Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Joey Ramone Interview

article and illustration by Mrs Tami Thirlwell-Nicol

In honor of the upcoming 10th anniversary of Joey Ramone’s death, April 15th, 2001, I decided to channel Mr. Ramone (nee Jeff Hyman) from the Rock ‘n’ Roll crypt the other night. I wanted to get his take on what inspired his look and how he feels about what the kids are wearing today. He was good enough to spend some time chatting with me. (At least, I think it was the Joey Ramone). What follows is a portion of the interview.

Beauty Skool: Hi Joey, it’s great to have you show up, even if in an
amorphous state, and take the time out from your busy after-life.

Joey Ramone: Yeah, sure.

BSK: I’m a huge fan and I know I’m not out of line when I say that the
Skoolers are just as thrilled to have you spend some time with us today. First, how are you keeping and what’s that whole dead business really like?

JR: I’m okay-- it’s a lot quieter, not as many gigs, and I guess I’m a tad more relaxed.

BSK: Well that is good to hear. I understand there was a little band conflict as the years went by.

JR: Yeah, but now with most of us settled in for a long dirt nap things have mellowed. Jury’s still out on Dee Dee though.

BSK: No doubt. So, nine inch nails aside, let’s get down to brass tacks. The Ramones: style icons! Your whole look, as a group, was definitive. You were the fashion vanguard for a generation of kids and then some. In fact, jeans ripped at the knees originated from you guys in the 1970s and really exploded on to the scene. By the mid 1980s every Guns N’ Roses maniac was slashing furiously at their Levis. What was the brain-child behind that
rough and tumble feature?

JR: I was born with razor blades for kneecaps and nature took its course.

BSK: Wow! You were a pioneer in the whole distressed denim devolution.

Mr. Joey Ramone, Esq.

JR: I never really thought about it that much.

[Garbled sounds surface from the background and another voice makes its way through]

JM: Hey, Joey, you wanna hear my new poem? I just finished it.

BSK: Who is that?

JR: It’s Jim Morrison.

Jim Morrison: Hey, Joey, who’re ya talkin’ to?

JR: Not now, Jim, I’m being interviewed by Beauty Skool Girls.

JM: Girls?

JR: Just ignore him. You were saying?

BSK: Well... is that really...? Okay, right, and I think the skinny pant really elongates the leg nicely, rendering an enviable and elegantly lean look.

JR: Pant? I wore a whole pair.

BSK: Was there ever a time that you, Joey Ramone, wore a wide-legged jean?

JR: Are you looking for a fight?

JM: I wore flares all the time-- the chicks dug ‘em. Hey, can I read you my new poem?

JR: Yeah, not now, King Snake.

JM: “Incense brewed darkly...”

JR: You already wrote that, man. That guy is always trying to read me his poetry.

JM: You wanna talk pants? How about my black leather trousers?

BSK: True.

JR: I think Elvis beat you on that one. Look, Lizard King, why don’t you go find a nice rock to sun yourself on, okay? I’m being interviewed.

BSK: Let’s move on. Let’s talk about your penchant for stripy tee shirts.

JR: Yeah I like ‘em-- they’re cool.

BSK: But the striped shirt isn’t for everyone.

JR: Depends on the width of the stripe.

BSK: Too true. The striped shirt has a rich history of being worn through quite a few decades. Great artists like Picasso were fond of this bold look.

JR: And mimes.

JM: Don’t forget pirates, man.

BSK: Would you agree that the horizontal striped tee is a statement against the traditional vertical striped shirt favored by the majority of the business establishment? For example,the beatnik versus the banker?

[More muffled voices surface and interrupt our interview]

“Hello, hello, hello-- how low...”

BSK: That sounds it?

JR: Yeah, it’s that guy from Seattle.

Kurt Cobain: Hello, I have to weigh in here and agree on the striped tee shirt. One of my favorite shirts, thin or wide striped, it doesn’t matter.

JR: Aw, come on, what’s going on here? This is my interview!

KC: Okay, alright, nevermind.

BSK: Hey! Wait! Kurt, did Courtney...?

JR: He’s gone.

BSK: Oh, well. Now let’s talk about something that is very close to my heart. Footwear. What’s the story behind all the Converse sneakers?

JR: Just a classic runner. Comfortable, unassuming, we aren’t into flash. They’re just cool.

BSK: I’ll say. They are just as popular today. So let’s move way up north to talk about the hair. Aside from your own locks, it seems the other Ramones favored bangs and some had a sort of overgrown bowl cut that worked remarkably well when you guys played on stage.

JR: Yah, mine was a bit too thick and unruly to get that same movement. The main objective is to keep a lot of hair in and around your face. Long bangs can be your best friend. They conveniently shield you from offensive everyday occurrences, like invasive people.

BSK: I hear you.

JR: Good hair and a pair of shades will take you far-- or at least get you out the door to get some errands run...What?

[A soft voice wafts through]

BSK: Is that Kurt? Is he back?

JR: No, it’s that mopey Ian Curtis, he’s been hanging around here for quite a while.

Ian Curtis: Sorry to interrupt, I just wanted to say that I agree with Mr. Ramone about the sunglasses. Whether one’s wearing informal clobber or a smart suit-- the addition of a cool pair of shades completes the look.

BSK: Well, Mr. Curtis, you always were a snappy dresser-- no casual Fridays for you. It was all nicely pressed shirts and slacks.

IC: It’s just what I feel comfortable wearing.

JR: Shirts and slacks? Really? Were they wash ‘n’ wear?

IC: Are you taking the piss?

BSK: Well, Joey, they weren’t a pretentious shirt and slack combo. More of a relaxed everyday post-mod look, wouldn’t you say, Mr. Curtis?

IC: Laid-back, I suppose. I’m going for a nap.

BSK: Fair enough, thanks for weighing in. Joey, are you still there?

JR: Yeah, but it’s hard to get a word in with all these other guys lingering around.

BSK: I had no idea-- let’s get one more question in before Bon Scott shows up. What do you think of some of the trends happening these days, particularly with men’s fashion?

JR: Well, I find the whole baggy pants/ass crack thing quite amusing, although I suppose the volume of denim comes in handy for shoplifting. The whole oversized clothing trend is a little unclear. And I’m not really sure why guys wear baseball caps so often. I guess things will eventually cycle back to our look in another ten years or so.

BSK: Well, I sure hope so. Joey, it was great speaking with you. If kids today had even half of the style that you and the rest of the Ramones exhibited the world would be a much cooler place. Thanks so much for your contribution.

JR: No sweat.

BSK: Thanks very much for chatting with us today. Oh and if you happen to see an old friend of ours, Dimwit, would you do us a favor and say ‘hi’ to him from the girls at Beauty Skool?

JR: Yeah, sure thing.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Magic, Men and Makeup

by Mrs. Justine Brown

Mrs Brown gives instruction
Or magic-men and makeup. Geddit? Class! Wake up! Pop quiz alert. Are men even stylish at all? Yes, that was the question. Men. Makeup. Fashion. Do the three add up to equal Style?

The correct answer is yes. If you answered no, please read the following essay very carefully. The rest off you can have the afternoon off. No, just kiddin.' Get back in your seats. I mean that, darn it!

Sometimes we ladies are so glamorous and fabulous and all-round great that we don't notice the menfolk. We notice them noticing us, we notice them noticing us noticing them noticing us, but we don't... remark upon the fact that they themselves are quite stylish, indeed knowledgeable about style. (Yes, I know it doesn't apply to all of them, but neither does it... oh 'whatever'.)

So for your delectation and edification, I have brought a few examples along with me today. I wish they were real, but our budget doesn't extend that far. I have to rely mainly on experience, observation, lots of reading... and the Internet. I'm thinking of three examples of males: an individual (like A.A. Gill, who writes so cunningly for the Sunday Times Style Section when they have their yearly Men's Issue),  the mysterious Sapeurs of Africa , and men who use kohl. The rest will have to wait their turn.

Let us begin with the familiar: kohl. We know something of kohl, that powerful black substance from whence sprang mascara, eyeliner and shadow. This substance is spooky sexy: dab some on at night and go out. Then pass out with your kohl on and wake up looking fabulous in a louche sort of way. Some people, like Anita Pallenberg, haven't removed their eye makeup for decades, and I wear they still look fascinating. Keith Richards too. Not young and fresh, but then Keith has always looked, even as a child, very wise. (By the way, when Keith and Anita parted ways, it is my theory that Keith left their home with his guitars and a pot of kohl, which he then presented to his future wife, the wholesome freckled model Patti Hansen. It's a bit like Rod Stewart and his ever-present bottle of bleach. All his wives are blondes, even the current one, though she started out in the public eye with Rod as a brunette. That lasted about one week.) (Oh, and ROCK STARS, are you listening? 'Hope I Die Before I Get Old' is not a helpful anthem. 'Hot for Teacher', on the other hand, now there's a tune worth rallying round.) (Silence...)

Fetching in kohl
Men who use kohl-- well, maybe not all of you are in familiar territory here. It depends on your menfolk, mostly, and it just so happens that a lot of mine favoured that eroto-haunted look. Speaking of territory, up and down the crags and deserts of Afghanistan you will find men in kohl-- in fact, throughout the Middle East nearly everyone wears the stuff, even babies, and they have done so for thousands of years. Dark and shady kohl is an ancient potion believed to ward off the evil eye. It also deflects the desert sun. Finally, it's alluring. Some of the most striking photos to come out of the latest Afghan wars... it seems that the nascent Afghan police force  includes a lot of fey and flirtacious young men with roses in their Ak-47s and bedroom eyes enhanced by kohl.

Let's move on to a more exclusive group, the Sapeurs, or Society for People of Elegance and Ambiance. Here's a club I am desperate to join, and they won't have me (it's men only). Now, the Sapeurs are mainly from Africa. They worship style. Literally. They are incredibly sharp dressers, and they have made a cult-- again, literally-- out of fashion. To confirm this, just look at these handy illustrations. (Struggles with overhead projector.) Plus, they don't consider it an insult to be viewed this way. Quite the opposite is true, though I can't speak for their loved ones on this matter. All I know is that the Sapeurs are gorgeous dressers who put the rest of us in the shade and make us look pretty dowdy.

A member of Les Sapeurs

These extraordinarily spiffy guys mostly hail from the Congo, formerly a colony of Belgium, and there is a strong Belgian influence in their style. They are said to regard Brussels as their fashion Mecca, and dream of making pilgrimage there. And many do make that trip of a lifetime, going straight from airport to tailor. As many of you know,  Brussels has been giving Paris some stiff competition in the fashion stakes over the last twenty or so years, and many Belgian designers have made inroads into the French capital with a view to fashion world domination. The name Olivier Theyskens comes to mind: the pale, fragile, black-haired and attired Goth type became style director at Nina Ricci and is now poised to dominate Fashiontown, U.S.A.

Mr. Olivier Theyskens
The Sapeurs may pay homage to Brussels style, but they have no time for its stark palette of black, white and greige. They like their beautifully tailored suits in the boldest colours and combinations conjureable. Hot pink with acid yellow, turquoise with orange; that sort of thing. Watch-chains, crisp handkerchiefs, gloves and shoes magicked through polish to perfection.

Which brings me to my last exhibit, Mr. A.A. Gill, London writer and general dandy-about-town. Lucky Mr. Gill recently wrote an article about tweed, wool, and Savile Row tailoring. The Sunday Times had the budget to let him design his own tweed (which you can do on an I-Pad), order a huge bolt of it, and have the tailor run a three-piece suit up specially for him. You can't get much more bespoke than that. Mr. Gill added a hat and now can't be separated from his suit; I think he sleeps in it. (This picture doesn't feature the tweed, but gives you a feel for his style.)

Now, to return to my original question. Are men concerned with style? I think we have answered that arithmetic. The answer is three. Perfect. Class dismissed! (Sounds of stampede toward the door.)

A. A. Gill checks his look