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Northern Soul; An Uncompromising Fashion Subculture

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In the late 1960’s, an underground music movement thriving with youth, soul and a style identity all of its own, heavily populated weekend club scenes in the North of England. Dubbed as “Northern Soul” by journalist Dave Godin in 1968, it was an exciting time inspired by pure revival and re-discovery of Soul, Rhythm and Blues records, often overlooked or forgotten about in the mid 1960’s. With heavy beats and a fast tempo, Northern Soul challenged the most energetic of moves, club goers were notoriously known for incorporating fast spins, martial arts and contemporary break dancing into their routines.

Fashion on the dance scene was a symbolic statement of passion, dedication and lust for fast paced Northern Soul life. It was a uniform, uncompromising of style, durability and movement. Dance enthusiasts and regulars on the scene wore attire that suitably combined the logistics of sportswear and fashion credentials of the post-mod era.

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On the club circuit menswear was typically smart. Lads in their youth wore tight and slim fitted vests, t-shirts and polo shirts in nostalgic primary shades of blue, burgundy and yellow. Trousers were high-waisted with a wide flared leg, channelling late 60’s disco vibes. Shoes had to be comfortable and durable, to withstand a night of dancing. An embroidered club patch usually sewn onto clothing and bags, paid homage to infamous all-nighters at ‘Wigan Casino’ and ‘Blackpool Mecca’. These were an intrinsic part of Northern Soul club culture.

Directly referencing Manchester’s former Beatnik club The Twisted Wheel, internationally renowned British brand Fred Perry recently unveiled its new fashion line ‘Twisted Wheel’ an exciting revival of Northern Soul fashion.

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In keeping with its brand aesthetic, Fred Perry’s Twisted Wheel, showcases clothing and accessories in a traditional 1960’s colour palette evoking nostalgia on the Northern Soul club scene.

Twisted Wheel is a cohesive collection of tartan and gingham print shirts, vintage inspired knitted sweater vests complete with racing stripes and track jackets. Classic streamlined loafers, silk tassel scarves and an array of leather bowling bags covered in club patches are present in this modern day revival.

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Interestingly Fred Perry has chosen to re-brand and incorporate the iconic Northern Soul Lancashire rose into prints and linings throughout the collection. With such authentic garments so highly reminiscent of this Northern Soul subculture, here at MFM it’s hard to believe this is a contemporary take on 1960’s street-wear!

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In the present day, it’s easy to create a look loosely based around a subculture like Northern Soul. Designers and brands are constantly delving into the past for inspiration and re-inventing styles from mid 20th century eras.

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Prada’s AW13 collection showcased an eclectic mix of colour, pattern and textured tailoring. 1960’s hues and minimalist approaches to shape and cut suggest influences of the Teddy boys, mod styling and layering reminiscent of Soul fashion culture.

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James Long’s AW13 show featured a warm colour palette, with chunky patterned knits and oversized trousers. His collection possessed a certain je ne sais quoi, paying homage to retro styles combining early Rockabilly and the typical volume of a Northern Soul silhouette.

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Nostalgic themes run through John Smedley’s AW13 collection, it’s a harmonised collaboration of sportswear and loungewear. Traditional fits of the 60’s and 70’s in turtleneck jumpers, long johns and smart polos, take clear inspiration from the beatnik and mod eras.

Look 1

For MFM’s first ‘Soul Boy’ inspired look, we’ve have chosen classic piece like this Pretty Green Burgundy polo, a garment that channels this trend effortlessly. A Deansgate Parka, also by Pretty Green, evokes a nostalgic reference to scooter days and it’s the perfect Northern Soul cover up on a chilly evening. Black slim Jeans by Acne and a classic grip bag from Fred Perry’s Twisted Wheel collection are contemporary yet practical pieces. With the addition of these unique Marni Longwing brogues, it’s easy to translate the soul boy trend within this collection. Enamel pins finish the look.

burgundy polka dotgreen deansgate parkamaxcash slim leg jeans

twisted grip bagchunky sole brogueswheel pin badges

Look 2

Our second look is more grown up and takes inspiration from other subcultures that influenced the attire of the Soul Boy. We selected Saturdays Surf NYC Collett t-shirt, in a classic white with burgundy and navy tonal stripes. The Junya Watanabe jeans are contemporary however the cut and style revert back to the traditional Northern Soul aesthetic. We chose these Marc Mcnairy workman boots with steel toes and contrasting blue stitching. French Connection’s moleskin cotton coat is an example of exquisite tailoring that possesses a small element of nostalgia for the modern man. The Peter Werth silk scarf is a great piece that adds a pop of colour and print. Topman’s Lux weekend holdall is generously sized for all your essentials following a Soul all-nighter.

collect striped teecropped loose jeansenglish toe cap boots

formal cotton coatspeter werth silk scarfleather weekened holdall

Conclusion

Subculture plays an intrinsic role in trends, and its no exception with Northern Soul. It continues to inspire the new generation, whether it’s the music, fast paced passion for dancing or the sharp working class attire that takes your fancy. Off the back of other differentiating fashion cultures of the mod, rocker and beatnik. The Northern Soul Trend still stands as remarkably original. In effect the Soul Boy trend is easy to take on; if you’re looking for some sharp, individuality. Give a nostalgic nod to the past, put on your dancing shoes and don’t forget to take your overnight bag!

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