Dress to Express - Page 6

Folks who go retro say it’s all about steppin’ out in style, self-assertion and hunting for clothes
Dress to Express
All dressed for the luau, Otto and 'Baby Doe' von Stroheim ham it up sipping at the tiki bar.
Dress to Express
'Baby Doe' shows off one of her several straw hats with built-in sunglasses—all the rage these days.
Dress to Express

The sound, David says, was soul music of the '60s, British R&B, Jamaican ska, and rock steady. Scooters had to be Italian, "a Vespa or Lambretta, no Japanese plastic scooters." And they had to be outfitted properly—"the mirrors, the stereo, the more decoration the better."

The look was very Who, the classic rock band that emerged from England's Mod movement of the early '60s—well tailored, Saville Row, influenced by the sharp guys in Italian films from the 1960s. "You always had an inch-and-a-half tie, never wider," David says.

"Mary Quant, for girls," says Yvette, who came onto the scene a bit later. "If you're going to think Mod, she's the one."

For Andrew and Kathryn, among others, much of the thrill of going vintage is seeking clothing out in oddball thrift stores in burgs like Hayward, or the Central Valley, or Midwest.

"It's really fun," Andrew says, "when you go out and somebody says, 'Hey that's a great shirt.' 'Oh, I just got this for a dollar.'"

But some of the clothes Karl and Renee Underwood buy and sell go for much more. Many retro fans wear reproductions, which are increasingly well made, because the originals are unobtainable or unaffordable.

It can be costly to soil a vintage garment. "You are very conscious of who's around you with a drink or a cigarette," John Kunkel notes.

Mod clothes can be particularly expensive, David Nicholson says. He often has tailors recreate the look in the Philippines—Yvette's country of origin.

"For the Mod," he says, "you want to look better than anybody else. If you work, you want to look better than your boss even when he's making three times what you are. You want to have a better record collection, you want to have a better scooter."

Now that he's a dad and merchandising food (President Cheese, Laughing Cow), David no longer spends much time on a scooter. But he and Yvette still spin vinyl. Their son Brighton, named for the city in England, wears a Brian Jones haircut and slim pants and has a mini Vespa.

"We don't go out to the clubs anymore," David says.

"We still enjoy it," Yvette says of the Mod scene.

"I'm 51," David says. "Many of my friends have left the scene. I can't imagine leaving the scene. I can't see myself doing that."

Yvette adds: "You just get so used to doing it. It's something we love."


Photography: James Fanucchi, Dave Weinstein