One of the best things about Glam fashion was that it was always available, and never overpriced. It had the effect of making its superstars somehow seem more human, more approachable.
One of the most universally desired sex symbols of Glam was Sally James, star of probably the greatest Glam kids television show ever, Tiswas. She is our guide to the dress habits of the great, good and cor-blimey of Glam.
“There was a great irony about Tiswas . . . it’s always had this Glam image, mainly because all the Glam artists came onto the show. But the funny thing was that, because most of them knew full well that they would get soaked in water, they often tended to dress down a bit. ”
“We’d get The Sweet on, for instance, and they would have reverted to denim, probably because they didn’t want us to ruin their clothes. I didn’t blame them. We ruined a lot of clothes on Tiswas. Glammed up pop stars don’t look so charismatic when they are dripping in water or covered in slime.
“But I think most of them came on because it was refreshing for them. It was loose. They could hang about, have a laugh. I know that all the Glam bands were very competitive in the way they dressed. So Tiswas was a good antidote to all that. ”
“They had to be up for it. Also, it was a good way for the public to see a little beyond the image because there was no way they could seem distant and charismatic – Image-wise, they were naked.”
“For my part, the Glam thing was casual anyway. I’d wear tight denim jeans, a little waistcoat and, of course, the thigh-length black leather boots. They were almost like waders really. They don’t seem a bit stylish now but I really loved them at the time. They became a bit of a problem . . . I’d get a lot of quite pervy letters flooding in. ”
“I don’t think I was allowed to see the worst of them either. I think I was shielded from that, but some of them were pretty bad. The boots were undeniably a Glam item. I had one pair that I particularly liked. They came up to mid thigh and had diamante all down the sides and really high spiked heels. I thought they were the bees knees but I couldn’t walk in them nowadays. I would wear them at night. ”
“Like a lot of people, dressing in Glam clothes meant party clothes. They weren’t fashionable. Fashionable clothes were things like Oxford Bag trousers and Budgie coats. but Glam meant fun clothes. things that you could wear for parties but would never wear walking down the street. ”
“I had a lot of those. I would go down to a shop called Ace on the Kings Road, where they would sell all this incredible stuff. Sequins everywhere. Lurex cardigans. I loved satin and velvet. I remember one outfit, dark blue satin trousers, and a silver satin jacket. I thought that was really cool. My wardrobe was full of dark velvet flares too. ”
“One of the things about the Glam era was that the girls always wanted to dress like men. It wasn’t particularly feminine, which is kind of ironic when you think about it. Throughout the entire era, I never owned a single skirt. Women went for a man-like look.”
“Women liked to wear black while the men experimented with colour… so it was cross-dressing in a really light fun kind of way. One favourite was outsize men’s suits, like pinstriped gangster suits with massive ties. All those silk jackets with the huge Tulip collars, light green or metallic blue.”
“In reality, Tiswas was anti-glam. I’d dress down – and just look at presenters Bob Carol-Gees and Chris Tarrant – the scruffiest men on television. Chris wore that same patched leather jacket throughout the entire run of Tiswas. There was one particular interview where, for some reason, he had to look smart. So he sent his shoes down to make-up to be cleaned. Someone picked them up and instantly threw them in the bin. Chris went mad, and he was shouting “they are my best shoes. What have you done with them?” But the girls down there just thought they were so disgusting that no-one would want to wear them.
It was seen as quite anarchic . . . to be so scruffy on television in those days but it made people relax. It gave the thing a casual air.”
“Platform shoes or boots never figured for me”, continues Sally James. “I never wore them, my friends never wore them. We considered them ugly and naff. They were fashionable in a kind of street market way. You’d get them in all those little stalls in London, on Oxford Street or in Kensington, but I just remember everyone thinking they were stupid, or a bit juvenile. ”
“Of course, if you were Gary Glitter you’d be expected to wear them. I remember talking to him in the dressing room and he seemed quite small and then, 10 minutes later, he came staggering out on the set, it seemed as if he was about a foot taller. Ridiculous for Tiswas because people were always getting pushed over, but Gary was Gary, all decked out in that silver stuff. Nobody ever wore that on the street.”
“People tended to pick up on bits of things from pop stars and use them in a rather more reserved way. Like Alvin Stardust would come on and would be wearing masses of rings. And then we’d be wearing lots of rings too, or lots of heavy fun jewellery around the neck. Things like that – cheap stuff. Anything would do. Things to catch the eye.”
“I’ve just realised . . . I almost had platforms . . . or shoes that were almost platforms. They weren’t real platforms, they were white wedges with a sandal top. A lot of them have been in fashion since, but never quite the same. I love to look at wedding albums from the era. Now they are really embarrassing, especially for the lads with long feathery hair, huge lapels, and gigantic ties. Very funny now”
“There was the tartan too. That didn’t just belong to Bay City Rollers fans” adds James. “Tartan scarves were worn by a lot of older people, probably because of Rod Stewart. People in denim and tartan everywhere. I keep coming back to denim, not because that was my particular world, but because throughout the Glam period, denim was simply everywhere. people often forget that. You could Glam denim up a bit. ”
“One big thing was sewing patches on or embroidery. there was a lot of that. I had one pair of jeans with a few daft badges on, parrots and things, and I wore them for years and years, loved them. People would put studs in denim too. Not just Rocker type studs, all kinds of studs. Heart shaped studs, strawberry shaped studs, everything. There were those bizarre patchwork denim jeans made up from all kinds of old Levi’s and cheaper denim . . . and they would sell for immense amounts in London. they looked incredibly scruffy too, like old tramps trousers, and people would wear them with the white clogs with thick wooden soles that fell off if you walked too fast. ”
“And little tiny patchwork denim waistcoats, Wrangler denim shirts. The whole ensemble. if it was winter you could even wear denim Budgie coats over the top of all this. Budgie coats with thick fluffy white collars. I didn’t have one of those, they were more of a man’s thing I suppose, but I liked them.”
“Status Quo were the Gods of denim. They always seemed to be on Tiswas. I’m sure that Rick Parfitt would just turn up and walk on, he was always there. I think that look was part of Glam too . . . that whole thing about keeping your fags in the pocket of your Levi jeans – Fags in one side, lighter in the other. Or in the pockets of cheesecloth shirts. I had a few of those, they were cheap and very sexy.”
“I remember sitting around the dressing room with Status Quo, drinking bloody Liebfraumilch, which was always flowing. Everyone felt it was really sophisticated at the time. It was just red, white or rosé in those days, wasn’t it? Mateus Rosé. Disgusting stuff but you didn’t know any different in those days. And Liebfraumilch kind of suited Status Quo‘s image, I think. Unpretentious . . . the wine of the people!”
“Mike (Sally’s husband) and I became very friendly with Marc Bolan in the later years. He was the epitome of Glam. Absolutely. No one else came close. He looked so beautiful, all the time. I did quite a bit of modelling with him and it was always great fun. That possibly summed the era up, in a way, because here was Marc, all dolled up like a peacock – literally with everything, and I’d be stood in plain denim. Like role reversal in a way. He used to wear tons, and I mean tons, of make-up. Took him hours to get it all on.”
“It was an art form for him. But he was a really, really nice man. Of course, he was gregarious, he played that star role to the full and no doubt he really loved himself, but underneath all that he was actually a really nice, caring, intelligent guy. We’d have many dinner parties with him and he’s always be theorising on great heavy subjects, pontificating on this and that. Yes, he always had a lot to say, and maybe it was part of his showing off. But that was the whole point of Marc, wasn’t it? That was the point of Glam. To show off.”
“Marc was it. perfect, always absolutely perfect. Actually, those tulip satin jackets were very Marc, weren’t they? Only thing is, he wore a pink feather boa as well.”
“It’s difficult to compartmentalise that era. It wasn’t just a question of going from wearing denims to wearing really silly clothes – it wasn’t like that at all. It segued in slowly from the sixties psychedelic era and went right through the punk thing and beyond really. Because the early 80s was another Glam boom. Also, nobody wore Glam stuff all the time. You would dress to suit the occasion.”
“Black leather was very sexy and whenever I wore it I got mistaken for Suzi Quatro because we looked very similar. Again, she is remembered as a Glam queen and all she ever wore was leather trousers and a leather jacket . . . and again, tight denims. I remember she was voted ‘Rear of the Year’ and, in that same daft contest, I came fourth. So she had a better bum than me.”
“Noddy Holder was always completely down to Earth. His version of Glam was the exact opposite of Bolan’s. He never believed in this star thing. He wasn’t precious. Far from it. He didn’t believe his own press or anything like that. He was just Noddy, and for him, Glam meant wearing a daft hat and a silly suit. It didn’t matter because Slade were just a really good rock band.”
“Everyone knew that and the Glam thing was just an added extra. It was just something that groups did at the time. But for Marc it was the opposite. His Glam was more like glamour. It wasn’t a joke to Marc. That was how he really was. But Slade were funny, like cartoons. I have a picture of Noddy on Tiswas and he’s wearing a “Freedom For Tooting” T-Shirt. That was his idea of Glam. Oh, and platforms. Slade wore platforms more than anyone. They were the platform kings.”
“Sparks were fun too. People warned us about them. Said that they took themselves too seriously, but they didn’t. I think that some people didn’t treat it as an act. And it was an act, with Ron Mael and the eyes. It was great, the kids in the studio would be transfixed by those eyes. I think that today, they’d just regard him as a complete pratt.”
“One of the television Glam fashions at the time would be the satin tour jackets. Record companies don’t do this kind of thing anymore, but we were flooded with promotional items. We’d get dozens of tour jackets to hand out and to own the tour jacket of your favourite band was de rigueur for a while. They’d be very garish sometimes, bright green, scarlet. You just wouldn’t wear one nowadays. ”
“It would be seen as the ultimate in naffness. I mean, you still get tour jackets but they tend to have the band’s name or album title written in very small writing on the breast pocket or somewhere. It’s very reserved now, very tasteful, whereas back then there would be huge letters on the back saying SWEET TOUR or something. And if you had one you felt like you were in the business, like you were a bit special. There was that kind of naiveté that has gone”.