Icons / October 2017

Paul Weller: The Changingman

Politically-charged, socially-conscious singer-songwriter Paul Weller may have spent much of his distinguished career espousing far-left views. But the man’s style and sound have always been oh-so-right.

Paul Weller in his Style Council years, wearing a white suit in London, 1985. (Photo by Clare Muller/Redferns).

Emerging during Britain’s fierce late-1970s recession, Paul Weller’s first band, The Jam, was also his most fist-in-the-air militant. “What chance have you got against a tie and crest?” Weller wailed on The Jam’s ‘Eton Rifles’, a protest song railing against Britain’s boarding-school-educated establishment running roughshod over the proletariat. On the band’s first UK chart number one, ‘Going Underground’, he sang of Britain’s ruling Conservative party, “As their lies wash you down and their promises rust / we’ll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns.” With ‘Just Who Is The 5 O’clock Hero?’, lamenting the English everyman’s “constant struggle just to exist,” Weller took aim at the spoilt, out-of-touch Royal Family: “My hard-earned dough goes in bills and the larder / And that Prince Philip tells us we’ve gotta work harder?”

During the late-’70s / early-’80s era when he led The Jam, a time that saw “governments threaten you with recession then threaten you with war / how the other side wants to take away all the things you ain’t go no more” (per ‘Trans-Global Express’), one thing that could not be taken from Weller was his impeccable sense of style. Though riding the crest of the new wave movement, The Jam’s razor-sharp sartorial approach updated the mod look of the ’60s for a new generation, and jump started the mod revival. Skinny-fit suits and ultra-slim ties, desert boots, Fred Perry polos and Ben Sherman button-downs, Harrington jackets and fuzzy haircuts copied from The Small Faces and The Who. These guys may have been calling to bring down patriarchal oppressors, but they were sure as hell gonna look like ‘the man’ while doing so.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.