(This review first appeared in issue 51 of Shindig! magazine)
Sam Knee's previous book A Scene In Between documented the fashions of the 1980s UK indie music scene. His new book widens the net to cover the golden years of Britain's musical tribalism, ranging from the leather gangs of the early '60s to the baggy scene of the '90s.
Alongside the great photos it's also a study of links between fashion and music. Knee's writing is incisive and sharper than the creases in a pair of Sta Prest, passionately charting the changing political and social mores as well as the rise of the beagle collar, lopsided wedge cuts and bondage strides.
British youth have always forged strong links between music and fashion, what better way of expressing your sonic allegiances than through clothes, hair and mode of transport. Knee chronologically dissects each tribe, be it teds, rockers, mods, space-rockers, suedeheads, anarcho-punks, goths or soulboys, noting subtle nuances, gentle mutations, and sometimes the seismic shifts between them.
The photographs are evocative and nostalgic, mixing rare shots of musicians with those of provincials youths in their finest outside-of-work clobber. Whether dressing up or dressing down, they all look to be having the time of their lives.
Some of these looks remain timeless but all too often they've ran their course or been co-opted by high street cash-ins. Knee's book serves as a reminder of how, at its best, British youth culture has a vibrancy and spirit that's somehow always one step ahead of the money men. Long may this last.
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