The Israeli Parka and Post-Industrial defiance – A Swine Pseud’s Corner Special
I remember vividly purchasing my very own ‘Israeli’ parka back in the winter of 82. I’d left school the previous summer and had enroleld on an ‘art and design’ A level course at the distinctly unglamorous campus of Halton College of FE’s art department in the Victoria buildings in Widnes. Me mam had boxed me off with my birthday money a few weeks before my 17th birthday and so, I made my way the epicentre of scally fashion; St John’s market in Liverpool city centre. Forget all the revisionist shite about Wade Smiths and Austrian ski resorts, the numerous Asian owned market stalls of St Johns was where most jungen skallawaggen bought their shmutter.
Always quick to cash in on the many and various short-lived pre-‘casual’ fashion trends adopted by the city’s yoot, these stalls were quick to capitalise on demand for say, three quarter length sheepes, box sheepies, box leathers, hunter leathers, needle cords, jumbo cords, FUs, Razzy, Second Image jeans, jockey jackets, baseball trackys, jogging suits, American football t-shirts and whatever else was ‘in’ for a few brief months before the trendsetters moved on.
By the time I’d bought my birthday combo of Isaraeli parka, faded Lees and Adidas shoes it was already passe but hey, I’d ditched my arl fellar’s jarg Hush Puppies and the Jeckyl ‘Karemn Ghia’ cord jacket so I wasn’t arsed. I could now mooch about with an air of confidence in my own sartorial tribalism, I’d joined the club without a name, the mass of ‘smoothies’ and ‘scallys’ who had taken over all other youth cults in the north west, well apart from the grebs and the odd die hard skin or punk.
The political implications of donning a jacket used by the oppressive Israeli army never occurred to us, they were just the ‘in’ thing to be seen in and were functional and stylish (well, stylish in our own way). Army and Navy stores were always great places to find such items and indeed once the style had become established they too were quick to capitlaise and such idiosyncratic and mico-local fashion scenes developed overnight and were sustained by those shops and market stalls who could turn around their lines fast enough to meet the frenzy that always accompanied a new trend.
Maybe this is a particularly Liverpool thing or maybe a north western thing but there seems to be some insane need to constantly adopt new fashion crazes that only have any resonance in the regon itself. Once a look becomes ‘accepted’ by that subliminal process of cultural osmosis then it is copied with an intense need to be part of the pack, to not be a ‘div’ in the wrong kecks, the wrong trabs, the wrong jumper, the wrong jacket, the wrong hairstyle.
More often than not, it’s the females who have taken over from the lads in this respect over the past 20 years. Take the pyjamas and curlers brigade who first began to manifest themselves well over a decade ago. You could argue that only in a post-industrial city where traditional work-centred time zones and constraints have become obsolete that pjs in the afternoon is a defiant statement against redundant socialist notions of the dignity of labour. Ofcourse it’s not as thought out as that, it’s just a daft fashion craze but still, the intention whether conscious or not is still there; these are girls who have the time and the energy to get ready for a night out, whatever night that may be, during the daylight hours. It may be Uggs and PJs and cutlers at 2 o’clock but you should see them by seven!
Likewise, the massive beehive and flower look of the past few years has been a scouse scal-ette staple for teenage girls and seems ludicorous to those from outside the city, as it seems ludicrous to many inside, but do you think those snarly 14 year old cynical schoolies give a fuck what you or I think? Thank God they don’t because fashion is a manifestation of ‘otherness’ whether that’s generational or cultural.
The punks and mods and skins were obviously cults that had a unique and uniform aesthetic linked to music, whereas the scally was a far more subtle beast. Half an inch too long on the ruffle or the tiny pin badge in the wrong place on the crew neck jumper made all the difference. These seemingly insignificant details were only visible to those who were ‘in’ on it, and that ‘it’ was never stated, there were no guides and pull outs in fashion magazines to tell you how to pull it off.
So, maybe the Dubon Israeli parka is symbolic of a mindset, an attitude that is still with us whether we recognise it or not. The ninjas in their Loweys and their 110s or the lids in their reissued Dublins and Liddesdales have their own codes and concepts of style that may or may not chime with those of us a tad long in the tooth to be still caring.