For those of you who have wandered way down the Alan Robson timeline seeing no end of weird clothes I’ve worn over the years will know that I have not exactly been a slave to fashion. My earliest clothes memory went back to me wanting what the bigger kids had, a Ben Sherman shirt with a button down collar and a pair of Levi’s. My Mam shopped for me at jumble sales, once my school blazer wore out after three years I ended up with a double breasted blazer that had been worn by a little bloke from the local bowls club. Talk about flak, the teachers humiliated me, all my mates took the pee because the school blazer was green with maroon trim, my blazer was dark blue, talk about sticking out! I was a bit of a hippy kid, and I’d learned how to tie dye T.shirts, which was why our bath had a dark red tinge. My cheap jeans, I’d domesticate. A process where you dipped them briefly in Domestos bleach, and they’d become patchy blue and white. They were cheaper jeans like Geordie Jeans or Wranglers, and I yearned for those Levi’s.
Finally on my 13th birthday, a dogtooth check Ben Sherman shirt with a button down collar (SWOON) and a pair of second hand Levi’s from the jumble sale. What a birthday! Firstly there was no smart Alec remark over that outfit, the girls will melt (or even talk to me) and I put them straight on to head out and show the world. At that time I lived in a little terraced street in Benwell called Hugh Gardens. Around the corner were the slightly tattier tenements called Suttons Dwellings, and that was where we played. We all had been warned off by the caretaker who was forever chasing us off the garage roofs that we leapt about. Jumping the two yards between them like Thompsons’ gazelles. So we had a kick about, then all climbed onto the roof of a garage to sit and have a parlay. After a couple of hours in the distance I heard my Mam at the front door of our house shouting ‘Alan’ in almost song style. Long before mobile phones this was our communication. If we went to a mates house, the door was always open and you’d sing the name of who you wanted. If you called the twins you’d lean into their house passage and sing ‘Terry and Billy!’. They’d bound out and we’d play football. It was nine o’clock so all of our gang could hear parents singing ‘Philip’, ‘Tony’, ‘Terry and Billy’ and my Mam ‘Alan’. We all climbed down and headed home. It was when we got under the lamppost at the top of the street we looked at our clothing, it was covered in red paint. We were all covered with this non-drying paint the caretaker had put on the garage roofs to stop us climbing on them. My Ben Sherman was covered, my Levi’s destroyed too! Suddenly my best birthday had become my worst, and my Dad was due home in just over an hour, I would get KNACKED! I hoped my Mam would clean them but it was not possible and I began yearning for another one of each without success.
At sixteen, still rather poor, despite three paper rounds and helping out an electrician doing local building work. Everyone was wearing dungarees, as they had ten years earlier, just this time it was trendy. I had long hair down to my backside, and wore hippy style cheesecloth shirts with wizard sleeves, and countless chains and beads. After getting £26 pounds for a week of electrical work after school I headed into town to get some funky dungarees. Outside the back door to Eldon Square, near Marks & Spencers there were a batch of tiny clothes shops in a row leading up to Percy Street. One of them was THE hot shop for the cooler looking dungarees. I went in and spotted that just in that morning – silk dungarees! I grabbed my size and went straight into a changing room. The colour was deep purple, like one of my all time favourite bands. Now these dungarees were all skin tight around the torso, yet with flared legs, surely perfect? I stepped out of the changing room that didn’t have a mirror, and into the shop with half a dozen smart hippy chicks. They all stared at my groin, and I truly looked deformed! My crotch looked like it had King Kong’s penis in it! In fairness in those dungarees a Malteser in your pocket would have looked like a basketball. I turned beetroot red, raced back into the changing room and decided silk was not for me! Instead I visited the Handyside Arcade, home of the hairy, and bought what they described as an Elton John style jacket. In reality it was probably made by the shops dressmaker Mam, from tapestry usually used on settees. I was a walking cooch! I loved that jacket!
As an established hairy, from 16 I became stupidly over the top. My favourite warm coat was fake maroon suede with fake sheepskin inside, I called it ‘Hair Bear’. On my very first trip abroad to Spain I took it with me, not to wear, but just so it could enjoy the holiday with me. At home I had a black cape with a blood red lining, worn with jeans, white cheese shirt and a top hat! At a time of skinheads, this was guaranteed to get me beaten up every couple of weeks.
Not long after that I got a job with the Ministry of Agriculture, that at the time was up on the border of Kenton Bar and Cowgate. On my first day I wore a T.shirt from the infamous Oz magazine that I bought every month. It had Micky Mouse on the front making an obscene gesture, as the rag rallied against one of the great American institutions. On my feet lavender platform boots, and red cord velvet flares, with lavender material cut into the flare to make it three times bigger. Up the legs, around the fly and the pockets I had put in metal star shaped studs. I wore a very long pink waistcoat with another hundred or so silver studs on it. I thought I looked amazing! Of course my boss sent me home to ‘dress accordingly’, and that meant a suit! Good job I had not gone in with my spandex trousers with my boxing boots!
Once on the radio and TV I had the perfect reason to dress in a ridiculous manner, so really went for it. Powder blue Bolero suits, I had a pink one too, bright ruby red tap shoes, baggy off the shoulder T.shirts, huge baggy casual trousers worn with sandal’s, and cowboy boots with Cuban heels, you never knew what was coming next.
I hope you guys have photo’s you’re ashamed of too!