CLOTHES FOR HEROES
ONLY ANARCHISTS ARE PRETTY
In 1971, Malcolm McLaren (future manager of the Sex Pistols) and Vivienne Westwood (future Thatcher lookalike) opened a boutique selling Teddy Boy clothes called Let It Rock at 430 King's Road, London. The following year, it became Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die (rocker leatherwear). In 1974, McLaren and his then-companion turned to fetish gear and designed the first punk clothes (SEX). The shop became known as Seditionaries (“Clothes For Heroes”) between 1976 and 1979. Andrew Wade’s website takes us on “a journey through the ruins”: “These are clothes that can't be ignored. Even after almost thirty years, they have the same power that inspired the cultural revolution that was punk, and have had a massive impact on how we dress today. . . . I still feel like I'm unravelling a mystery -- everyone knows the story of punk and the Sex Pistols, but the shop and clothes never seem to get the attention they deserve.”
Andrew Gallix interviews Andrew Wade
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3AM: Could you tell us a little about yourself?
AW: Name: Andrew Wade, age 33, married with one daughter (4 years old), live near Birmingham, England. Day Job: Computer Systems manager (yawn...)
3AM: How did you come to be interested in Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's boutique in the first place? Are you mainly interested in the fashion side of things or are you fascinated with the early punk scene?
AW: At the age of 10 or 11, I saw the Sex Pistols on TV, with John Rotten wearing a 'Destroy' t-shirt. I saw a similar shirt on a market stall in Birmingham -- the bloke who ran the stall used to go to Seditionaries and buy items to sell on his stall. I drove my mother mad until she bought it for me. I liked the idea of annoying people by the way I looked! I bought several other items over the years from second-hand shops etc. I never wanted to be a typical punk rocker and wear the uniform of Mowhawk, leather jacket, that sort of thing, which was prevalent by the start of the eighties. So I took the bits I liked and mixed it in with other stuff.
In the early 1990s I read Jon Savage's book England's Dreaming, which told the full story of the shops. Up until then I had never realised the full range of items produced by Malcolm and Vivienne -- the t-shirts, bondage trousers etc are really only the tip of the iceberg. The problem was that although the book talks about all these wonderful items, such as the Anarchy Shirt, or the zoot suits sold by Too Fast To Live (see picture), there weren't any books out there that illustrated them.
I'd have to say that I'm not a fashion connoisseur, or fixated with punk in general, but these are clothes that can't be ignored. Even after almost thirty years, they have the same power that inspired the cultural revolution that was punk, and have had a massive impact on how we dress today.
3AM: To someone like me who used to go to Seditionaries back in 1977 your site is quite incredible because it's like being there again. What sort of feedback are you getting from people who were not there at the time?
AW: I think a lot of people who weren't around at the time assumed that the shop was an offshoot of the Sex Pistols: it surprises them to find out that many of the clothes associated with punk were present years before the Pistols were even thought of. For example, Sid's beloved 'Vive Le Rock' t-shirt came from Let It Rock in 1972. I want to recreate some of the atmosphere of the shop throughout its incarnations. I loved the story of Malcolm refusing to sell items that were on display: "no, mate, not for sale. Come back in a year or two". You may notice that I use this phrase to cover up for my extreme laziness in not getting the site finished!
3AM: Tell us how you got pictures of all the clothes and of the shop. Where did you get hold of that pic of Sid and Debbie in the shop, for instance? Is it difficult to find material about the shop? Do you reckon you will be able to come up with much more material (pictures of the inside of the shop, say, or pictures of Seditionaries when it was all boarded up and graffitied in late 77)?
AW: I have loads of images that I haven't put up on the site yet. The picture you refer to [Sid Vicious on the phone and Debbie in Seditionaries] was grabbed from the Filth and the Fury. It's one of the few colour images to be found of Seditionaries, but I've managed to find some others as well. Yes, I've also got the boarded-up shop front!
Many of the clothes pictures were sent to me by collectors. I amassed the shop pictures over a period of time, from scouring and devouring all the books I could find, taking screen grabs of film footage, such as the Dressing for Pleasure film about rubber and leather people. There are shots of Let It Rock from a BBC news programme in a piece about the Teddy Boy revival of the early seventies. It's very difficult to find images of the interior that haven't been used in the myriad books about the Pistols/Punk. I've been fortunate in that some people who were connected with the shop have helped out.
3AM: Did you meet Malcolm McLaren to get his "confessions"? Is he interested in your project? How did you get in touch with Marco Pirroni (one of the original punks who played with The Models and Adam and The Ants)?
AW: To tell the truth, I got Malcolm's part from a lecture tour he did several years back. He's aware of the site, but he's not said anything! Marco came about because I was an Ants fan in my youth, and he could always be seen in SEX clothes, so he was a natural target. He's been brilliant, and I've relied on his knowledge quite a lot. He still has a large collection of original items, although many were destroyed by the ravages of time. Nils Stevenson (The Banshees’ manager) has been a big help, sending me some wonderful original magazine articles and pictures. Jordan sent me a nice mail, which was a thrill because she is a heroine. There are a few other people who will be featured as the site develops -- you'll have to wait and see!
3AM: Tell us about the forthcoming taxi tour from Sloane Square to World's End? Do you intend to make stops at other punk landmarks like Boy (which was called Acme Attractions before that, McLaren's rivals in the rag trade) or Beaufort Market (the punk market in the King’s Road where Polly Styrene of X-Ray Spex used to have a stall)?
AW: You've hit the nail on the head! There will be brief stops at places like Granny Takes A Trip, Boy etc, so everyone can see what the competition was up to. From there it's up to 430, and you will be able to have a look around the shop in its various guises and meet some of the people involved. Nearly all of them mad. (Clockwise: Berlin, Billy Idol future Generation X, Steve Severin and Siouxsie of The Banshees, Debbie.)
3AM: What about a feature on the Bromley Contingent and the other early Pistols fans, a 'where are they now?' sort of thing?
AW: I occasionally communicate with some of the Bromley Contingent (who hate that name!), but I don't really want the site to become just another Sex Pistols thing. Berlin is a writer, using his real name of Bertie Marshall. Simon Barker worked for Vivienne throughout Seditionaries and World's End. Sue Catwoman is writing her memoirs of the punk period at present. Debbie Wilson did some modelling for the likes of Men Only in the 1980s, but has since disappeared.
3AM: Why do you stop your archive with Seditionaries? Is it because Malcolm McLaren was no longer involved after that? The early World's End boutique was quite exciting too.
AW: I like the World's End stuff -- to this day, that famous picture, of a group of people modelling the World's End range on the brow of a hill at dawn, still hangs in the shop at 430. But I had to draw the line somewhere, and I thought the end of the seventies was as good a place as any. I'm conscious that at present my site shows an unfavourable bias towards Malcolm, but it's difficult to find any hard quotes from Vivienne about the Let It Rock to Seditionaries period. I still feel like I'm unravelling a mystery -- everyone knows the story of punk and the Sex Pistols, but the shop and clothes never seem to get the attention they deserve. I'm just trying, in my own sad little way, to rectify this.
Andrew Wade says: “If anyone out there is interested in contributing to the site, with pictures or remembrances, please get in touch.”
Go to Only Anarchists Are Pretty.