Robert Elms leads a successful career as a BBC broadcaster andfreelance writer. He lives in edgy Camden Town, north of London, wherehe is constantly surrounded by different looks and subcultures. TheWay We Wore is a witty analysis of the diversity of styles and 'gears'as he likes to call them, worn in London from the date of 1965 to theNineties. 1965 is also the the date when, at the age of five, Elms fellin love with clothes; that day his brother had arrived at home with asuit made by a tailor in Kilburn, and for the author that was immediatepassion with the crispiness of the fabric and the cleanness of its cut.Set in Notting Dale's council estate, where he grew up, the authorrecalls his journey through the numerous styles that affected his lifethe one of many other London youngsters. He stretches even farther: helooks at the way in which fashion was filtered through the workingclass and interpreted in street style. The subject is particular dearto Elms since he lived those experiences in the first place, on his ownskin. He gives us an exact picture of what mods, skinheads, suedeheadsand punks wore, the music they listened to and the clubs where theygathered. The author dedicates great attention to the description ofthe outfits or statement pieces that him, or those like him, wore.Written using a witty and amusing crescendo of personal stories, mixedto an accurate study of the outfits, Elms describes almost religiouslythe different details make. Details, in fact, were fundamental in theprocess of identification of an individual and essential in order toshow in which subculture you belonged to. Take the description ofloafers, for instance, it 'had always been the standard-issue casualfootwear from mod onward', yet it went through so many differentmutations, from penny-loafers to tassels and buckles and fringes andbuckskin, and finally a combination of all these elements, that everyfashion conscious young men like Elms, struggled to catch up with.
Yet,it was essential if you wanted to be part of the group and diverse fromall the others at the same time. Thank to meticulous descriptions likethose of the moccasins we understand that fashion for all those likethe author was not only a superficial way of dressing up, but a vitalexperience and externalisation of the willingness of affirming the selfas something more than a mere, anonymous human being. Elms also wantsto show the reader that he is an 'authority' in the subject, that theycan trust him, since he lived all those styles and experiences relatedto them on his own skin. Thus is language is accurate, hisdress-talking is specific and reach of technical terms, and he avoidsusing street-style English, but opts for a more sanitized use of thelanguage. In the book he stress that he is the first in his family toattend university, and through his writing technique is giving us extraproof of the truthfulness of its content. Ultimately, this is a type ofliterature that can suit all those nostalgic that look back at theiryouth and are a bit embarrassed or proud of the attire they wore or toall those readers who wants to know more of what London street stylelooked like throughout the past decades.