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Fashion Throwback Thursdays: Guinness Punch and Irish Moss

10 Dec 2015

For today’s Throwback Thursday, April Brown shares some retro photos of her Irish/Jamaican parents in the 70s and 80s.

A lot of people I meet are quite interested in my heritage, some are merely intrigued, some slightly (or exceptionally) fetishise. It’s become apparent that on appearance my face can be deemed as ‘racially ambiguous’. Nonetheless, I’m proud of my background and I’ve been fortunate to grow up immersed in both Irish and Jamaican culture, within multicultural London. My grandparents on both sides were met with unwelcoming signs on arrival to post-war London in the 1950s. One with particular ignominy being “No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs”, displayed in the windows of rented properties. Although this is no longer legal, the fundamental message is still being heralded in London’s housing market today, albeit through undertones and passive aggression.

My parents were the “children of immigrants” – in my mother’s words. This apparent similarity notionally influenced their union. My mum grew up in ‘County Kilburn’ initially living in one room in a terraced house with my grandparents and her siblings. My dad came over to London from Jamaica at the age of nine with pretty much nothing but the clothes on his back, having stayed with relatives while his paternal family settled here. Although they didn’t have much encouragement from their parents educationally, largely due to ignorance, they both did well to get ‘proper’ jobs from a domestic perspective. Both admit that had the opportunity been presented to them, they would have loved to pursue further education but in those days teachers encouraged them to take the ‘sensible’ route. Mum was advised to take the reputable option and go into secretarial work along with most of her peers.  Dad wasn’t advised anything at all. In a way, this inaccessibility is the reason that my parents worked tirelessly to ensure that I received the education they were not able to access and aspire to achieve more.

Through their working-class upbringing, they submerged themselves into multi-cultural London, enjoying a spectrum of unique experiences and lived their lives to the fullest. Together for 20 years, they had a pretty chilled relationship until I came along in the early 90s. Although they divorced when I was six, I rather admire the fact that my parents had fun, for a reasonably long time, before I was even a twinkle in my father’s eye. (Older parents are underrated IMO).

On this scent of romanticism, the following pictures are just a few snapshots of my parents in the 70s and 80s.

tbt-3Greece, 1973 – Because white platforms are appropriate on a beach.

tbt-7Leyton, 1974 – Mini platforms from Charles Jourdan and flared jeans.

tbt-14Paris, 1974 – The shimmer and satin pants were apparently stylish at the time.

Scan 4’Mac Daddy’, 1974 – My dad on Leyton cricket ground during a football match with his mate Geoff. Brown leather mac, beret and more flares. Say no more.tbt-13Jamaica, 1975 – Full of sass! Walking off mid-strop in white shorts and sling backs. Dad obviously couldn’t resist the urge to take a snap.

tbt-6Jamaica, 1975 – Open shirt and flares. Pretty textbook.


Jamaica, 1975 – black string bikini, green and yellow old-school football shorts. Colour coordinating with of the flag of Jamaica (although I doubt this was intentional). Check out the Jewfro at the top!tbt-17Sacred Heart Church, Kilburn, 1979 – A friend of theirs asked them to participate in a ‘sham’ wedding shoot as a favour, hence the closed doors. Not entirely sure why but it was something to do with an ‘out-of-wedlock’ cover up. Obviously they had a hoot in the process! My mum is in her favourite Red Fox jacket, bought in the West End, just prior to the animal rights “fur is worn by beautiful animals and ugly people” campaign. Dad in his favourite suit bought from the King’s Road in Chelsea.

tbt-15Beside her office, the Saudi Arabian Embassy, 1984 – Mum wearing a Pancaldi silk blouse, Fiorucci brown cord jeans and a light brown italian wool blazer, all purchased in Rome.  She’s standing with her pride and joy, a mustard yellow and brown Mini with walnut Wood and Picket interior, wind up sunroof and chrome roll bars.tbt2A friend’s wedding, London, 1986 – Snapped while eating wedding cake; their mouths observably full. It seems mum rarely wore a bra in the 70s, as a lot of photos proved. This is one of a few ‘risky’ selections.

tbt-4Willesden, 1986 – Mum channeling Jerry Hall. The thin stiletto heel and strap, wouldn’t look out of place on a runway today.tbt-8Tracy & Simone, Willesden, 1987 – Mum’s goddaughter and stepdaughter playing ‘dress up’ with her wardrobe.

tbt2-2My christening day – I was 15 months old. Mum’s saucer hat, puffed sleeves and Mr Brown’s pinstripe suit/bow tie: welcome to the 90s.