I came across the photo below only the other day via, in my opinion, one of the leading characters in the original 60s modernist movemen; Lloyd Johnson (of Portebellos shop – Johnsons).
The picture is of two characters – Roger Burton and Jack English. Their names may not ring through to most – they didn’t to me. However, if I was to say that these two (among a couple of others) predominantly were credited with the wardrobe to the cult fim Quadrophenia. A film that incites a variety of mixed emotions from different people. For some – it birthed an interest and a subsequent second generation modernist revival in 1979 and beyond. To others – it re-commercialised an underground scene, giving the subculture another tarring of the ‘media-mod, Brighton rioting, rocker beating mods’ brush.
Regardless of peoples mixed feelings towards it, the film has become a British classic. My interest was in the use of wardrobe and how they were able to create a 1964 period motion picture.
In the autumn of 1978, Jack and Roger were involved in setting up a part-exchange clothes shop in London’s Covent Garden. It was here that Burton quickly realised that film productions were keen to acquire specialist knowledge of youth culture, which prompted them to start the Contemporary Wardrobe – leading to a commission to supply the costumes for Franc Roddam’s picture.
Both of them were ex-mods – so naturally their first-wave knowledge of those minor nuances and customs of the still infant culture, in todays terms, would be invaluable. Using clothes they had collected and were curating for their newly established venture they pieced together outfits to fit the characters, alongside Joyce Stoneman (who has lead onto to a healthy career in wardrobe for film and television since).
Jack English said, “Getting the costumes together was pure joy because we were part of the Mod era and our hearts are still there. We were at the actual Brighton riot portrayed in the film. Those were the days when a guy spent an hour getting the knot in his tie just right, afraid to sit down on the bus in case his suit got creased. There were only about 300 guys in the whole of London who could then afford authentic Mod suits, and for the film we located a wonderful genuine silk John Michael exclusive. The kid we hired it for jumped in the sea wearing it during the filming of the Brighton riot scene and it was a complete write-off. That beach fight sequence annihilated a lot of irreplaceable clothing. It made my heart bleed. Kids today can’t comprehend what a silk suit symbolized to someone in 1964.”
Talking about the womens side of it Roger said that “…we had to research the right shape. Mod girls were moving away from padding and preferred push-up breasts with blunted-looking ends.” Authentic underwear is essential to capture the rhythms of an epoch, and Roger objected to females in Quadrophenia wearing tights. “They should be in stockings because women wearing suspenders walked, sat and danced quite differently.”
To the iconic parka, almost always in shot – it was important for them to use original pieces, dead stock or used, just as long as it was there then… – “people asked why we simply didn’t get them from C&A… the genuine army surplus article with fishtail back, fur hood, double zips, clips, wool-blanket lining.. The modern synthetic versions look stiff and hang all wrong.”