From Punks and New Romantics, to club kids and fashionistas, Andy Warhol to Boy George, The Pet Shop Boys to Madonna, everybody has worn Boy.
Come 1976 Raynor and Krevine had shut up shop and turned their attention to Boy London. The clothing line had its first store on the Kings Road and started off as a punk staple, decking out the likes of the Sex Pistols. But it was in the 1980s that the brand really came into its own. By this time punk was dead and the coolest kids in town were kick-starting the New Romantic scene – Raynor was right there with them. He and his friends, now 1980s icons (Boy George, Steve Strange, Rusty Egan and Princess Julia) spent their time hanging out at the Blitz club and teaming their Boy looks with outrageous makeup and homemade accessories.
Raynor showed off his new offerings with shows more akin to parties in the London’s hippest night spots and before long the brand had an international following. By the end of the decade no fashion fan’s wardrobe was complete without a T-shirt emblazoned with its winged logo, and, with his finger firmly on the pulse of the next big thing, Raynor channelled the emerging Ibiza club scene into his collection, complete with eye-popping shades and smiley faces. It became one of the most copied labels around, to such an extent that Raynor effectively lost control of the brand and it fizzled out.
Now I’ve never really been what you would class as street or urban, more smart and popping into the store on my lunch break dressed in my corporate style clothing, I may as well have had a sign on me that said kick me.
As I squeezed past a young peroxide blonde haired assistant standing by the doorway rearranging some clothing on one of the racks, he turned around to me and smirked ‘This will suit ya’ handing me a pair of baby pink hot pants peppered with the BOY logo. I politely declined and made my way over to a rail of their popular black and white branded items. Sitting right at the back of the shop was an older man who never spoke or smiled other than every now and then calling out directions to his assistant.
After searching for a few minutes and finding nothing for my petite frame I asked the young guy for some help. ‘I’ll see if I can find anything in a small at the back’ came his friendly response.
So there I am left in the pokey shop, where I tried to make small talk by attempting to speak to the older guy sitting with his MacBook looking slightly intimidating.
‘I have been looking for this shop for ages’ me to the guy.
‘Well you found it, how did you find it?’
‘I follow you on twitter I saw the address mentioned there’
‘We’re NOT on twitter’
When I was 18 years old I can vividly recall the day my little sister Jennifer came home with a white leatherette BOY London baseball cap. I was so frickin annoyed because I wanted one, and now she had one I couldn't etc etc. Ah, the things we used to get upset about.
We didn't look at elitist, out-of-touch catwalk fashion in the early 1990s; our bible was The Face, our icons were other young people and the brands we connected with were ones we could relate to and afford with our pathetic recession-hit bank balance. Fast forward to today and I am an adult woman witnessing a fashion groundhog day, as BOY London is in the midst of a revival and club kids dress, look and act pretty much exactly how we used to, the only difference being the addition of Mac tech about their person.
BOY London was founded in the late 1970s by a fashion-obsessed lad about town called Stephane Raynor who was part of the Blitz Kid and New Romantic clubbing movements. By the time we found it, it had been worn by Andy Warhol, Madonna, The Pet Shop Boys, Boy George, and its shop on Old Compton Street in London's Soho always had queues outside. In the mid-late 1990s its popularity and its distinctive eagle and BOY logo had had its day.
They eventually got shut down (probably because of all the weed and stuff), so they had to come up with a new shop. The name BOY was thought of by two self-harming gays, one of which was a Bajan orphan and the other a genius/pederast. The latter collected piles of Evening Standards with ‘Boy’ in the headline eg. ‘Boy stabs PC’ or ‘Boy Electrocuted at 30,000 Volts’.
Steph Raynor explains it thus: “We entered the world of self-harming gays before it existed. The idea was to open it outside Chelsea football grounds, so the window would get smashed in everyday and we’d get beaten up and have sex with all these amazing football hooligans. Punks came to the store, but they would never get the art context underneath, which was all about gay skinheads.”
The opening window display was similarly poetic. The idea was that a boy had perished in his own arson attack, so the shop was all burnt timbers nailed to the roof, and in the window was the remains of the boy: Doc Martins with a stump of a foot in it, a finger with a ring and some trousers with a bit of stomach attached. Crowds gathered, it made the newspapers, and the police confiscated the display and arrested Don Letts, straightaway. This was 1977, after all.
The clothes themselves were a little thin, aesthetically speaking. Printed T-shirts, trousers with zips, caps, leggings: all a bit embarrassing for the true Punks, according to Don Letts: “It played into the hands of what people thought Punk was about: negativity and nihilism.” So Don Letts left BOY to manage The Slits.
“Everyone knew BOY was a joke,” says John Krivine. “But the kids from the suburbs were buying like mad.” The popstars started wearing it and the masses followed. By 1983 they had branches in Carnaby Street, Tokyo, and Paris. Everyone from Boy George to the Pet Shop Boys were wearing BOY in their music videos.
In 1985, John Krivine left Steph to run the business alone. Sabrina, the Italian popstar, had a hit called Boys, Boys, Boys, where she wore BOY with her tits out. “That was end of story for the Italians,” says Steph. “50,000 people turned up at a Milan football match wearing BOY. You could buy it with your pastrami sandwich. You could buy it at gas stations to fill your car with. But, they were copies coming out of Napoli at an uncontrollable speed, so we had to leave Italy. The international buyers list spiralled out of control. Finally, the label got fucked up and we went down for about £5 million.”
When Steph opened up SICK on Redchurch Street in 2007, he put all the BOY stock in, along with some vintage stuff and overpriced bikes. BOY had a re-launch of sorts, collaborating with new designers, and attracting a new generation of fans, which mostly consisted of teenagers and Swedish tourists.
When Steph opened up SICK on Redchurch Street in 2007, he put all the BOY stock in, along with some vintage stuff and overpriced bikes. BOY had a re-launch of sorts, collaborating with new designers, and attracting a new generation of fans, which mostly consisted of teenagers and Swedish tourists. - See more at: http://thisisprettyreal.com/2012/featured/then-and-now-boy-london/#sthash.U7G4gsZ0.dpuf
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