Subculture Focus: Britpop
"If punk was about getting rid of hippies, then I'm getting rid of grunge!" - Damon Albarn
Let's set the scene: it was early '90s, post-Thatcher Britain and the Madchester movement of the late '80s had ended, leaving a void in the British music scene. American grunge had invaded the airwaves, and the charts were dominated by bands such as Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. If you're a proud wearer of 90s clothes, you're probably already no stranger to the titantic impact Britpop had. If you're a little hazy, read on to learn more!
Live Forever: The Story Of Britpop
Although popular, the apathy of American grunge had little
relevance for young British kids who were experiencing a period of
affluence and optimism after being downtrodden by Thatcher.
Somewhere in London a reactionary new movement was bubbling up.
Heavily influenced by '60s rock bands The Kinks, The Beatles and
The Who, as well as the late '80s sounds of The Smiths and The
Stone Roses, the new sound had catchy melodies, distinctly British
references and celebrated regional accents. Britpop was born!
The heady north London neighbourhood of Camden Town was the spiritual epicentre of the unravelling Britpop scene, with many of its cornerstone bands gigging and hanging out at bars such as The Good Mixer, The Hawley Arms and Electric Ballroom. The death of Kurt Cobain in 1994 drew the final curtain on grunge, and gave Britpop the space it needed to take off. The first Britpop album is widely disputed, but Oasis' debut Definitely Maybe, Blur's Parklife and Suede's self-titled debut are all contenders, and a slew of young British bands quickly followed in their wake, including Pulp, Elastica, Supergrass and The Verve. Although musically different, the bands shared a foregrounding of Britishness, and kicked off a cultural renaissance that the press labelled 'Cool Britannia'.
From Liam Gallagher and Damon Albarn to Jarvis Cocker, Britpop's icons were roguish and cheeky. The movement associated itself strongly with working class culture, and its image always tended towards the laddish: cigarettes and alcohol were de rigueur, as were Fred Perry polo shirts, Doc Martens and Kangol hats. Follow these trends as a Britpop blueprint when selecting 90s clothes!
Even the ladies of Britpop adopted its masculine attire, with Justine Frischmann of Elastica and Louise Wener of Sleeper sporting floppy, choppy crops and tracksuit tops. In the years that followed Britpop, the movement continued to influence fashions by reviving the popularity of heritage labels such as Clarks and Fred Perry.
By 1995, the scene had reached its zenith. The 'Battle of The Bands' saw Blur and Oasis go head to head in a highly-publicised chart battle for the number one single spot, which was bagged by Blur's Country House. Despite its popularity, Britpop was over by 1997. Drug use had an increasing stranglehold on the scene, and Tony Blair hammered the final nail in the coffin when he used the movement to tout New Labour as young and cool during the elections. Short it may have been, but Britpop's legacy lingers because it taught us how to be proud of being British again!