Book Review: The Way We Wore

The Way We Wore- Robert Elms
The Way We Wore is an autobiography of sorts, told through the medium of clothes- Exploring the dress of journalist Robert Elms throughout his 70s and 80s youth, from mod to new romantic and discussing the social implications of these subcultures.

I absolutely loved the first part of the story. Elms discussed his working-class background, growing up on a London council estate and how sartorial and musical subcultures formed his identity throughout his junior and secondary school days. This is something I could definitely relate to- I still attribute a lot of who I am today down to my teenage experiences of a council estate emokid. I felt that maybe I wasn't as crazy as I thought- Elms' obsession with clothes, his total reluctance to throw any out and his quest for sartorial perfection are all very familiar!
However, as he recounted his experiences growing up and entering the punk and new romantic scenes, his tale began to get a little cringeworthy. Every page had a namedrop and it began to all read a bit "Look how influential I was in the 80s!" Did he really need to tell us that he and Boy George didn't like each other? No, probably not. It's even more embarrassing when he explains how he named Spandeau Ballet. Maybe it's true, but it's not really necessary to the book. I did find, however, that this will provide a generic background context for when I visit the V&A From Club to Catwalk exhibit later in the year, so that's pretty helpful. 

I was even more annoyed in the final chapter, where Elms laments that, since the 80s, there has been no more creativity in British youth. He does admit that maybe he's a bit old, but seemingly fails to recognise that actually there certainly are young, creative subcultures and perhaps he just isn't as involved in the scene as he'd like to think he still is. He goes on to berate the rave culture generation who claim that they started the dance scene as it was, in fact, his generation. I think we'd all agree that every single cultural generation can be traced back decades and that his certainly did not start any single movement. 
Furthermore, I was disappointed by his self-serving epilogue that forms no other purpose than to describe, in great detail, the process of having one of his many bespoke suits made by a Saville Row tailor. As somebody who grew up on a council estate, unable to afford the clothing that he so desired as a child, he must surely be aware of the almost sickening boasting that this chapter creates. 

It's a shame as this book had such a promising beginning. Unfortunately, it unfolded into a totally boastful, ignorant celebration of a rather unlikeable author. 


  1. Ugh... another older person being judgemental about the 'yoof of today'- if he just thought before writing, as I'm sure you should whilst writing a book. He would've realised how ridiculous he sounds.
    Flo Jo xx

    1. It's so frustrating! It only takes a little research!

  2. Ah, that's such a shame - it really seemed like a good read! x


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