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Fashion Throwback Thursdays: Charlie’s mixed-race family in the 1980s–90s


29 Oct 2015

Editor’s Note:

This is gal-dem‘s fifth Fashion Throwback Thursdays feature, and it’s quickly become one of the highlights of my week. I love all the photo submissions I get because I’m naturally quite a nosy person but also because I find them so nostalgically beautiful. Charlie’s submission for this week was a particular pleasure to receive, not only because it’s full of fascinating information about what life was like back when I was too young to remember, but also because it introduced me to my new favourite jam by her parents’ band, Soho: ‘Hippychick’. It samples The Smith’s ‘How Soon is Now?’ and it makes me want to jig. I recommend that you listen to it while you read Charlie’s piece below.

– Hannah Gooding

Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff takes a look at her mixed-race family’s fashion choices through the 1980s and 1990s.

There are three main figures in my family life – those being my mum, aunty (who are twins) and my dad. My parents got together in the early 1980s – a multiracial couple in an era only just becoming more accepting. As musicians, part of a band called Soho, fashion was always a key part of their lives.


1981/2: This was on rare holiday that my mum and Aunty Pauline took with their younger sister, my Aunty Sonja, to Amsterdam. Here they’re dressed up to go out – Pauline’s wearing a 1960s pop-arty dress. The designs are reminiscent of Keith Haring’s work.


1982: Back when Koko was known as Camden Palace, at a Spandau Ballet single launch.  My Aunty Pauline is wearing what my dad calls a “Buffalo Girl type hat”. They’re also rocking  jerry curls and braids: all the girls in the picture are sporting classic hair for the era.


1983: This is the only picture I have ever seen of my dad where he perhaps resembles me a little. It’s a very early publicity shot, and he’s wearing an original 1950s rubber jacket with a tartan lining which he sadly gave away to a friend.


1983/4:  My parents are visiting my dad’s parents. It’s possibly the first time my mum has met them. Everything they’re wearing is ‘vintage’, i.e from a charity shop or, more likely back then, a jumble sale.


1987:  Aunty Pauline (left) is wearing BOY, as, probably, is my mum. According to my dad this was just pre-acid house and on the end of the original warehouse parties and the rare groove scene: “It was quite unusual to see a black girl wearing BOY back then – it was super-trendy,” he says.

JOnTheRocks1989: My mum in Italy.  Her hair-do, which is twisted with thread, was a version of a more traditional African style that she and my Aunty used to have done at an African hairstylist in Brixton. Apparently, the shaved sides were fairly shocking at the time.


1990: My parents on the set for a music video in Barcelona. “There’s a bit of a Spanish feel to the gear but it was also right at the start of the super-hedonistic club thing that married to rave culture and gave birth to the whole rave attitude still prevalent now. Lots of E and cocaine around and all the music was house/techno-based.  That shoot was plagued by nameless people in our party taking LSD. Was a nice video in the end, though,” says my dad.


1996:  Me with my grandparents. At the time it was still unusual to see a couple of white, grey-haired old folk with a mixed-race grandchild outside of London or Manchester. My grandparents were based in Norwich but, luckily, they didn’t notice the people who stared.


1996: My mum and Aunty Pauline decided to completely shave their heads in the 1990s. It was a huge statement, perhaps even more so than the African style they wore a few years earlier, and used to elicit cries of despair from older Jamaican ladies who passed them: “Your hair, but it’s your beauty!”