Things to Read #24

Patti Smith and David Lynch talk Blue Velvet and Pussy Riot.

Here’s a little something I wrote about people who wear pizza onesies, amongst other things.

Street style is dead – kinda.

Robin Givhan’s precise analysis of fashion is always great. Here’s her take on the new fashion exhibit at the Met, which focuses on mourning dress – “A widow was also a potentially dangerous woman, one with sexual experience who was untethered from marriage. Mourning attire marked her and served as a visual reminder of her formidable, discomforting knowledge.”

Bonus Givhan! A look at the journalist’s attitude to life and work.

A very thorough look at Vivienne Westwood’s new biography in the LRB.

Putin’s isolationist policies are changing everything in Russia – even the fashion industry. BoF’s two parter on the fashion media and retail sectors are essential reading.

Are you listening to Serial? (I’m not, but only because I want to wait ’til every espide is done so I can binge listen.) Here’s two articles on the more troubling aspects of broadcasting an already-troubling story. Spoiler alert, obviously.

“And I’ve never been able to believe that peace is a good present to give a young woman.” We need more advice columnists like Colette.

What it’s like to be an Instagram celebrity.

A look inside the gay wing (actual wing name – K6G) of LA Men’s Central Jail.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on the foolishness of ignoring the Bill Cosby rape allegations.

The Wild Girl Gangs of Marrakech

Kesh Angels, the work of Moroccan-born, UK-based photographer Hassan Hajjaj is a hallucinatory look into a young subculture that most people aren’t privy to – the Moroccan motorcycle girl gang. Women on scooters with Nike djellabas, knockoff designer slippers, heart-shaped shades and a flagrant disregard for perceived speed limits. They’re got the attitude and unblinking, unwavering stares of Russ Meyer film heroines, but the only killing these ladies are doing are with their threads.

It’s only a matter of time before this gets co-opted into an M.I.A music video – or maybe that’s kinda happened already

P.S – If you like this, you might like this old post on the Hell’s Angels and the women who rode with them.








Kesh Angels is running at the Taymour Grahne Gallery in New York until March 8th

More photos at The Guardian.

Licentiate Column 09/05/13: Bill Cunningham New York – What a Lovely Fella


Photo by The Sartorialist.

There are days when you feel restless and annoyed, unsure of yourself and bored with everything. Nothing is right. Everything is limp. The brain feels overstretched and chewed over, like a discarded piece of chewing gum stuck to the sole of your shoe. I call those days ‘Sundays’.

Sundays are made for couples – providing, of course, that they both have the same opinion on football. If you’re single, Sundays are usually made for the television.

In moments of laziness and indecision, it’s often a good idea to pop the TV on. The Spurs match not being entirely enticing, I flicked onto the hard drive to see what treasures were stored there. A Beyonce documentary (nah), Gone With The Wind (tempting, but too long) and three BBC4 documentaries about women’s issues (that I doubt I’d process very well after a glass or two of wine). As you can tell, I live in a very pro-woman household – that or someone spontaneously deleted all my brother’s carefully recorded episodes of Family Guy and American Dad again.


I ended up watching ‘Bill Cunningham New York’, a lovely feelgood documentary about the well-respected New York Times street style photographer. It’s a study in integrity, passion and the insane capacity for knowledge that a love of fashion – indeed any art or craft – can inspire. If you have not watched it, I beg you to go and do so. Even if the thought of fashion trends makes you want to vomit, watch it. Even if you’re only using this page to clear up dog poop (I applaud you for recycling, I really do) and this sentence manages to catch your eye, watch it. You will not regret it. Put the paper in the bin first though. Or frame it. Whatever, I’m not bothered.

Bill Cunningham is one of those rare important people in the fashion industry who simply reports style instead of dictating it. Every day, he puts on his cheap blue smock, loads his camera with film and cycles the street of new York on his Schwinn, looking for something beautiful to photograph.
In ‘Bill on Bill’, a rare autobiographical piece that Cunningham wrote in 2002, he said, “Back in the 60’s, I remember that Eleanor Nangle and I were sitting at one of Oscar de la Renta’s first shows in New York when she heard antiwar protesters down in the street. She said: “Come on, Bill, we’re leaving. The action isn’t here.”” We got up and skipped out of the show. I knew from photographing people on the streets that the news was not in the showrooms. It was on the streets.”

This was written a full ten years before street style blew up – some might say right in our faces. And yet, whether you are aware of street style or not, Bill Cunningham remains, unchanging. He’s one of the most important chroniclers of our time, and has been for several decades. He’s a burst of warm sunshine – the perfect person to get to know on a self-conscious Sunday.

The Face of Modern Street Style

TAKE MY PICTURE from GARAGE Magazine on Vimeo.

Have you seen Take My Picture yet? If not, take nine minutes out of your evening and watch it – it’s very illuminating.

Featuring Tim Blanks, Tommy Ton and Susie Bubble, this Garage Magazine-commissioned mini-doc explores the street style phenomenon as it exists today.

Regardless of whether you think street style is the modern runway or a load of old hooey (or, like me, you think it’s a bit of both) there’s a new insight to be gleaned after watching this.

And at least if you don’t learn anything, you’ll get to see Anna Dello Russo briskly walking in circles for Tommy Ton’s benefit. More entertaining than it sounds, I promise.


The Reading List: Where Were You?


Oh, gosh.

Where to start?

‘Where Were You?’ is a book that charts the evolution of Irish street style from the Fifties until the turn of the century. Meticulously compiled over the past four years by the ever-diligent Garry O’Neill, this heavy book is a true rendering of what street style used to be, before Photoshop and shopping online made everyone look so bloody homogenous.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the book was funded by crowd sourcing website Fundit, it’s incredibly well-put together. The layout is good. It’s almost all pictures with very little text. The sprinkling of words that you do read add some historical contact, but that’s pretty much it. It doesn’t really matter though – the real meat is in the photographs of the (mostly) stylish Hibernians. Who knew that we Irish were stylish? It’s a little-known fact that we should probably shout about a bit more.

This review, like the book itself, is less about the blather and more about the pictures. As a chronicle of style and subculture, it has yet to be topped – although I would love to see someone try.








NOTE – The vast majority of books on this website are review books sent to me by publishers. Not the case here – I bought this copy of ‘Where Were You?’ myself. I’m just so blatantly gushy because I love it and I think that all streetstyle/subculture gawkers should buy a copy. And, if you don’t have the money to buy a copy, you should definitely check out the Facebook page. It is published by Hi Tone Books in a limited run and is out now.

The Seeberger Brothers and Real Street Style

Elegance: The Seeberger Brothers and the Birth of Fashion Photography is one of those books that I’ve wanted forever but couldn’t really afford.  It is out of print and second hand copies cost fifty euros and upwards.  The steep sort of upwards.

With photographs as good as these, the prohibitive price tag may be justified.  Caution – this is a very image-heavy post.  To find out more about the Seeberger brothers, click here.

Images via here, here, here and here

Diet Coke Fashion Friday: Cork Fashion Week Style

Cork Fashion Week finished for another year last week and I was lucky enough to go along to their High Tea at Hayfield Manor Hotel, which kicked off the event schedule.  Hosted by the loverly Angela Scanlon, we saw the very best that Cork’s shops have to offer, and I got to hang around backstage, interview all the main players and try not to accidentally ogle models as they changed (I’m not so used to being backstage that I can be properly nonplussed yet).  Did I mention that there’s going to be a video?  Oh yes, there is a video – not of models changing by the way; that would be weird and incredibly invasive.

Here’s a few snaps of some very stylish people.

Licentiate Column 20/09/12: Fashion Weeks – A Hobby or an Industry?

On publication of this week’s column, we will be approximately halfway through Fashion Month. Editors, stylists, buyers and celebrities go from New York to London to Milan to Paris, watching fashion shows and attempting to distill the essence of the next season. This happens twice a year, in September and February.

Oh, you didn’t notice? That’s fine. All that means it that the world hasn’t stopped turning for those who didn’t go. Life carries on. Who’d have thunk it?

The four fashion weeks are industry events. They are essentially the most glamourous trade fairs in the world. Traditionally a closed shop, the proliferation of fashion bloggers and street style photographers has now changed the way that anyone who has use of the internet sees the fashion world.

Fashion editors have become fetishised and idolised, thanks in no small part to documentary The September Issue, which explored the inner working of Vogue at the Conde Nast offices in Manhattan. It can be seen as deserved praise, considering the dedication and vision of people who give decades of toil (it’s not coal mining by any stretch of the imagination, but it is hard work) in what used to be an editorially faceless industry.

It’s breakout star, creative director Grace Coddington, is set to publish her memoirs in November while the hardest-working street style photographer going, Bill Cunningham, was also made the subject of an empathetic and touching documentary. The recently released The Eye Has To Travel re-examines the work of sixties Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, who had hopefully now had her place in the creative pantheon sealed.
It is good and right to admire people at the top of their professions – they work hard, they are talented, pragmatic, creative and routinely outrageous (in the fashion industry even staid ordinariness can be considered outrageous).

Street style is a completely different game. It is what it means; stylish people, found on the street. The very ethos of street style denoted its outsider status. That is, until blogging happened and street style came to Fashion Weeks around the globe.

Being a street style star used to mean that you had your own clothes and that you wore them in a way unique to you. Now, many popular bloggers are being paid by designers to wear their goods at shows. It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. By becoming celebrities, bloggers become about as relevant as their more famous counterparts: They show up, they get their photo taken, they get paid, they go home. The joy has been sucked out of dressing up.

A lot of people don’t aspire to be famous personal style bloggers because they’re stylish – they want to have their picture taken. They want validation and a moderate level of fame. They want to be adored. This is unfortunate for them, because the majority of personal style bloggers didn’t start out with this aim. They’re at fashion week to see the clothes, not to be seen for the clothes they’re wearing.

If you want to see some real street and fashion week style (plebs as well as fashion figures) by talented photographers, feel free to check out the following –,,,, and

Skinheads and Subculture

My teeny tiny mind had been blown.

Skinheads in Life Magazine, late 1960’s. Photo by Terry Spencer

I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on youth subculture lately for workzzzzzz… Oh, sorry, did you fall asleep there?  A lot of people find this stuff boring, but I do not.  Subculture and style is my long-held, unashamedly nerdy passion.  I thought that I knew pretty much everything about the timeline of British subcultures.  But I was wrong.

If you’ve watched Shane Meadows’ amazing This Is England, This Is England ’86 and This Is England ’88, you might be a little bit in love with skinhead style. Woody and Lol for life, yo.  I (and I suspect, a lot of other people) thought that is was an offshoot of punk – but the skinhead movement actually started in the Sixties.  Skins were Hippy antagonisers.  Mind. Blown.

If you’ve got a spare ten minutes, give this video a watch.  By punk figure and subcultural anthropologist Don Letts, this is a breeze through the surprisingly diverse origins of the skinhead.  And it’s very stylish too.


It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

A little bit Wildwood N.J, a little bit bit street style, this candid project taken on the streets on Philadelphia by the enigmatically named Roy W, is all about endless summer, sitting on stoops and trading wisecracks between surreptitious cigarette drags.

As an aside, I always wanted to sit on a stoop and drink one of those 40oz bottles of beer in a brown paper bag (I know it’s weird, I know).  So, when I got to New York in the summer of 2008, I did just that – I sat on a stoop with my friend Sam and a 40, all bagged up.  I had a 40 of Smirnoff Ice, not beer, because I’m not that committed to the illusion.  it was a good evening – until the cop car pulled up…

Photos from Hear It Snap on Flickr, via Teenager