Smug married: A fortysomething's horror at flasks and fold-up chairs
As Eighties revivals sweep the country, says Aine O'Connor, the saggier crowd finds it hard to keep up
FASHION revivals run on an approximate 20-year cycle, so I've been through a few. This strangely ongoing rehash of the Eighties, however, is the first that made me feel old.
I'd been alive but not especially fashion-conscious in the Seventies, but the Eighties was when I made my first attempt at forging my fashion identity. I started shopping for myself, choosing a fashion tribe with whom to identify. Perhaps that was why it was so odd to see it re-enacted two decades later when I was too old to wear the clothes I had once been young enough to reject through choice.
We were a whopping great generation, I was under 25 when half the population was, everyone knew a family with 10 kids, there was nothing unusual about six. We were still flattered when bands favoured us by including us in concert tours. They were rewarded with loud adoration, we were rewarded by getting to see great bands in venues whose tiny crappiness was compensated for by intimacy. You could get right up close to your idols in the SFX.
Lots of us emigrated and then lots of us came back -- all in all, it means there is a large market for revivals. Eighties bands are filling arenas that they might have difficulty filling in their original heyday. Nostalgia is a powerful marketing tool. I'd have sooner stuck needles in my eyes than go see The Human League in 1985. Twenty years later, I was all up for it. I knew a surprising number of songs too, the Radio Nova factor.
Most of the bands are fairly well preserved, the prospect of thousands gawping probably puts you off that second Club Milk. The audiences are a much more mixed bunch. Wrinklier, saggier, fatter, balder, the love heart tattoo peeking out from the V-neck of a chain-store "Mammy Night Out" sequin range on a now crepey cleavage... mmm, somehow being wiser doesn't seem to compensate for all that. You gaze upon the congregation of middle age and realise with horror that you're one of them too.
We went to Leonard Cohen a couple of years ago and the audience was made up of many ages, Leonard being an icon and all. It was a great show but a friend emerged outraged, not at anything Leonard had done, but at the manner in which the portion of the audience that was made up of our generation had "let themselves go". She railed against the fortysomethings who were sensibly attired for the weather and had brought flasks and fold-up chairs.
Her outrage was fabulous to behold. We who had ridden in on the coattails of punk should [age, spare tyres, crepey cleavage and children notwithstanding], still be inappropriately dressed and clutching a plastic cup with alcohol in it. Unless we're just out of rehab, natch. The flasks and fold-up chairs were for old people. Yeah, except what's old? Leonard's age. But to a 20-year-old, we may as well be Leonard's age. Plus there are probably people of Leonard's age who think that fold-up chairs are a disgrace for people who rode in on Leonard's coattails.
So as long as we never see ourselves the way others see us, we're probably safe.