The Smiths And ’80s Indie Style

The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, bowl cuts, pointy boots… 5 classic indie looks critiqued by A Scene In Between author Sam Knee.

The Smiths And ’80s Indie Style

Fashion minded indie rock aficionado Sam Knee has clearly kept one foot in the 1980s – as his book A Scene In Between: Fashion And Independent Music in the UK 1983-89 (Cicada, £14.95) demonstrates. Within its 193 pages are largely unseen photos of groups including My Bloody Valentine, The Smiths, The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Pastels and many more of the decade’s Peel show luminaries. “Nine times out of ten an indie kid then would be either on the dole or a student or in my case both,” reflects Knee. “Achieving any kind of look was strictly on a low, low budget… what did it say about the person that wore it? Anti fashion, outsider, bookish nerdy type perhaps, kicking back against the ghastly yuppie conservative mainstream of Duran Duran and Dire Straits…” Sam says: “Please send all your ’80s indie snaps for possible inclusion in A Scene In Between Volume 2 to”


1. ROBERT HAMPSON OF LOOP The London indie droners’ mainman in Bristol, 1987. By James Finch.


Sam Knee’s fashion analysis: “The bowl cut barnet helped a lot back then blocking out mundane reality. And a pair of tatty black pointy Chelsea boots was crucial to most get-ups, frequently purchased from Shellys or Johnsons. From there you’d work your way up into black skinny jeans, or leather ones if you were flush or pals with Alan McGee, into sartorial infinity and beyond. With the boots you were already suggesting something and they went with pretty much anything.”


2. THE JESUS & MARY CHAIN London, 1985. By Nick Allport.

The Jesus and Mary Chain

Sam Knee’s fashion analysis: “The JAMC also pioneered the leather trouser look synonymous with the Creation records roster. They were threateningly cool: grotty black leather box jackets, shades and check shirts – very Hamburg early ’60s. Part early Velvet Underground, ie. tight black jeans, black shades, leather jeans, black rollnecks, engineer boots, or King Hatreds as Sterling Morrison once described them. They must have had some great charity shops in East Kilbride.”


3. THE SEA URCHINS The Sea Urchins above the Mermaid pub in Birmingham, 1986. By Mick Geoghegan.

The Sea Urchins

Sam Knee’s fashion analysis: “Clearly illegitimate offspring of Stephen Pastel and Bobby Gillespie, The Sea Urchins’ image optimised the mid-’80s indie ‘anorak’ look.  it's a factual document that captures a brief moment in UK youth fashion history. The band veered off in a more militant pop art mod fashion direction not long after this. I remember meeting the singer James Roberts outside the Doing It For The Kids Creation all-dayer in ’88 dressed head to toe in white, à la Johns Children, complete with gold chain and medallion. They played a couple of times in London, I recall – once at Jeff Barrett’s night at the Black Horse in Camden, all floppy fringes, harmonies and convincingly authentic Love-isms. Pretty cool for a bunch of teenagers from Brum.”


4. MY BLOODY VALENTINE The Dave Conway-fronted MBV line-up, Kentish Town, 1986. By Ken Copsey.

My Bloody Valentine

Sam Knee’s fashion analysis: “The grungy family gang image that MBV had – I guess they were living it then. I remember going to a large squatted house party in Kentish Town in ’86 where they all lived Monkees-style. It was a moptop utopia drenched in home brew and speed. The sleeve to The New Record By My Bloody Valentine EP from ’86 is perfect, encapsulating the golden indie period in one hazy glance. To me it says everything, and more. Lovelee Sweet Darlene is surely their finest moment and still buries me in bliss to this day.”


5. THE SMITHS At the Moles Club, Bath, September 1983. By Martin Whitehead.

The Smiths

Sam Knee’s fashion analysis: “The Smiths look – which, obviously due to the band’s enormous appeal, was the most widespread indie style model – combined floaty, blousy shirts, Levi 501s and DM shoes… The indie aesthetic overall was subtly subversive if thought out correctly and practised with precision. There were certainly various multifarious strains all sharing a zest for escapism, romanticism and peaceful protest. It was in many ways about separating oneself and surviving outside of the garish mainstream and grim realities of Thatcher’s Britain via a poetic Left Bank-ish paisley haze. But achieving this without drawing too much overt attention.”

We invite you to revisit your own indie fashion escapades below. Go on, you’re among friends...