29 May 2008

Fashion crimes

In 1955 an Auckland 17-year-old was in court for obstructing a policeman. He was fined and put on probation for two years. One of the conditions the Magistrate laid down was that the teenager’s probation officer should decide what clothing he was to wear in that period. In his typically sober editorial (one gin every night at 5.00pm in the Wellington railway station bar before catching the unit out to Paekakariki) Listener editor Monte Holcroft thought that, although a clean break with his trouble-making friends and habits was sensible for the youth, “It is unlikely that a change of heart can be arranged by a change of wardrobe.”

Because some teenagers clothed in the garb of “Edwardian dandies and Mississippi gamblers” had appeared in the courts, it did not mean that all of them were dangerous, said Holcroft. The problem was idleness which

“by itself is bad for the young. If it is allied to the strutting habits of the peacock it can lead to provocative behaviour. But provocation is not confined to those who wear eccentric clothes; it was shown by young servicemen who, on a recent weekend, moved into Auckland with some idea of excluding Teddy Boys from the milk bars.”

Corporal Ron Mark rose to the bait so predictably over Hoodie Day that he could be part of the marketing campaign. Mark isn’t old enough to be among the army louts who decided to sort out their peers who happened to be wearing a uniform different to their government-issue outfits. Presumably the magistrate was wearing some kind of kinky wig-and-cape outfit favoured by his tribe. The convicted youth would now be 69: I wonder what he wears down at the Cossie Club?

But what is appropriate when courting the act before m’learned friends? Obviously not the sinister drape jacket and stovepipe trouser ensemble flaunted in a Taranaki courtroom two years later (this Truth item is from 30 April 1957). A suit conservative enough for an undertaker, designer specs and raffish hair-do may not be enough to help an alleged murderer currently in a Dunedin court. But this charming family in Britain could do with a makeover.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Chris. I was but a child in Hawera at the time of this court case but I remember regular run-ins with the local MB cowboys on High Street on Friday nights (the highlight of the week, when shops stayed open until 9pm!). There were a couple of milk bars but the place with the most notoriety was The Black Cat Cafe (which was still there about 5 or 6 years ago).
All pretty harmless really but I do vividly remember one encounter with a MBC, who used pretty exotic language for the time eg when we protested about being bullied, his reply was that 'He didn't give a continental!'.
Another interesting aspect of life in Hawera in the 1950s was that there was a wine bar on High Street. A place of great mystery but I suspect Ronald Hugh M. spent much time there. I also remember the old tattooed Maori ladies, smoking pipes on the steps of the Council building. It also seems like another century!