A new exhibition entitled an image from North: Fashioning Identity is running until February 4 at London’s Somerset House and explores the sartorial style of the region’s men, from Paul Morley’s rollnecks to Morrissey’s flowers
‘Tastefully wonky’ is how one fashion expert recently described the Northern style, particularly back in the mid to late 80s when style was influenced by the likes of New Order, the Smiths, The Fall and A Certain Ratio, not to mention Morrissey with his deadheaded flower arrangements in the back pockets.
A decade later, it was the likes of Brit Pop heroes Oasis and DJ Harvey who were major influences in men’s designer clothes, whilst ten years before, it was skinny ties, pun badges, bleach, voluminously pleated slacks or something slightly snugger that was the order of the day.
What this tells you is the importance of fashion in the north and the difference between north and south interpretations of the style.
Lou Stoppard, the co-curator of North: Fashioning Identity, said that northern style immediately evokes a reaction, with people understanding exactly what the term means.
The exhibition was a massive sensation due to the word of mouth when it originally opened in the Open Eye gallery in Liverpool last year and attracted more than 30,000 visitors. Its move to London is an ironic reflection of the way so many designer clothes, sold by the likes of https://www.ejmenswear.com/, have their birthplace in the north and their christening in the south, before moving around the rest of the world.
The exhibition is being run by Stoppard and co-curator Adam Murray. The latter once ran Preston is My Paris, highlighting the north’s contrary and instinctive feel for fashion and its influence on the rest of the world.
Sporty touches are a real signifier of northern fashion, as is an emphasis on multi-class appeal and, of course, the influence of the weather.
The exhibition itself, which can be read about at https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/north, has weathered the before and after of the Brexit vote and, in many ways, is a celebration of all that is different about the northern fashion scene.
It feasts on a kernel of northern style and explores the differences that have made these fashions without comparing over the last few decades – and beyond. Go and see for yourself.