors, and it can also be delicately tinted in winter to look like a fur hat.
Men’s hair should absolutely not be cut right above the ear line. It is okay to have no hair at all up to the ear line, but any hair above should be allowed to grow. Then you can wear it in ponytails, braids, or sculpted towers of coif à la mousse. Men who are slightly balding must, I repeat must, shave their heads completely every day. If you are cold, wear a small black pillbox hat done in black leather. If anyone asks, tell them you’re anti-Jackie Kennedy.
Pierce yourself, anywhere you can and as often as you can. Adorn yourself with a host of tiny little mismatched earrings or one gigantic earring. If you go for the one gigantic look, it must be absolutely magnificent. The best kind of earrings, in fact, are not earrings at all. They are religious artifacts, or kitchen utensils, or auto parts. Remember: plunder and pillage. It’s the Brit way.
Now footwear. As that other Mimi, Ms. Pond, would say, shoes are more important than anything. Including sex. So take the energy that you used to pour into you sex life and concentrate on those hoofers. Women should always wear men’s shoes or variations on men’s shoes. And because you’re a woman, you can go wild and wear men’s shoes that men wouldn’t be caught dead in. White bucks. Those funny leather bedroom slippers. Dad’s oxfords. If you absolutely must wear pumps, make sure they’re either vintage, with vicious stiletto heels and toes, both of which you could roast a marshmallow on, or sex-catalogue issue heels so high you have to be carried to the car.
All budding Britstylers, both men and women, must have a rich assortment of jackboots, modified Beatle boots, and combat boots in their wardrobe. These are essential Britstyle.
As for the rest of your wardrobe, be creative and stay alert when passing tag sales, sex shops, and dumpsters. Which reminds me:
Honor the working class. Designers in America, with the exception of selected manufacturers of denim products, don’t love to honor the working class. But the British do. And this is central to the British mentality. You see, even after all these years, the British have the lingering stigma of this crazy chaste system, with its clear divisions of upper and middle and working class. And their economy stinks. So all the young artists the new ideas are of course politically aware and thus are at war with the ruling class and not particularly interested in producing toys for the elite. And you shouldn’t be either. True Britstyle is staunchly street-referential.
Develop a sense of humor. Much of Britstyle’s punch come from that naughty English sense of humor. Irony is one of their best design tools, mixed with flippant playfulness. “Cheeky” is the operative word here. Mark Syrie’s winter collection of 1985 featured, among other oddities, jackets made of pub towels and coats sewn from trashy tapestries depicting The Last Supper in colorful plush.