London

John Samson

Seventeen

You can watch excerpts from all three films by the late John Samson on view here on YouTube—Tattoo, 1975, Dressing for Pleasure, 1977, and Arrows, 1979—and see for yourself how spectacularly dreary Britain was in the 1970s. Samson made these documentary-style films around the time Dick Hebdige was researching his seminal Subculture: The Meaning of Style (1979), and you understand why both observers found these thriving subcultural scenes—gangs, fetishists, punks, teddy boys—so worthy of attention. The rest of this bunch of islanders, poorly dressed and eager to vote Margaret Thatcher into office in 1979, would never have guessed that their gray country would swing again in the 1990s. They’re not swinging here: It’s all bad food, dismal local pubs, and judgmental Tories making life difficult for the delightful protagonists of Tattoo and Dressing for Pleasure. These include the rubber-clad

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