A Celebration of Britpop
As we celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the 'Battle of Britpop' we thought we would hark back to the golden age of British band music!
Britpop emerged in the early 1990's as an anti-grunge movement. It was heavily influenced by alternative rock groups such as The Smiths and The Kinks. 90's bands Suede and Blur pioneered this style of music by releasing songs that celebrated their Britishness.
It was a kind of two fingers up to the American grunge genre that had been made popular by bands such as Nirvana.
The music featured regional accents, with a hard edge and a lyrical honesty. There was a focus on the working class youth culture that swarmed the streets of Britain's cities at the time.
They wrote lyrics that referenced their home-towns and catchy lines that they felt would ring true with their own generation. These were just your average lads, best mates and big brothers that you would find down your grimy local swigging beer and watching the footie.
Blur pioneered this Anglocentric mentality. Their approach to regional music was inspired by their tour in the United States in the spring of 1992 when front man Damon Albarn began to resent American culture and wrote about that culture's influence which had been seeping into Britain via the grunge movement.
It wasn't until their third album, Parklife, that the band found ultimate success. The album propelled them into stardom and they became arguably the most popular band in the UK in 1994, the same year the world saw the death of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. It seemed that British alternative rock was finally dominating the scene. That same year Oasis released their debut album Definitely Maybe, which became the fastest-selling debut album ever.
Blur and Oasis brought alternative rock into the mainstream and were quickly followed by other bands such as The Verve, Pulp, Placebo, Supergrass, Cast, Space, Sleeper and Elastica. They all had a laid-back attitude that epitomised the music and fashion of the 90's.
These bands helped to revive home-grown heritage labels like Clarks, Aquascutum, Doc Marten, Fred Perry and Burberry. For lads, if it wasn't a polo shirt it was a checked shirt with a parka chucked on over the top - they became the hallmarks of Blur and Oasis's wardrobe. Much like the grunge fashions of the time, this relaxed, laddish style was all about looking like you had just thrown on whatever was at hand. Trying too hard was not cool!
For the Britpop girls there was no room for girliness, however, there was room for chokers and ironic, cutesy hair slides that kept your choppy hair in check. Elastica's Justine Frischmnn and Sleeper's Louise Wener epitomised the glam-punk tomboy style of the time.
The bands reminded us of the greatness that is on our own doorstep. However, all this Britishness made it difficult for the bands to achieve success in America and the Britpop movement slowly faded away as we entered the millennium.
Read the narrative below from someone who lived through these tumultuous and legendary times;
It was about music. Guitar based with a bit of a 60s pop vibe. Return to simpler pop song with an immediacy and street based relevance. Simple, strong 3.5 min pop tunes. Things turned more early period Beatle- esque upbeat, and less Nirvana/ Shoegaze. Everything seemed simple and everyone seemed to get on. It was a collaborative/ collective period and little seemed about the self. It was all about big groups of mates just having a laugh and singing along to 'Don't Look Back in Anger'. That is basically it. House parties, hot summers and a total innocence that made being young a whole lot easier! No one really cared what you wore, and rarely seemed to comment on fashion but for a bit of label chat.
Politcally, there was a shift from the Sloaney state of the 80's toward a 'working class' cool. No one wanted to be posh, and everyone wanted to be part of the lads/ ladette's. Labour got in and everyone seemed freer from our class system than ever before. Basically, no one gave a shit what school you went to, and it was worth more to know the local del-boy than so and so off the society pages. Things were not about sophistication at all!!
And there were bands. So many bands. Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Supergrass, Kula Shaker, Verve, Suede, Elastica, Sleeper, Republica, Menswear, Charlatans, Ocean Colour Scene, La's, Divine Comedy, Cardigans, catatonia, Super Fury Animals, mansun, lightning seeds, cast, echobelly, bluetones....the list goes on. This was the soundtrack to my generation's. (Sorry for you lot who got left with Snow Patrol and the Kaiser Chiefs!).
Fashioned followed the politics, like the 1960's, where young and carefree was the main vibe. Slouch, louche, easy going, anything but uptight. Labels were definitely in, in a way that might now be deemed 'chav'. Back then it was just a uniform and anyone that wasn't chavvy was more studenty/ 60s, but mostly it was a cross over. There didn't seem to be loads of tribes, just really the street/ sportswear ones and the retro ones, but as i said, most people were a mix of both.
Boys typically fitted into three looks. 1) Streetwear: 501's, Fred Perry or Ralph Polo. Ben Sherman was key. Bomber jacket or denim jacket. And of course the Harrington. 2) Sportswear with a retro vibe: Zip up track top (preferably with some lines down the sleeves) with flares or pop cords. Vintage Adidas and airplane/ kit bags. 3) Mod(ish): Jeans, flares, cords, cord or suede jacket in the shape of a denim jacket. Band t shirt, or old vintage flannels. Parkas! Maybe a cheeky paisley shirt on occasion. Wallaby shoes / desert boots.
Girls. Pretty much the same as guys during the day (but sometimes with a tighter top). Tight fitting polo tops alongside belly tops (which could be achieved with the t shirt tie). Or slouchy sports sweatshirts. Leggings but more so hipster bell bottoms. The lower the better. At night, things were pretty slutty. Slip dresses mainly, or nondescript skirt/ tight top combos. There was also the 60s vibe running through; a-line skirts with little fluffy jumpers. Bright orange and lime green had a bit of a moment. Palladium shoes, chunky heels which are big right now, Shelly's and Kickers.
Check out Rokit's Britpop styles through the links below. Chuck on your Levi's, saunter into town, muster up some laddish charm and drink a beer or two. We'll see you down the pub.