I have always had a problem with ‘style’, and in my entire life, I doubt there’s been more than a four-year window of ‘coolness’. When all around me were flaunting their grey terylene trousers, I remained in grey flannel shorts. It was more economical and my parents conservatively believed that boys should wear short trousers. Jeans were unknown. Rumour had it that Americans wore them, though there remained still some doubt.
Hair was equally problematical for a boy who aspired to ’77 Sunset Strip’ cool but couldn’t afford the Brill-cream. My only recourse was to mould my hair into a long and fragile quiff with a wet comb, and then stick my head in the oven. The heat dried my hair like a potters kiln, and I would then walk to school very carefully, aware that an awkward step would undo everything. I can’t remember if anyone actually told me this ‘trick’ or whether I’d discovered it all by myself. If the latter, I wonder why…and more to the point - how?
The Beatles spared me from more years in the oven, but clothes remained a problem. It was no fun being under-aged, trying to slip into a cinema unnoticed - not in your dad’s pre-war mud-coloured sports jacket that looked as though it had come from Fred Astaire’s wardrobe. Retro-chic now. Not then. Not on a fourteen year old boy.
At fifteen, I took my first faltering steps into coolness in a cheap blue suit, black polo-neck sweater and black framed glasses. I was on my way to Blessed Sacrament Boys’ club where they had a table tennis table, orangeade, a small Dansette Record Player and two Beatle LPs. I was chewing my thumb - I don’t know which cowboy did that - walking slowly to be noticed. Unfortunately, a priest noticed me as I entered the club. He slapped me hard on the back, and in a loud booming voice that drew all eyes our way, told me there was no need to be nervous or shy. I took my orangeade, credibility blown. A blue suit wasted.
There was only one lesson left to be learnt. Shops are out to make money - especially in Liverpool. I saw the bold advert; the shopkeeper saw me coming. ‘Freddy and the Dreamers’ Cuban Heeled Boots’ - HALF PRICE!
Cuban Heeled Boots - so cheap. I had the money - just - and a moment or two later I was wearing them, walking down London Road at an acute angle, like someone battling against a force ten wind. ‘Freddy’ was a small Mancunian, who on Television always looked bigger than he was. Now I knew how. With heels as high as these he could have looked down on Big Ben - though at an angle.
Luckily my years in the wilderness were about to come to an end - or so I liked to think.