There's So Much More In TV Times Part 10: The Trousers That Look After Themselves
Unlike the square old Radio Times and its inset photographs of well-turned out broadcasters with smart haircuts and nice ties, TV Times was always right at the cutting edge of fashion. And never more so than back in the days when 'Swinging London' was ram-packed with blokes in top hats trying on military jackets and women dressed as Capable Caroline from Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush. Unless you've got a 'neo-history' show on BBC2, of course, in which case you should loudly announce that this never happened over footage of it actually happening.
Although they never quite managed to forge a fashion craze out of Bruce Forsyth in an oversized novelty chef's hat making something out of 'leftovers', TV Times was an ideal vehicle for anyone looking to promote their far-out crazy sixties fashions, with its captive audience of television viewers keen to emulate the stylish razzle-dazzle of the Ready Steady Go! audience, or at the very least that geezer talking to Viv Stanshall about how 'the longer shirts' were old fashioned. Here are just a few of the ingenious ways in which peddlers of non-natural psychedelically-shaded fibres attempted to harness the spending power of people looking to see when Sixpenny Corner was on.
Here's one hip and with-it young trendsetter explaining how top wash-and-wear synthetic mod favourite Crimplene is ideal for driving go-karts and failing to impress haystack-dwelling blondes. Either that, or this is some kind of low budget recreation of the Bank Holiday Mods And Rockers showdowns, with crash barriers, a safer mode of transport, and no Rockers.
Crimplene's even less flexible known associate Terylene receives a similar plug courtesy of this disconcerting tale of dating, cricket and weirdly possessive symbolic demands as apparently related by TV's Tom Chance. Note how the most positive thing they can find to say about Terylene trousers is that they are 'very okay'; meanwhile, we are probably best not knowing why he wanted Diana - who seems to have a 'thing' for synthetic trousers - to sponge them down after.
Meanwhile, it's 50% Fortrel Polyester and 50% Combed Cotton for wonderful new Wescoteers, the trousers that 'look after themselves'. Whatever scientific miracle this entails, it apparently results in them standing upright of their own accord, to the visible lack of delight of two awkwardly-slumped dolly birds. Note however that they are manufactured by Koratron, which sounds suspiciously like the sort of name you would have given to a rubbish villian in an early Doctor Who comic strip. So when you see a Policeman shouting "The trousers - they're walking - AND NOTHING CAN STOP THEM!" into his radio while standing at a weird eighty degree angle, you'll know exactly what has happened.
One size is slightly larger, and one size is too small, and the ones that mother buys you at the start of the 'school year' don't sodding well fit at all! You'd never have believed it but here's square, dependable and literally straight-laced Clarks jumping on the mod-psych bandwagon to flog their Flamingo-friendly wares to 'young women of tomorrow', presumably to replace their last pair which began dissolving in the waters that they trod. Quite where that young man of tomorrow lurking in the background fits into the equation, meanwhile, is anyone's guess.
Many of the raw synthetic materials for these Deptford Draylons-friendly fashion revolutions were provided by defunct chemical behemoth ICI, who took the unlikely opportunity to reposition themselves as bloke-behind-desk-led Carnabetian Trendsetters with a block-booked advert break plugging Crimplene, Terylene, Bri-Nylon and all the rest of them. If you wanted to know more about any of the featured clobber, then your luck was in courtesy of this handy form in TV Times; judging from the accompanying artificial fibre-sporting ladies, and in particular 'C' who was alarmingly racy even by tacky old ITV standards of the time, it's a fair bet that a few readers sent off for the free brochure for entirely the wrong reasons. You had to make your own XXXBunker in those days. Let's hope they all got a good kick out of those detailed diagrams of Astronlon-C and Astralene-C being immersed at high temperatures, then.
Of course, if you wanted to see real far-out game-changing sixties fashions on television, then you couldn't do much better than The Avengers. Once they'd got rid of Ian Hendry and his decidedly side-vent-five-inches-long-deficient mac, that is. Needless to say, TV Times were always more than happy to get a few wardrobe-centric words and photos out of the famously sharp-dressing series regulars, and here are literally just a handful of the dozens upon dozens of features the series inspired. First up, in amongst the standard deluge of weak puns and spurious statistics, Patrick Macnee reveals that in sharp contrast to his never less than dapper small screen persona, he hates ties with a vengance, and it turns out Harry H. Corbett's not dramatically keen on them either. Except if they involve something to do with pie, apparently. Honor Blackman, on the other hand, knows it's better simply to sing the praises of her designers and just generally look insanely hot in their creations without even trying. John Bates, who designed her successor's outfits, clearly wasn't impressed by this feature as he spends his interview pouring scorn on Honor's endless variations on a leather theme and detailing how he tried to counter this with a series of practical yet feminine op-art designs. And, despite talking quite forcefully about how men know nothing about women's fashion and it pays to listen to the suggestions of those who will actually have to wear them, still somehow fails to avoid sounding as, erm, 'sixties' as they come. And finally, as someone who has clearly never watched The Avengers says, Diana Rigg is set not on 'violence and vengeance' but on helping YOU to win a big money prize. Apparently this involves deciding which photo of her in full Emma Peel regalia you like best and... then... a panel of judges decides which of you was the most right? No us neither.
Not to be outdone, Fenella Fielding from ATV's Mrs Quilley's Murder Shoes participates in more or less the exact same competition, only with a decidedly Audrey Hepburn-influenced slant and some trademark 'exquisite, dahling!' commentary. The rules are really still no clearer, mind.
The face of Associated Rediffusion's youth magazine show That's For Me!, Ann'i'e Nightingale - apparently writing about herself in the third person - presents an extra-curricular feature on the return of the beret as a fashion item, with tips on cost-consciously repurposing your old school one by jumping up and down on it and throwing it in flourescent paint. Thankfully you don't have to rank the photos in order of something or other this time, though.
And finally, here's Jon Pertwee with an early example of his, erm, 'debatable' self-aggrandising jet-setting showbiz anecdotes. Now we're not saying that Radio's Man Of A Thousand Voices didn't personally think the silk was 'special', mind. Nor indeed are we denying that it may have been in the same square mile as the word 'Italy' at some point. It's just that the explanation sounds very very like "The Ghosts Of N-Space is number one in the hit parade!". Can Do, incidentally, was a game show that sounds to all intents and purposes exactly the same as You Bet!. Wonder if his anecdote about the lion on the Wall Of Death was put to the test?
Well Playmates, here's Arthur Askey giving you his cheery personal guarantee that you can buy all the latest fashions from your armchair with comfort, credit and confidence. Of course, there's no guarantee of any of the above if you buy my book Well At Least It's Free. It's what all the hip swingers are reading though. And better than a sodding catalogue!