Eighties London.... What does your mind conjure up when I utter those words?
Live Aid at Wembley? WHAM! and those infamous 'Choose Life' T Shirts? Maybe Blue BMX bikes with Yellow 'Mag' wheels, or your Dad dropping you off at school is his Ford Cortina Ghia?
In recent times the 80's decade has been romanticized greatly, compilation CDs, replica clothing fashions and throwback style retro music hits have all contributed in a selective 'best of' manner that leaves behind the true demeanour of the era. But if you delve below this popularist facade you will discover highly influential defining movements, culture and people that are not so widely spoken about today. And a new book by one such individual casts fascinating light on a significant 'happening' of the time.
The Author is Mr Barrie Sharpe. A born and raised London lad, Sharpe or 'Sharpeye' as he was nicknamed by his friends, has a knack for gathering snippets from differing styles and formulating them into something that becomes razor sharp in an ever evolving deadly cool manner.
Shape was the man behind the Duffer of St George designer clothing brand, and alongside this creation of London's coolest street style, ran one of the hottest club nights in 80's London, the infamous 'Cat in the Hat', and regularly DJ'ed at the Wag Club to huge acclaim.
The 'Rare Groove' movement as it was branded (70's funky music in the main) was created by Sharpe and friends at London's coolest night spots, and the clothes sold at the Duffer store were all part of a fusion of music and style that became a defining trend for so many designers and artists.
Barrie Sharpe the boy had spent his younger days in an out of care. His mother had difficult mental health issues and Sharpe suffered terribly at the evil hands of his fellow home kids, who would beat and abuse him and his friends. He witnessed his mothers harsh treatments for her psychological condition first hand, therapies that would leave her unable to remember who he was, sometimes for as long as 2 weeks.
Meanwhile his father and Grandfather set about running the 'Family business', and reading between the lines were very busy controlling some of London's darker enterprises.
The product of all this is a man who doesn't look back or blame, but does have an invincible determination to strive forward and blaze his own unique path allowing nothing to hold him back.
The creation of the Duffer brand was a haphazard series of occurrences that were bound together by an ability to encapsulate a moment in time. Sharpe and compatriots had their finger on the pulse of cool, and the club nights reinforced that, where Sharpe would be the showpiece of the event with his incredible dancing that left many a mouth agog in stunned amazement.
If you were London cool you were hanging out with Sharpe and his crowd, and celebrities were soon paying a handsome sum to have him DJ their private parties.
By now Duffer's street style cool was spreading like wildfire, and devotees desperate for the latest fashions would queue for hours to get their hands on the freshest offerings. Duffer (a brand started by scouring the charity shops of London for vintage classics) was now importing the latest styles from the States, whilst beginning to design and create its own range of high end men's clothing.
The club nights popularity rose, Sharpe wore the clothes and was the coolest guy in the room, Duffer sold the clothes... it was a music and style fusion, and a ride skyward that culminated in Sharpe and friends breaking into the music industry with a new sound. This was the birth of Acid Jazz, a seismic boom in the music World.
Sharpe and Girlfriend Diana Brown has their own top 40 hit 'Masterplan', and from the wider movement bands such as 'The Brand New Heavies' (16 UK top 40 hits) The Pasadenas (8 UK top 40 hits) and The Young Disciples all had success.
The influence of Duffer, Rare Groove and the combination of the two forged together then enacted out Sharpe was a moment in London's history that should not be underestimated.
Rap artists began to put the old Funk licks into their tracks because Sharpe Et. al had given the music a platform to shine, and if you ever wandered around town in a 'Schott' Puffa Jacket please bear in mind it was Duffer that first brought them onto the UK shelves.
The 80's might be most remembered today for the bright Neon headlines and popularist stereotypes that a new generation has been fed, however it's worth remembering there were other vitally important cultural movements going on at the time, and more due respect should be given to the role men like Barrie Sharpe and his compatriots played in shaping the clothes we wear and the music we enjoy today in modern mainstream culture.
You can contact Barrie Sharpe directly about his historic influence on London culture, and his upcoming book that recounts his life by emailing him at: firstname.lastname@example.org