Corduroy and big hair (the night I met Michael Hutchence)

1985 was a dreadful year for fashion all round. At least, that’s my excuse.

big-hair3

In the 80s, it was all about hair.

Pic: liketotally80s

 

When I was in primary school, I was barely aware that other people bought clothes brand new straight from shops.

Up until I secured a part time job in 1984, growing up in a working class family of eight meant most of my clothes came from “Op” shops, or were “handed down” to me from cousins. Those older cousins were a family of 9 kids, who lived on a farm and survived on one adult’s income. In other words, the clothes they passed on to myself and my sister were not going to see me feature in the Fashion on the Street pages of Dolly magazine any time soon.

At primary school I didn’t know or care about my clothes being fashionable. From high school onwards, however, I became immediately aware of the yawning chasm between the fashionably dressed girls at school and myself on the first “casual” day in year 7. It was for our annual walkathon, and most other girls were wearing shorts, or the 3/4 length pants that were fashionable that year, while I turned up in a second hand, mid-calf length, A-line, white skirt with a pretty floral pattern. Worn with school socks (what other kind were there?) and sneakers. Well, it was a 10km walkathon, so I was just being practical – and the only other shoes I owned were my school shoes! It would be hard to think of a particular shape and style of clothing that could have marked me, any more clearly, as being from a poor family.

After that humiliating experience, I started to try and dress like the other girls, but with no money, and only hand-me-downs to work with, my attempts to wear the nearest version I could to what they were wearing never gave me a chance of looking like anything but the oldest daughter in a large, poor, Catholic family. One look at me and you could tell that my parents combed my brothers’ hair down neatly onto the side of their heads with water for Sunday mass.

I did at time own some jeans, however my first ever pair of “jeans” (actually purchased brand new!) were beige cords, and later I recall quite a few pairs of hand-me-downs from cousins that were  (gulp!) purple and corduroy, and flared. (Reminder: flares were cool in the 70s, NOT the mid 80s.) “Casual” days at school became dreaded.

In 1984 I got a part time job working in the local fish and chips shop. Having been bringing in 40c per week up to that point I was utterly astounded (and so was my dad), after my first shift stocking the drinks fridge, to discover that I earned a whopping $4 an hour!  It was enough to buy Smash Hits and Dolly magazine, cassettes, and save to buy my own clothes.

But unfortunately, when I recall what I wore to the INXS concert I attended at the Ballarat Civic Hall in 1985, I can only conclude that I must have spent all of my wage on getting my hair permed into basically a cross between a mullet and a bob, a style that was all the rage for about a month, at my school that year, and had nothing left over to spend on clothes.

Thankfully, there are no photos to remind me of what I looked like as I headed out that night. It’s just that the shame of it has been burned into my memory. Let’s just say that I tried to turn a lack of having anything remotely cool to wear into an attempt to look “bohemian.” I am certain that a dark-red corduroy skirt was involved, and fairly certain that I teamed this with a pair of white runners, covered with colored polka dots. Yes, that’s right – sneakers with a corduroy skirt. It seems highly likely since I know there was a time when those polka dot sneakers were the only pair of shoes I owned (apart from my school shoes), and that was because a friend took pity on me and donated them to me.

Now it has to be said that INXS and corduroy are two items that just don’t go naturally in a sentence together. How does a post start out about corduroy and end up being about INXS? You are probably starting to wish you could get your money back. Well hang on a moment, because I’m about to explain. The reason I have gone into detail about my tragic outfit, is to emphasise what a pitifully daggy kid I was at that point, and really set the scene for what a friggin’ highlight in my life at that point it was to meet Michael Hutchence after the concert!

Um, yes, that’s right – daggy red corduroy-skirt girl MET Michael Hutchence after the gig. Life can seem unfair at times, can’t it, girls?

It was not hard to do. Basically, the concert ended, and everyone else politely poured out of the Civic Hall and went straight home to bed! Except for 3 people: my friend, her older brother and myself. We loitered around, near a side exit, trying to look casual, hoping that the band wouldn’t be secretly whisked out some other exit by their body guards…….and then – OMG!!!

Through the glass doors we could see the band, casually walking down a hallway, coming straight towards us! Or, in Michael’s case, sashaying down the hall towards us. At least, in my memory that’s how it looks.

Now, I’m pretty sure that as he approached, the total lack of glamour in doing this gig in a civic hall in a country town became all too apparent to Hutchence, if it hadn’t been already. He could see that outside those doors there was  no media with cameras flashing, no hordes of screaming, adult women, no – just 2 teenage girls – one in a red corduroy skirt and polka dot sneakers – with older brother in tow!

Michael Hutchence. Pic NOT taken by me.

Michael Hutchence. NOT taken by me, unfortunately. I left my Kodak 120 at home.

Pic: Pinterest

But to give them credit, the band stopped and talked to us – or let’s face it, probably mostly to the older brother – and, to top off that kind gesture, before they departed, Michael leaned in and gave each girl a kiss.

Hopefully, now that you have some extra context, you will have a pretty clear picture of how thrilled I must have been at that moment. And don’t worry, I was aware even then, that it was an act of kindness, or pity – or perhaps utmost professionalism – that motivated him. But for me, at least, it was undoubtedly the highlight of my life year.

So, whether or not Michael Hutchence lost sight of his roots and let the glamour go to his head in later days, let the records show that he did a kindly deed back in 1985.

Which was to give a charitable kiss to a country town teenage girl wearing a corduroy skirt. Possibly with polka dot sneakers.

women filling out a survey

In a survey taken way back in 1937, 98 out 100 elderly women voted corduroy skirts to be “daggiest item of clothing eva”

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24 Comments

  1. HaHa, that’s too funny. The big hair pictures is exactly how I looked like in the 80s. And every girl had a perm. And those awful colors! We had this fashion of pastel colors, and I shamefully remember wearing lightblue shoes, dark green trousers and a pink T-shirt!

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. I had a perm at some stage too, although it was the short lived permed-bob look of the later 80s. I WAS going to insert an utterly awful photo of me in the 80s but somehow I moved my laptop and accidentally published the post! If you check back again it’s possible that I might update it – or chicken out! 😉

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  2. your way of writing really inspires me… thanks for sharing such a beautiful post… i hope you will entertained by visiting http://mindtechnorms.wordpress.com

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  3. Heh.. Those hairdos sure are.. Monstourous?

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  4. We’re such precious, tender little things at that age. What a fantastic experience, corduroy notwithstanding. I can’t help but romantically think, the corduroy was critical.

    Thank you for a sweet laugh and 80’s nostalgia.

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    • Hmmm perhaps you’re right, Italy have been the pairing of the corduroy skirt & polka dot runners that caused Michael Hutchence to feel moved to pity. Thanks for reading, & I see the link to your blog is there now!

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      • Yes, I did it, it’s all so fun learning everything. Thank you again for pointing it out, about my link.

        My middle aged self must be a sucker for pity. I would gladly wear any atrocity for that memory, I liked thinking that from reading your post.

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      • Good point. It was definitely worth all the painful dagginess to have that story to tell.

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  5. Great story. Those of us who were tragically unfashionable (and probably not much better now) are all giving a cheer.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Michael Hutchence….secret champion of the daggy, alienated teenage girl.? When we always thought it was Morrisey.

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  6. If it’s any consolation, there are photos of me in 1984 that I cringe over as well. Admittedly, I was in kindergarten at the time, but I’m pretty sure the jumper my mum knitted for me and paired with a nana-style skirt was never cool (although I do still look back on the black patent mary jane shoes pretty fondly). And I know for sure that the terry-cloth track suits I lived in were also bad fashion choices in a bad fashion era, even if they weren’t worn with sensible leather lace up school shoes. As was the mop-top home-hair-cut do I was sporting, during the awkward “I’m growing my hair out of this layered bob” phase. I never needed a perm or teasing for volume in the 80s. Thank god for letting me master hair dryers and straighteners…

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    • What?? Terry-cloth track suits were a bad fashion choice even when NOT worn with sensible leather lace up school shoes (preferably black, and polished every Sunday night after Little House On The Prairie finished on TV)?! But – who would dare team them with anything else??

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  7. I remember a purple polka dot pair of shoes I had at school that I just loved. Even though they were too small. Even now those dots always make me happy. Long live the polka dot!!

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    • There is something very upbeat about polka dots isn’t there? You don’t see Goths, Emos, or Skinheads, wearing polka dots, generally!

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  8. You are far too modest, the title of this post should have been ‘The night the sexiest man in rock, Michael Hutchence kissed me’. My sister went to an INXS concert and came home telling me stories of girls fainting and one who was trampled. Your experience was far better!

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    • It certainly is one of the highlights of my life. It’s always amusing to recall how everyone else just took off home, leaving 3 (very daggy) people to mob INXS after the show. This was not in their pub gig days, it was after The Swing, people!! Ballarat must have been very unused to having bands teetering on the edge of international stardom visit. (I guess it still is.) Or had a curfew.

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      • Ballarat was obviously too innocent then! A great memory that’s yours to keep, but feel free to rename your post at any time 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, I’ll keep the name change in mind. Or maybe I can somehow combine “Sexy” and “corduroy” into the same title and probably be entered into the Guiness World Book of Records for doing so.

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      • C’mon, does that mean my green cords from the 80’s were not alluring? If I was going to see INXS I would have worn them with pride, with my white Adidas diadora runners!

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  9. SO. JEALOUS. Of both the kiss and the word “daggy.” I can’t even think of good American slang for unfashionable, while the Australians get daggy and the Brits get naff.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Really? How interesting! What about “dork”. – isn’t that American? It’s not quite the same though is it, I just looked them both up and “dork” means “a contemptible, socially inept person” while “dag” is “an affectionate term for someone who is…unfashionable..”!

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