Thursday, 3 February 2011

Style Icons

Two of my favourite style icons are celebrating their golden jubilee this year: both the E-type Jag and Dr Marten’s Boots are 50.

When the E-type was first released in 1961, Enzo Ferrari called it ‘the most beautiful car ever made’ – praise indeed, especially when coming from your competition! In 2004 Sports Car International ranked it top sports car of the 1960s, and in 2008 the Daily Telegraph placed it at number one in the list of the ‘100 most beautiful cars of all time’.

It really is sex on wheels. Although it was the first production car designed on aircraft principles, apparently it’s far from perfect technically. It has all sorts of mechanical faults (the gear-box always caused problems), but it looks so good... Maybe it’s the thrusting bonnet – the thought of the power beneath that sleek, shiny body – or the aesthetically pleasing sculpted curves. Well named, it’s like taut muscle waiting to pounce and race away – alternatively growling and purring.

When I was younger it was the only car I recognised – if it wasn’t an e-type; it was just a car – and I used to add it to my father’s to-do list when he wasn’t looking. Unfortunately, he never took the hint and always neglected to tick that one off. My mum did buy me one for my sixteenth birthday (British racing green convertible and everything), but it was only four inches long.

I asked for an e-type on my wedding and I got one! That was ten inches long – I’m progressing. We had one booked to take us to the wedding and from the church to the reception (although I was warned that some brides found that disembarking from the vehicle could be slightly indecorous in their wedding dress) but it failed its MOT the day before – we ended up traversing the Thames in a launch, which was terribly romantic. I feel perhaps I am destined to admire and drool from a distance.

Dr Martens boots on the other hand, were very much more attainable. I wore them everywhere through the 80s and early 90s. I had a black pair, a brown pair and a cherry red pair. I wore them with polka-dot leggings and a baggy fisherman’s jumper; I wore them with short tartan skirts and thick black tights; I wore them with floral Laura Ashley dresses; I wore them with jeans and Pogues t-shirts... I walked around town in them; I walked down country lanes in them; I stomped at gigs and raves in them; I went on holiday in them; I slept through lectures in them; I worked my first jobs in them... I loved them.

Then I saw them with pretty patterns – hippy flowers and fake animal print. They had heels and Mary Jane straps. They were wrong. Doctor Martens were the footwear of rebellion – they were worn by postmen, factory workers, union reps, outcasts and protestors – they told their own story and it was one of tribes – punks; indies; rebels. They were ‘anti-fashion defined in eight holes’.

I know that times move on and youth is vapid and vacuous, leaping on fads and disposing of them (much as we used to do, but they do it much faster), but I feel their image has been diluted. The high-heeled shiny pink shoe is shocking in more ways than one – it is an abomination. It’s a far cry from Alexei Sayle on The Young Ones. We’ve come a long way, but I’m not sure it’s a good thing.