Picture this: Summer has kicked-off with a bang, you are a rich white suburban teen and the year could be 1978 or 1988, it just. Doesn’t. Matter. You and your friends all have convertibles with high-grade stereos in them and an endless supply of weed, and all you have to do is hang out and keep cool: In every sense of the word. You spend you days sleeping till noon and then after a quick dip in the large blue pool behind the house you jump (literally) in your firebird or freebird or thunderbird and cruise through the valley to pick up your best friend, Kenny. The two of you then go to a sweet leafy spot high up in the hills to kick back and smoke some weed, over looking the city suburbs, until you are really stoned and then cruise about the streets listening to KROC or a mixtape that one of you has made. The tunes are all blissed-out west coast shit, and play loudly as your skin blisters and burns in the sun, from white to red to brown. You and Kenny begin to look alike and a couple of times you share a girl. A couple of times you get so wasted that you forget your name, you forget who what when where why, until you spot Kenny sat in a corner sat by the pool sat in the passenger seat sat next to you with his head in his hands and and and it all comes rushing back to you. It could be said that Kenny keeps you grounded; that he keeps you from getting so high and actually floating off and never returning; but this would never happen, as that would be just too deep for you to imagine. After a few hours of cruising you float down from the hills into the valley and hook up with your close circle of friends every night in a car park behind the 7-11, which by 9-o clock looks like a fancy-schmancy car show complete with beautiful women lolling about on the hoods of the cars. By midnight the party has moved on to wherever is available; whoever’s parents are out of town, you move from one spot to another in heavy rotation. You drift thought a steady supply of the most beautiful girls imaginable and available – nothing ever too heavy and nobody ever getting hurt when you trade in one for another. This is all part of it. The girls are into the brief, intense, relationships and after a couple of hazy days of love they want someone, something, new. This is all you do all summer. This is all you want to do all summer. This is summer. You have absolutely nothing to worry about. Nothing.
If you happened to be passing through the suburban neighbourhood where I grew up, one Sunday in the 70’s or 80’s, you wouldn’t notice anything untoward or unusual. Quite the opposite – business as usual; a place for everything and everything in its place: The chugging of the Qualcast or the hover of the Flymo (depending on which concept of advertising you bought into); the snipping of red handled secateurs; the holler of kids on bikes, or home-made go-carts; the kicking of a football; the chanting of a gang; the whipping of cream, the roasting of beef; the flicking of the pages of a Sunday newspaper; the whack of a cricket bat; the ignition of a Zippo. This was the sounds of the suburb I grew up in, not too far, but far enough, from London, in the wide green belt that surrounds the capital where the biggest crime was to fuck with next door’s lawn, or to embarrass your parents; Both of which I was guilty of. On many occasions, too many to list.
The neighbourhood was cul-de-sac heaven, 4 bed detached houses with 2 cars and a neat lawn in the front (fuck with it at your peril) and I’d check all this as I wheeled myself around. The summers were nice, safe, uneventful: cricket in the park until it got dark, some back garden camping, a couple of Bar-B-Q’s, nothing too excessive. This is the middle class bottom line. You mustn’t be seen as being ostentatious. You mustn’t stand out; be seen or heard, unless you’re bragging about how well your kids are doing at school, university or career (never a ‘job’). My parents never really had the pleasure of doing any of this. I didn’t care…I was buck wild, which they explained away with the adoption word, this was their get out of jail free card: I wasn’t really related; there was no bloodline. If there had been, I would have been some weak-assed, square as fuck, geeky pencil-wallah, who got great grades but was bullied and as far away from the street as I could be.
Nowadays I celebrate my individuality, but back then I wish I had not been so repressed, so smothered in middle-class rules. Fucking rules for everything. No this no that. Don’t shan’t can’t… Fucking drove me mad. Insane almost…So with the above in mind it’s not rocket science to see why I became a Casual. I can remember slitting my slacks and getting hold of a Lacoste shirt, a pair of blue and white deck shoes, a fake-Pringle jumper, some Nike McEnroes. The other popular sub-culture was what we called ‘Long Coats’ – almost goths, who were into the Smiths and wore long shitty coats from a charity shop or an elderly relative. I wasn’t down with that. Too shabby – the European fashions of the Casual movement were what did it for me: a touch of the continent in the suburban hell I’ve probably spent too long describing.
Casual Hit list: Lacoste; Fila BJ; Sergio Taccini; Ellesse; blue or red suede Patrick trainers; Borg Elite; Farrah’s (split at the shoe); Lyle & Scott golf jumper; Aquascutum; Sunday Night Haven Disco on the London road; Capital Radio’s the best junior disco in town at the civic hall; rocking it watching the ‘Pioneer Breakers’ battle some team from Stevenage or Welwyn, whilst trying to get off with some girl called Jackie or Lisa in skipants and white jumper.