When writing the My First Rally series there are a few recurring themes for how 80s scooter fashions evolved. Many of us went through various phases so I revisited my photo albums to see what crimes of fashion were committed, when we had no money and even less style…
When the decade started, the punk era was still a recent memory and the likes of The Jam, Secret Affair and the emerging 2 Tone movement influenced many a young teen.
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My male schoolmates began wearing Sta-Prest trousers (often taken in by their mum, or me, to turn them from a slim leg into a super-skinny fit), coupled with a Fred Perry shirt or jumper and topped with a boating blazer, Harrington or parka. They’d wear desert boots or Jam shoes, often bought from Shelleys in Carnaby Street.
Interesting fact : Harrington jackets were named after a character in the 1960s soap opera Peyton Place. Rodney Harrington was played by Ryan O’Neal and was often seen in a Harrington jacket.
I used to love going to Carnaby Street on shopping expeditions. On one mission my mate Deb and I both bought flasher macs, probably because Paul Weller had worn one once, for a nanosecond. Coupled with ski-pants, and a Fred Perry, or turtle necked jumper, we tried to be trendy modettes but I was always in awe of the girls a year or two above us, who seemed so much cooler.
I progressed into wearing a parka and it was standard issue for all of us on our Vespa 50 Specials, around 1982/83. It was such an impractical coat for an English winter, offering no level of protection against the rain. When they were wet they weighed an absolute ton, and I don’t think I had a waterproof pair of gloves until the 2000s.
In 1984, 80s scooter fashions changed, and the mods turned into scooterboys and girls, seemingly overnight. Parkas were swapped for flight jackets (also known as pilot jackets if you lived up north!), Sta-Prest were ditched for camouflage trousers and army greens, and desert boots were replaced with Doc Martins, monkey boots and boxing boots
It was common to wear a cut-off denim jacket over a flight jacket too, usually with a club, rally or band t-shirt underneath.
As we often didn’t have waterproofs, on a wet rally we would improvise with bin liners! The photo below was taken at Great Yarmouth in 1984, where our tent flooded and we had the prospect of a 200 mile ride home in pouring rain. I think the expression on Sarah’s face says it all!
I favoured bleached jeans, using my Mum’s kitchen bucket and soaking a screwed-up pair of denims for a few hours to produce a random design. If I left them in too long then they’d fall apart quite quickly afterwards but I patched them up with beer towels, somehow thinking this improved their appearance!
In the photo below, Rich has painted band names onto his jeans with bleach! He’s also wearing the classic 80s Alien helmet.
Many of us wore leather jackets, and I bought my favourite one off my cousin. However, we’d usually have another jacket on which we’d sew our rally patches, a strict part of the post-rally routine (along with having a lovely hot bath and playing to death the new 7″ single I’d bought from dealer Pete).
Dungarees were popular too, and I’d buy mine from Millets and dye them, or bleach them. I’d also buy their khaki army bags which I’d decorate with patches or a marker pen. I went through a waffle cardigan phase, and lived in moccasins, usually black ones rather than the more popular tan colour, which were perfect for dancing!
Psychobilly music had a massive influence on 80s scooter fashions in the middle of the decade, especially the hairstyles. It started with flat tops and then progressed into massive quiffs, and a ‘horseshoe’ style where the crown was shaved as well as the back, just leaving a semi-circular, hairsprayed, peak.
We’d also dye our hair all sorts of colours. My favourite was a gorgeous ultra violet shade, but I have photos of me with blue, red and pink hair, all of which had to be applied on top of bleach and topped up regularly to keep it nice and bright. My mum used to be so embarrassed when she walked next to me through the town, it was a complete role reversal from the Kevin The Teenager character who wouldn’t be seen dead with his parents. I was lucky to be working in a factory at the time, where I could wear anything and look any way I liked, with shaved, coloured hair. I still see workmates from those days who reminisce that they’d walk in on a Monday and wonder what colour my hair would be that week.
Here are more big hairdos from the Alcoholic Rats ladies, who demonstrate that cable knits were big in the 80s too!
The psychobilly culture also spawned a t-shirt industry, particularly featuring bands such as King Kurt, The Meteors and The Cramps. They would often be cut down, removing the sleeves and side seams.
Grass skirts were popular, again influenced by King Kurt. Mick Hames ticks all the 80s scooterboy boxes in the photo below, with quiff, King Kurt t-shirt, grass skirt, leather jacket, cutoff denim, camouflage trousers and DMs!
A lot of my mates from the Midhurst Detours would also wear kilts over army greens or bondage trousers, an overhang from the punk era.
Here’s Jamie and John modelling the kilt look perfectly!
Throughout that period, skinhead fashion was popular too, often featuring a double denim look with smart Ben Sherman shirt or Fred Perry and Doc Martens. For a smarter occasion they’d wear tonic suits, with DM shoes, and fishnet tights (for skin girls, not boys!).
As the decade wore on, 80s scooter fashions started to diversify. Some people adopted a more casual style (by ‘casual’ I mean like the ‘casual’ cult, rather than trackie bottoms and trainers!). I had a colourful phase in the late 80s, wearing bright t-shirts, shorts and converse boots to match. Not my finest hour, but I don’t think any of my ‘looks’ were particularly attractive! My husband insists he stayed as a scooterboy for the whole decade, before he turned into a long-haired, anti-poll-tax-demonstrating soap dodger in the 1990s.
And there you have it – the decade that fashion forgot, but we were happy in our scooter bubble wearing (mainly) comfortable, practical attire.
Thanks to Dizzy, Jo and Tori for letting me raid their photo albums to fill in some of the gaps that I couldn’t demonstrate myself!
More 80s Stuff
I have a comprehensive 2019 rally list and it includes plenty of tips for accommodation and what’s on at each event. Click here for the lowdown and you can also see a listing of northern dos, bands, scooter club nights and alldayers here.