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Fancy a Stay in Heartbreaker Hotel?


The 1950s provided us with the template for many of the things we now accept as culturally normal. There’s rock’n’roll, which did more to change music consumption than anything before or since (although Simon Cowell might disagree); there’s television, a pre-war technology that only really took off after the bombs stopped falling; and there’s the bad boy.

Now bad boys might not sound like something to aspire to, but in reality they were all a bunch of everyday lads who liked to act bad, drive fast cars and motorbikes and get into fisticuffs when they felt they had lost face over pinball or somesuch. But transformed onto the silver screen, these typical working class guys would have the girls swooning, feinting and coming over all queer. You’ll already have thought of some of the icons; James Dean, Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley sum up the image and were the real heartbreakers of their day. You could also count the Fonz off Happy Days, but he was really a caricature, which of course means he was more realistic than any of them … plus he was about 20 years too late.

Elements of the look are also fundamentally still with us. If we say jeans and a tight white T-shirt, you might wonder if style has moved on at all in the last 50 years (and you’d be ignoring the 60s and 70s completely). There are also the shades, preferably a pair of classic Ray-Bans, the winklepickers and finally the obligatory leather jacket. The jacket is probably the hardest element to pull off these days. It can more readily be associated with certain middle-aged presenters of TV motoring shows than with Hollywood icons, and you need to tread with care. The leather jacket has survived so many unbelievably tasteless eras that you need a sharp eye to spot a stylish cut, and if there is to be a pinnacle, it’s probably safe to say that the LJ of the 1950s was it. If you’re hitting the vintage clothing stores this weekend, beware of imitations.

The biker jacket, as it is more commonly known, has to have a zip fastener that goes up at a slight angle, starting at the middle and ending roughly where the shoulder meets the neck. This is a vital touch, and jackets with central zips need to be discarded as quickly as your 50cc moped. A couple of zip-up pockets are OK, too, and the sleeves should also zip up to just short of the elbow to accommodate a pair of biker gloves when you’re driving your Renault Clio … sorry, riding your Triumph Blackbird to work.

So to get that authentic 50s heartbreaker style, you first have to look across the Atlantic to the bad boys of America, and once you’ve perfected the attitude (which is what mirrors were invented for), there’s only one last thing to do. Get down to the chemist’s and get something for the weekend: a tub of Brylcreem, because without that gravity-defying quiff, the whole edifice of 50s swagger will collapse around you. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

James just adores fashion, having spent his working life with designers and in clothing shops. His current interest is with the heartbreaker look, especially as heartbreaker clothes are now very sought after in vintage clothing stores across the world.

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Listed: April 28, 2012 4:03 pm