When I started seeking out all things dark and alternative back in about 1985, I think the first thing I wanted to do was hang out with other like-minded Goths.
Public schools, especially in Surrey were full of spindly youths in faded drain pipes and long fringes listening to albums like U2’s October and bands like The Alarm in their dormitories, so for me, I was in good company.
My school was an all girl’s independent school in the well to do area of leafy Ashtead in Surrey. Knocked down around 15 years ago due to a lack of local interest (which to this day, still surprised me) Parsons Mead was, during the mid 1980’s full of moody girls papering their walls with posters of Bauhaus and Adam Ant.
The problem with private schools is there is usually more to rebel against. Having parents with careers in the city with little or no time for their fledgling teens, we were grouped together in a sort of black cladded mingle of forgotten girls who smoked too much and loved pouting about their misplaced parents. The music at the time only fuelled our misery. With the Gothic look and alternative subculture now in full swing, it was like being given your life on a plate.
We were taking Goth to a whole new level. We were white middle class kids who really didn’t have anything to be depressed about. We had good educations, money and a future – something that most kids didn’t have in those days, yet we loved to think we were being hard done by, and Gothic culture of the time gave us visual status. We were in and refused to let go.
The Carnaby Street years 1985-1989
On a Saturday afternoon, we were spoilt for choice. Being only a stones throw away from Epsom train station, it was only about 30 minutes and several stops before we were London. Then it was a carefully constructed decision of where to go and look sullen – was it to be Carnaby Street or Camden Town.
For me, Carnaby was the place. In those days, it was wall to wall goth shops that spilled out on to the street. In fact, they oozed so much black stock onto the pavement, it was usually a challenge to find the actual shop front door. Towards the back end of the 80’s, shops that once sold winklepickers with points that went into infinity started selling plastic fetish wear which, for a public school Goth, was not my scene at all. Yet, this was a place to get knocked off band tees and a slimy Chinese lunch. If it wasn’t raining, we would hang out at either end of the street but actually not buy anything because we had spent all our money on train fares.
If we felt flush and wanted to splash out, then we would hit the markets, but you had to know where to go. Second hand shops were in their masses back in the mid 80’s, long before they cottoned on that they could mark up stuff for a higher price. We were the young set who found these thrift shops and bought loud designer Mary Quant style stuff from the 70’s and recrafted to make it our own. So long as it was black (I loved silver threads and glitter like Glam Rock on a bad day) you could rip the sleeves off things, sew on black bows and lace and suddenly it looked like something else. We were creative in those days when jumble sales and markets were still cheap.