The swinging fifties.

My twenty’s, and the age of fashion.

I left the Airforce in June 1953; I am now 21 and have been away from England for nearly three years, I had been posted to Egypt, with no contact with girl’s or any of the latest trends.

Back in England things have changed, all my friends have moved on in their lives, some of them are even married with children.

I am completely out of touch. The rather staid clothes I would have worn before are now replaced by anything American.

My friend David, who had finished his National Service a year earlier, and therefore more up to date with things, agreed to help me with choosing a complete outfit with my demob money.

As nearby Staines, had a larger selection of men’s outfitters, we decided to shop there.

We avoided Mark’ and Spencer’s, as their clothes were still quite dated. Instead buying all my kit in a small shop nearby.

David took control, first an emerald green sports jacket, next a pair of dark brown 22 inch bottomed trousers with turn-ups followed by a beige shirt, a green woolen tie and some brown suede brothel creepers.

Total spend fourteen pound’s and five shilling’s.

I wasn’t absolutely sure about this style at first but most of my friends thought I looked fine.

In my first two weeks I seemed very popular as the ‘new boy on the block’, I had a very deep tan, my dark hair was bleached on top and together with all the local fashion that Dave had so carefully chosen for me I felt great.

This lasted a full two weeks, once my tan had faded and a haircut by ‘Bonny’, our barber, had removed the bleached parts of my hair, and even my new sports jacket was not looking very sporty, the lapels started to droop, much like my confidence.

My total lack of small talk was now a big problem, I once tried talking to a lovely girl at the Abbey Barn youth club, she soon told me to get lost—or words to that effect.

After drifting about aimlessly for a year, I met the lovely girl who had shunned me in such an unseemly way at the Abbey Barn.

Now I was more assured and asked her for the last waltz at the Airscrew dancehall, this time she agreed.

After a couple of years swanning around we became engaged.

Ann was very clothes conscious, and took me in hand regarding what I wore.

Once again I was at the mercy of fashion.

We now shopped in Kingston on Thames, the shop that was in the forefront of youth fashion was ‘Cecil Gee’, I saw this lovely men’s jumper, which for a change I liked but Ann wasn’t so sure about.

By now I had become more interested in what I wore, and this jumper looked just the ticket.

It was a ‘batwing style’, this meant the sleeves started at the cuffs and gradually swept up to about mid waist, it was black with a red stripe along the top of the sleeves to the collar, this was all held together with very large black stitches. I loved it.

One drawback was that it was very hard cycling against the wind.

My brother David had just been married to another Ann, and they were staying with us for a while.

I came home from work one day and was greeted by the jubilant young bride, she pointed to the washing line and said.

“Guess what”.

I’m never very good at this guessing game, so I looked to where she was pointing.

With what can only be described as my heart hitting my bladder, I saw my lovely black batwing jumper with the red stripe and black stitching hanging from the washing line by the sleeves.

“I’ve done your washing and it’s dry already”.

It may have been dry but not as dry as my mouth, as I said.

“That’s very kind of you Ann, I didn’t know it needed washing though”

I looked in dismay at what now looked like a large Manta Ray that some fisherman had hung up to display his prowess at fishing.

In a moment Ann, had removed the jumper and was urging me to try it on, actually it wasn’t too bad; it was just the sleeves that I could see might be a problem.

They were always a bit long, but now they were about a foot too long, but the ever-resourceful Ann, said.

“All we have to do is roll the sleeves up a bit”.

This, she helped me to do, I had the feeling that she had begun to realize that all was not well with the sleeve department, and I saw the jubilation drain from her body.

To save her feelings I said it all looked great— the rolled up sleeves looked like something Anna Karenina would wear as a muff in the Russian winter.

“At last” I said. “I may be at the forefront of men’s fashion, by leading instead of copying”.


But it never caught on.

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