As some of you may have seen on K&C's instagram recently, I spent the rainy bank holiday weekend going through some old family photo albums (by which I mean real books, with real photos!).
Here are some thoughts I had whilst peering into the past:
Long before we had instagram our photo collections showed a carefully curated life. The albums I flicked through made it seem as though my parents spent the entire 80’s either on holiday or at weddings. But that is because those are the moments they want to immortalise.
It isn’t necessarily about trying to portray a better than perfect life, it’s about making sure we remember the best bits, the happy moments, the days which make us smile. Because there are plenty of days which don’t.
I wonder if the problem with modern photo albums, by which I mean Instagram, isn’t what we show of ourselves, but rather how we gaze at others. Instead of feeling joyful for other people’s good fortune, we seem to sit in a pit of schadenfreude and green eyed monster: taking pleasure in someone's "fail" or jealous that they are by a swimming pool in Capri instead of on the tube in Camden.
My new season’s resolution is to give this up and try to take as much joy as possible in other people’s happiness, particularly while the world (by which I mean the media I consume) seems so determined to depress me.
Bring on your humble brags, the sunshine, the delicious food and fabulous company. Post your best photo, show me what has made you smile this week. Let us collectively feel each others joy.
Someone once told me that a mother is only ever as happy as their least happy child. What if we were able to flip that so that as a community we agree to be as happy as our most happy acquaintance?
My second takeaway was the clothing. The books I was looking through predominantly document the 80’s.
If you had to ask me to describe 80’s fashion I would probably reach for words such as colourful, garish, big, structured. I would think of Armani shoulder pads, the garish prints of Versace, the over the top accessories of Joan Collins. Opulence and indulgence.
But looking through these albums what struck me is how contemporary the clothing feels. There are a couple of giveaways, namely the hair and superfluous embroidery, but for the most part these images, taken out of context could be almost any period.
I have railed against “timeless style” before. It has always felt like a nonsense marketing term to me. But these images do feel timeless.
Take my mother on a windy day in Dublin. She is wearing pale straight cut jeans, a slightly oversized raglan sleeve Mac and a white cross body bag. Variations of all three currently sit in my wardrobe.
Or a picture of my dad by the sea sporting Nike trainers, navy chinos and a body warmer. If the gilet were a navy Schoeffel number then he would look completely at home in the City of London last Thursday.
Yes there are of course a few pictures which scream Princess Di (namely an embroidered pinafore worn over a voluminous silk shirt for a wedding in 1983) but for the most part, without the annotations, I’m not sure that I would be able to pinpoint a specific era to which these snapshots belong.
There are even a couple from 1920’s where the men wouldn’t look out of place on the streets of modern London (not so much the ladies, I’m afraid the hats and lace are a dead giveaway).
So what does this tell me about clothing?
- Catwalks and magazines have always been filled with extremes to get our attention. Just because in 1985 Jean Paul Gaultier was sending metallic quilted cod pieces down the runway, doesn’t mean that Joe Blogs, or my dad, was wearing them.
- It isn’t just a marketing ploy, I really do want to invest in getting very good quality pieces because I could be wearing them for 40 years (yes 1983 was 40 years ago!) especially overcoats and jackets.
- Dressing like my mother is the ultimate compliment, I like every thing she is wearing in these photos.
- It’s ok to spend money on “trends” because in all likelihood that trend will come back around again. I am sure that many of these pictures don’t offend me because big shoulders are back in fashion, if I had looked at these a decade ago perhaps they would have felt much more dated…
- Even in jeans and t-shirts the people in these pictures look chic and put together, because there was no such thing as fast throw away fashion in this era. Even their t-shirts would have been discerningly selected, tried on in an actual bricks and mortar store, washed with care, looked after and appreciated.
All of this is to say that if you need me, I will be on a ski holiday in 1982 wearing aviators and cashmere from St Michael’s.