Friday, 6 October 2017

The Spirit of the Age, Funky Chic, and The Street Fighters - illustrated by Tom Wolfe (1976)

Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine

Some really great illustrations and observations on style by Tom Wolfe from Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine, published in 1976. Although they weren't created specifically for this title, because I believe that most of them originally accompanied previous magazine articles which he had written for Esquire, New York Magazine, New West Magazine, Harper's, Rolling Stone, and The Critic, between 1967 and 1976. 

The Spirit of the Age, Funky Chic, and The Street Fighters      

The conventional wisdom is that fashion is some sort of storefront that one chooses, honestly or deceptively, to place between the outside world and his ''real self'.'' But there is a counter notion: namely, that every person's ''real self'', his psyche, his soul, is largely the product of fashion and other outside influences on his status. Such has been the suggestion of the stray figure here and there; the German sociologist Rene Konig, for example, or the Spanish biologist Jose M. R. Delgado. This is not a notion that is likely to get a very charitable reception just now, among scholars or readers generally - (Tom Wolfe).

           Mother was wrong (apparently).                     

The Pimpmobile Pyramid-heel Platform Soul Prince Albert Got-to-get-over look of Dixwell Avenue. All the young aces and dudes are out there lollygagging around the front of the Monterey Club, wearing their two-tone patent Pyramids with the five-inch heels that swell out at the bottom to match the Pierre Chareau Art Deco plaid bell-bottom baggies they have on with the three-inch-deep elephant cuffs tapering upward toward the ''spray-can fit'' in the seat, as it is known, and the peg-top waistband with self-covered buttons and the beagle-collar pattern-on-pattern Walt Frazier shirt, all of it surmounted by the midi-length leather piece with the welted waist seam and the Prince Albert pockets and the black Pimpmobile hat with the four-inch turn-down brim and the six-inch pop-up crown with the golden-chain hatband...and all of them, every ace, every dude, out there just getting over in the baddest possible way, come to play and dressed to that somehow the sons of the slums have become the Brummels and Gentlemen of Leisure, the true fashion plates of the 1970s, and the sons of Eli dress like the working class of 1934...


In the grand salon (at the Arethusa/Club dell’Aretusa) only the waiters wear white shirts and black ties. The clientele sit there roaring and gurgling and flashing fireproof grins in a rout of leather jerkins, Hindu tunics, buckskin shirts, deerslayer boots, dueling shirts, bandannas knotted at the Adam's apple, love beads dangling to the belly, turtlenecks reaching up to meet the muttonchops at midjowl, Indian blouses worn thin and raggy to reveal jutting nipples and crimson aureolae underneath...The place looks like some grand luxe dining room on the Mediterranean unaccountably overrun by mob-scene scruffs from out of Northwest Passage, The Informer, Gunga Din, and Bitter Rice. What I was gazing upon was in fact the full fashion splendor of London's jeunesse doree, which by 1969, of course, included everyone under the age of sixty-seven with a taste for the high life.

Funky Chic came skipping and screaming into the United States the following year in the form of such marvellous figures as The Debutante in Blue Jeans (1970). She was to found on the fashion pages of every city of any size country. There she is in the photograph...wearing her blue jeans and her blue work shirt, open to the sternum, with her long pre-Raphaelite hair parted on the top of the skull, uncoiffed but recently washed and blown dry with a Continental pro-style dryer (the word-of-mouth that year said the Continental gave her more ''body'').

Funky Chic - Butterfly T-shirts and continental baggies with elephant bell cuffs.

Lexington Avenue and 62nd Street.

  The lost coed Cunégonde

  The Street Fighters

All images scanned by Sweet Jane from Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine by Tom Wolfe, originally published by Ferrar, Strauss & Giroux in November 1976, (but this particular edition was published by Bantam Books in October of 1977). All illustrations by Tom Wolfe, all accompanying excerpts © Tom Wolfe. Further information on Rene Konig, author of The restless image : A sociology of fashion. Discover more about Cunégonde, from Voltaire's Candide, ou l'Optimisme. The Monterey Club 265–267 Dixwell Avenue here, and you can watch Unsung Heroes: The Music of Jazz in New Haven which includes further details about the club here. The 1970s trend for platform shoes. Tom Wolfe's Style Advice. Angus McGill’s double-page feature in the Evening Standard asked - Are You One of the Beautiful People? Simple test: Can you get in to the Dell’Aretusa?.  An example of the correct answer to that question, in the form of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, with George and Pattie Harrison, amongst others, photographed here, being 'Beautiful People' at Club dell’Aretusa 107 Kings Rd to celebrate the launch of Apple Tailoring in 1968And finally, some street fighting sounds.


  1. Can you tell us anymore about "street fighting" skinhead ? I'm assuming it's source was English and would guess the flares were a flourish of the artists pen ? Love to know where and with what article was this first published ?

    1. I've been searching for the original article Kosmo, no luck yet,'s used in the final chapter of the book to accompany various tales of arguments and fights on the streets of New York...but doesn't give any precise details on which magazine published it first, but i'll scan the pages and email them to you later.


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