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Annello and Davide made Beatle boots, the real thing,
as worn by John, Paul, George and Ringo
in 1963, on-stage and off
Cuban heels, covered zips, black leather, custom fit,
proper lining, cost a bomb, immaculate
It took me damn near ten years (and by then
the band was gone and anyway they hadn't
worn them much for ages) but I finally got mine,
and they took me everywhere
London to Yucatan, California to Kabul,
warm in winter, breathe in summer,
heel them regular, sole as needed, last forever
I wore them with leather trousers from Connaught
Place in Delhi (made from the skins of contented
cows who passed away peacefully somewhere
in Kashmir, or so they said), topped with a
shin-length leather coat from somewhere in Soho,
handslaps and welcome on Broadway in Harlem
I wore them with a Take Six suit from High Street Ken
(twenty quid, pure black, light-weight, two-button,
scalloped lapels, high waist, straight legs),
cut the hair and is that guy a narc
I wore them with Levi's from California, via Millett's
on Oxford Street or (later, and cheaper)
Mervyn's in the Capitola Mall
One look fits all

Moving to the States in '75
Broke and hopeful
"Here, my boy, a little something to help you on your way"
"Thanks, Dad"
Fifty quid
Found money
What the fuck
"A pair in red leather? Certainly, sir"

Too much for everyday, I gotta confess, and actually
a little bit tight
But hey

Third pair, compromise: dark green suede
Tended to scuff, and never broke in quite as well as the black
But looked really good with bluejeans
And boy were they slick with the suit
(had the lapels altered, gave it a new lease on life,
weddings and funerals and going to the laundromat
to wash the jeans, sometimes for work, or
to piss people off at concerts)

It wasn't just the boots, of course
(they eventually perished in the earthquake of '89,
along with the suit and the leather pants and
that year's pair of Levi's, which was all I ever replaced)
It was years of attitude
It was flowery blouses in fake William Morris patterns
(the real thing was out of my league, but I lusted
after Paul Jones' jacket; he'd left the Manfreds
and it was definitely too psychedelic for a pretty
boy like him)
It was silver rings and identity bracelet and prayer
beads from India that were supposed to be
sandalwood but had probably been brushed with
essence to pick up the smell
It was unisex hairdressers and styling
(even if I couldn't really pull it off with hair as fine
as mine, and never dared to get a perm)
It was not shaving the sideboards higher than the chin
and letting them fly (and before Noddy Holder at that)
It was doing your best with what you had
when there wasn't any money for more,
like picking up a five-bob headscarf at M&S
and using it as a cravat
It was ruining some perfectly good trousers
by having the bottoms tightened to fourteen inches,
and then next year refusing to wear them
because nothing under twenty would do
It was Daltrey watching Dickens on the telly and
ironing all his creases out in a burst of inspiration
and looking good, man
It was being willing to look silly and moving on if you did
because next week everything will be different

(And the girls had miniskirts and knee-length
high-heeled boots and ironed hair and loads of mascara,
and later velvet dresses and flowing skirts,
and jeans, oh yes, and jeans – but don't ask me
for details, I just dreamed of Beardsley visions
swimming in patchouli, enigmatic artists' inspirations,
back before Germaine revealed the truth)

It was knowing there were places before they hit the press
(Carnaby Street was a mod museum long before
my fortnight working at Lord John's, though I did
help the Kinks pick up some stage clobber;
Dave wasn't wearing underpants)
It was hoping that folks sharp enough to call a shop
"Granny Takes a Trip" were far too hip
to buy anything there
"I Was Lord Kitchener's Moustache" – yeah, right
It was believing in futures trivial as trends,
and knowing that no one cool enough to stay in style
could be cruel enough to run a world
as mean as the one we found ourselves in
(And were we wrong? When you look at the photos
from the G8 summit, thirty years on, can you truly
say we were wrong?)
It was faith that the bastards would fade away
and take the war with them, and prejudice
and poverty and the bomb and the busts
and the sad eyes of all the little grey men
in their Burton's suits or baggy uniforms
who clung to their pensions by following their orders

It was never only what you did
but how you looked when doing it

Everything was vital, nothing mattered
In the everyday exuberance of youth
Whose beauty needs no ornament at all
So ornament is just another game
And games make better sense than anything
When wonder rules and rules are there to change

It was never only what you wore
but who you were when wearing it

There's nothing else to understand
Nothing to explain
It was laughter gave us fashion at World's End