By Belinda Morris
Clothing of the Bad, Beautiful and Misunderstood
By Roger K. Burton (£35, The Horse Hospital in association with Laurence King)
Robert K. Burton has drawn upon his 50 or so years of collecting vintage street fashion to create what must surely be the definitive exploration of counterculture clothing. The costume designer, stylist and former mod put his passion to perfect use by (eventually) supplying authentic costumes for film, TV, music videos, fashion magazines, designers and museums globally. Of particular note, the 1978 cult movie Quadrophenia featured original mod clothing, supplied by Burton.
Rebel Threads is a comprehensive, in-depth, and very personal guide to ‘living and wearable history’ as told though street style. Beginning at the beginning (the ‘swing kids, hep cats and bobby soxers’ of the mid 1930s to mid ‘50s) he tells the stories of the clothes, their origins, the movements, the wearers… through words and images. Rare film stills and pictures of kids and gangs wearing the clothes, are complemented by detailed photos of costumes styled by Burton, from his own vast collection – almost 300 images in all.
Interestingly, Burton opens with an essay on stripes. Pretty much the motif of the establishment today, go back a bit and they were associated with pirates, prisoners and prostitutes, outlaws, gangsters, bikers and Beatniks’ and were ‘worn proudly as a show of unity and rebelliousness’.
The book details every possible street style/sub-culture from the zoot suit wearers, through to the punks of the 1980s… and everything in between. Spivs and wide boys, Teddy Boys (and girls), Rockers, Hippies, Mods, Kings Road Dandies, Bohemians, Skinheads – they’re all here, forensically and lovingly examined by this passionate curator. There’s so much to glean from these pages – even by those who consider themselves experts in the subject – a ‘must’ for any vintage lover.