How the Rave Culture of the Late 1980s Influenced Streetwear Fashion.
This editorial will explore how the cultural movement of the Second Summer of Love shaped the streetwear fashion landscape and how its distinctive elements are still reflected today.
Birth of the Second Summer of Love movement.
The revolution began, as all self-respecting revolutions do, with a trip: four guys boarded a flight to Ibiza, DJs Paul Oakenfold, Johnny Walker, Danny Rampling and Nicky Holloway travelled to the Balearic island in 1987 in search of something more than sun and parties.
In San Antonio, before the city became the pop-tourism-soaked destination it is today, the four ran into another British DJ transplanted to Ibiza, Trevor Fung.
Fung was a viver and a regular on the island, introducing his compatriots to two things that, combined, started Rave Culture: Amnesia, the first outdoor clubbing and drug ecstasy.
When they returned to the UK, the four guys brought with them a vision of a new clubbing experience, against the backdrop of a conservative and highly restrictive right-wing policy led by Margaret Thatcher, who was trying hard to curb the rampant Ecstasy phenomenon in the UK.
As a form of rebellion and an involuntary liberating act, a new cultural movement was born, which gathered to celebrate and dance to Acid House, initially in indoor clubs, later in sheds, or in woods and spaces in nature.
Spread of Rave Culture
Rave Culture and the so-called Second Summer of Love were born: a brief but pivotal cultural moment that vanished just two years later. Although considered a meteor in the panorama of global subcultures, the influence of the Second Summer of Love on club culture, dance music and – as we want to emphasise in this editorial – on the world of fashion, can still be felt 35 years later.
The Legacy in Streetwear Fashion
The heritage of this movement is not limited to a musical lineage: this style has become a reference as well as a starting point in the more alternative streetwear fashion industry. The Rave Culture or Second Summer of Love style can be found in many Streetwear collections and brands, as well as in Sneakers like adidas Spezial or the iconic outdoor style of Nike ACG. Brands such as Cactus Plant Flea Market, Market (formerly Chinatown Market), Pleasures, Aries, Dreamland Syndacate – to name but a few – have all repurposed the ubiquitous smiley face motif, iconic of the Acid House.
The rave style of the period was derived from a very specific function, rather than a choice of style. The pants were baggy, as were the T-shirts, because it was very hot in the clubs; when rave culture moved into the open or semi-open spaces – such as sheds, pine forests or woods – due to the many British government bans, the outdoor style took over: hence technical jackets and waistcoats, cargo pants, comfortable trainers and long-sleeved shirts.
As explained by Fiona Cartledge, designer and owner of the influential London rave scene store ‘Sign of the Times’, the Acid House style was also a natural rejection of the fashion that had preceded it, namely: “a reaction to the designer looks of the 1980s that had preceded it and the emergence of alternative brands such as Stüssy, Komodo and Mash, as well as various garments imported from Thailand and Bali. Pattern Baik was everywhere, so colorful and acidic, just like the Second Summer of Love.
In reality, the look was much more varied than how it is remembered today, and the problem lies in the historical archive of the time, which reflects only an early part of the scene, that of the first period characterized by the Ibiza-hippie look. The 1990s saw a plethora of Acid House looks and styles: leather trousers and biker boots, dungarees, and Vivienne Westwood’s ‘Care Bear’ T-shirts as a strong symbol of the era. Many graphics on t-shirts and accessories reflected the symbols on ecstasy pills, such as stars, hearts, rainbows, lettering and well-known cartoon and comic book characters.
The ethos and cohesion of the Second Summer of Love.
The strength of The Second Summer of Love was certainly its cohesion, in a divisive historical period for Britain. The scene revolved around people coming together, in a country perpetually angry, and fighting against each other. Parts of the population were upset by the chaos that the policies of the Thatcher government were causing, and many working-class towns were still bearing the scars of that era. That summer of 1988 Britain was changing: the Thatcher government would be overthrown in late 1990 and a more optimistic mood was about to sweep the country.