Well shiver me timbers! On a recent delve into the fashion archive I found a real fashion treasure me hearties: Pirate style! Comment that I may be the victim of  too many tankards of rum if you wish, but a dash of pirate inspired style seems the perfect antidote to the now slightly over-exposed ‘nautical’ trend. George Walker takes a look at how models walking the catwalk (or perhaps that should be plank) brought a touch of pirate style to men’s wardrobes way before Johnny Depp stumbled about in Pirates of the Caribbean.

In Vivienne Westwood’s 1981-2 ‘Pirate’ collection the designer began her first sustained exploration into historical dress. Billowing shirts, loose high-waisted trousers and 18th century military-inspired jackets combined in a melting pot of bright colours and striking prints to make a startlingly eccentric collection.

Like many of Vivienne Westwood’s clothes, this was a trend for only the most fashion-forward of men. But let’s remember, this was the age of the New Romantics: for many, nothing was ever “too much”. With that trademark Westwood ‘squiggle’ pattern (looking almost like the chains you’d find on a pirate ship) and the vivid golden yellows and reds (perhaps conjuring up the image of a treasure chest), Westwood started a gaudy, anti-authoritarian fashion movement.

The pirate look wasn’t just purely pirate, however; the collection was also inspired by the 19th century French Incroyables and Merveilleuses.  After the French Revolution the gentry in France enjoyed high spirited antics and luxurious outings that could not have taken place during times of civil disturbances – the men of this group came to be known as the Incroyables (Incredibles) and the women were called Merveilleuses (Marvelous). Their gaudy dress and exaggerated tailoring was therefore an unlikely and yet oddly suitable style to fuse with pirate designs.

As with all of Vivienne Westwood’s early collections, music played a major part in her designs. Adam and the Ants (pictured below) were a New Romantic band that took on the pirate trend as their trademark look. Their military jackets, pirate trousers and – of course – fake swords and eye patches made a rather unsubtle ode to seafaring thieves from centuries past.

Boy George (pictured left), perhaps the most famous of New Romantics, also helped to bring the Pirate collection to the public’s attention. As a keen supporter of Westwood from her punk designs in the Seventies, Boy George was pictured with the ‘squiggle’ print shirts and pirate caps on many occasions.

The Pirate collection has once again been revived in Westwood’s spring/summer 2010 menswear collection, showing that if you want to try out nautical style, you needn’t just stick to the Breton stripes and pea coats. Admittedly, the thought of donning a pirate shirt and swashbuckling belt on your local highstreet may seem a bit daunting, but chain prints, loose pirate-style trousers and rugged pirate boots are vintage items that add a touch of pirate style without looking like fancy dress.

Whether the thought of pirate fashion makes you landlubbers feel like you’ve got scurvy or if it makes you want to go out and buy a parrot and hat, pirate fashion was undeniably one of the most compelling fashion statements for guys in the Eighties.

One Response