Lesson #378: In Bermondsey in Burberry

Sorry for the unexpected break; between football matches with my footie friends (it was only supposed to be one, but then our Tanzanian friend showed up and informed us Liverpool were playing, so it turned into two) and a bonfire with both sets of friends on Saturday and brunch, catching up with my college roommate, and (finally) watching Tom Hiddleston do Shakespeare in leather with some girl friends yesterday, my weekend kind of got away from me. 

If you’re familiar with the band Stars, a Millwall fan*, a hooligan, or any combination of the three, that title might make sense to you. If you’re not, welcome to a post on the rather surprising connection between the upscale clothing brand Burberry and football hooligans.

In the late 1970s, when Liverpool were having a run of luck in Europe, their  fans followed them abroad to cheer them on. Like you do. (I did, after all, drive to another country to see Spurs play the week before last.) But a funny thing happened…these fans started coming back to England with continental fashion labels that hadn’t yet crossed the channel. Nearly 20 years on, in attempt both to be seen as ultra fashionable and, probably more importantly, to pass as a higher class of fan than the average hooligan and therefore avoid detention by the police, Burberry’s trademark plaid became the new uniform of the football hooligan. To the point where the brand stopped making baseball caps in an effort to distance themselves from the type of ultra-hooliganism that arose in the 80s and was a serious social problem in England into the early aughts.

Burberry as a hooligan brand arose in the mid-90s, and if you google “Burberry hooligans”, you’ll get any number of pictures of chavs decked out in the brand. There’s obviously speculation about how a lower-class group were able to obtain a high-end label (in my reading it was stealing directly from the store and mugging people who were wearing the brand), but since I don’t know, I’ll not guess. What’s funny about the rise and fall of Burberry as a hooligan uniform is that it mirrors the way fashions trend on a smaller scale; while it started as a way to avoid police detection, it was dropped because it arose too much suspicion.

Bonus lessons: The trench coat is so-named because it was specifically designed by Burberry for British soldiers fighting in the trenches during the First World War. Also gabardine** was invented by Mr. Burberry himself.

For more, read here, here, and here.

*To my knowledge, I’ve never met a Millwall fan in the flesh. Fun, related (bonus points if you know the relation) fact: I met my first ever West Ham fans while out with my footie friends for the Champions League final in May.

**Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘America‘ is the first thing I think of when I think of gabardine. It has a lyric, “she said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy”, and I’m almost certain that’s the only time I have ever heard the word spoken…or, well, sung. Vocalized.


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