In 1967, the Beatles released the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (For good measure that year, they also released Magical Mystery Tour.) In that same year, the Velvet Underground released debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico, Leonard Cohen put out Songs of Leonard Cohen, Cream released Disraeli Gears and Pink Floyd released The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
And the biggest-selling US album of 1967? More of the Monkees by the Monkees.
It is – and I write this while taking great care not to offend the sensibilities of die-hard Monkees fans – one of those facts that doesn’t necessarily make the people of 50 years ago come across too well. But of course, “best” and “most popular” are often not the same. And when we’re doing things, we can’t envision how they’re going to be viewed in the future. That latter point is particularly true with fashion.
I have personal experience with this. As a former ’90s teenager, I struggle to mock any Leonard Cohen-ignoring Monkees lover because I was a child of grunge. And not just the music, but also the style. Flannel shirts? Doc Martens? As much a part of my junior year as SATs and wanting to beat Aquinas.
The problem for Fort Lauderdale kids was that the whole grunge aesthetic came from Seattle, where wearing flannel shirts and chunky boots makes sense. In South Florida, it was a look that largely made girls not want to talk to you until you’d toweled the sweat off and maybe taken a shower. (At least that’s what I put it down to.)
But it was the style, so we went with it. And as it happened, I had my own little in-house grunge outlet store. Grunge style’s dirty little secret was that it was mostly just stuff people in the Pacific Northwest wore anyway. My dad’s from Seattle, and in the ’90s the back of his closet was filled with what he’d only ever thought of as his old fishing shirts. I got digging around back in there and discovered plaid flannel gold. Digging further, I discovered a bigger jackpot – his old army boots. I mean, who needs Doc Marten’s army-ish boots when you’ve got the real thing?
In retrospect of course, I looked like a complete imbecile. I’d be standing there at a party, a kid on the Intracoastal in an ensemble that fell somewhere between Puget Sound and the Mekong Delta. I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of photographic evidence of this era.
But of course, that’s the point. Fashion is tricky and fluid; nobody ever looks back at high school photos and thinks, “Yeah, I was really nailing a look there.”
The fast-moving currents of style and fashion make me even more impressed with people who can remain fashionable and stylish over the years. In this, our fashion issue, we catch up with two such people – designer Nicole Miller and writer, editor and television personality Nina Garcia. Not long ago they were in Fort Lauderdale – evidence of the big names our city’s growing fashion scene is able to attract.
For us style mortals though, it’s a matter of finding what looks good and makes us feel good – while remembering that it could all change. My advice to the young: Don’t be too hard on the past choices of others. Photos of you will also age. Styles might be in now but in a few years you’ll find out that hey hey, you’re the Monkees.