I can still remember it like it was yesterday. Sitting on a tube train in London aged 16 in 1991, I saw a kid about my age in a sleeveless Naf-Naf puffer jacket and thought: I want that.
A visit to an Oxford Street shop revealed the price to be £80. My parents, for reasons I am today not able to explain today, coughed up.
And I returned to Canterbury with the most expensive piece of clothing I had ever owned.
It was pure show. Everything was for show as a teenager. You judged people by what labels they were wearing.
My friends and I strutted up and down the High Street spitting and smoking and sniggering at anyone we reckoned was behind the fashion.
“Haha, look at him – he’s wearing Campri,” I said pointing to a kid at the bus station wearing a black ski jacket flecked with mauve and turquoise patches.
“What do you expect?” Dave, a friend, replied. “He’s from Herne Bay.”
Once I came back from America with a pair of black and white Nike Cortez trainers. A youth from another school spotted me wearing them and offered his congratulations: “They’re better than those LA Gears you used to wear.”
How the hell did he know what shoes I had earlier worn?
The answer actually is obvious. If you spent as much time as we did in the city centre, you always knew – and cared – what others in your age group were wearing.
We’re talking about clothes with labels and makers’ names plastered on them. The whole point was that you wanted people to know.
Back then everyone was wearing Fila, Campri, Ellesse, Puma, Reebok, Champion, Diadora, Chippie and, of course, Naf-Naf.
As soon as I got to university, in ’94, it was all change. The people I hung around with used their student loans to buy more expensive clobber: Armani, Ralph Lauren, John-Paul Gaultier, Hugo Boss, Destroy, Pierre Cardin.
But many of my fellow students weren’t going after the big names. They were looking backwards and embracing the 70s. They had sideburns and long hair and went to Manchester’s retro shops looking for flared jeans.
Fast forward to Canterbury 2018 and I’m sitting in the Thomas Becket pub in Best Lane idly chatting to a student in a bright red Champion sweatshirt with the famous big “C” logo six inches wide across his chest.
“We used to wear stuff like that 25 years ago,” I said.
“It’s back in,” he said, “loads of people are buying Champion and Campari and Ellesse. The 90s brands are really big.”
Even a magazine as with it as GQ has tapped into the resurgence of 90s style, noting: “From Fila to Ellesse, Millennials just can’t get enough of the brands that were popular the same year they were born.”
For more than a decade, I’ve not really bothered with fashion, but I bet you any money, my mum’s still got that Naf-Naf puffer jacket.
Time to get it out of the loft and go once more for that city centre strut feeling very pleased with myself…