Potato Necklaces and Banana Peel Hats — An Ode to Le Chateau Circa 1984

I’m always a little confused when people dis the fashion of the 1980s. 80s fashion was cool and innovative, political, even… then I remember that most people equate 80s clothing with baggy acid wash jeans, huge hair, shapeless over-sized t-shirts, and too much neon. But that would be off the mark.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1984, wasn’t exactly a hotbed of alternative fashion. If you were a young person inclined towards punk, post-punk, mod, new romantic, or new wave music and styles, your best bet for cool clobber was to write away to the UK clothing shops that advertised in the back of Star Hits magazine, wait impatiently for a catalogue that may or may not ever arrive, make your selection based on black and white, usually photocopied images and weird European sizes, purchase and send an international money order, and hope like hell that your gear arrived and (haha!) actually fit.

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Fleeing the Flea

My family is not religious. Most of us have been baptized in the Anglican church, but aside from weddings, baptisms and funerals, as a child growing up, I can’t ever remember getting up to go to church. In fact, when questioned about religion, I’ve often joked that our religion was the flea market, because that’s where you could find us on any given Sunday morning in the late 70s or early 80s.

As far back as I can remember Halifax had a Sunday flea market at The Forum, an aging sports arena in the north end of town. But especially in the summer, the flea market motherload was just outside of town, in Sackville.

Originally held during the summer months at the Sackville drive-in, vendors would pull in, park their cars and open their trunks to willing shoppers. There was a parking hierarchy, with regular vendors of new goods (yay, tube sox!) taking the best spots by the entrance, followed by farmers, antique dealers and then the non-regular vendors who were looking to unload crap from their attic or basement. The ground got worse the further back you went, transitioning from pavement to crushed gravel to something akin to boulders near the back, but in the summer, there would be vendors crammed in, sometimes two to a space, selling everything under the sun. Literally – few people used tents back in those days.

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One Small Square of Fabric

I did a double-take this afternoon. Walking the dogs past the hair salon on the corner, I watched one of the stylists step outside for a smoke. This particular girl has curly purple hair and enough gear to make it obvious that she’s fairly alternative in her lifestyle.

What threw me off was that she had a bandana tied around the ankle of her knee-high leather boot. A white one, with a black pattern.

Flash back to 1985 or so, when the scarf around the ankle was all the rage. I had a vast collection of scarves and bandanas in every colour. I have no idea why it started, but it was one of those things that seemed to have come from the New Romantic movement. I’ve always associated it with Duran Duran, but can find no photographic evidence to support that thesis. Rockers picked it up soon after, and every hair metal band seems to have at least one member sporting an ankle bandana.

Like most silly fashion trends, it was a point of teasing, just as those drop-crotch pants a few years later would warrant passing comments about shoplifting or bodily functions. I had an English teacher who joked that I’d never manage to hold up a stagecoach with the bandana tied around my ankle instead of over my face. The French teacher tried to ban the fashion statement from his classroom, but backed off when he couldn’t give a decent reason as to why. It was an era of lots of stuff, accessory-wise, and bandanas were just one item in a vast selection of everything from jelly bracelets to lace gloves and neon shoelaces.

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