I used to knock about with skinheads, but I looked like a cross between a hippy and a mod. I had flares, I wore the shiniest Doc Martens – I was a combination, a boat full of mariners! If them shoes looked good with that, I’d just wear ’em as they were. I used to sell Wrangler jeans down the market. I’d get a faded pair of jeans for about ten bob out of me wages, I could buy a Sabre jumper off here for about a pound. I could do a day’s work and come out looking smart, lovely, without going into a shop. But I probably got the bestest pick of anything that was going to be in the shops. I might walk out with a sample jumper that nobody else in the world had got.
Do you know where the changing rooms used to be, round by the toilets? The traders would say, “Pay for ’em and try ’em on in the toilets duck! Then if they don’t fit, you can bring them back and we’ll give you the money back.” But I couldn’t help saying, “You might as well just try ’em on here.” I used to love giving ’em a size smaller – they’d burst out laughing trying to squeeze into them. Don’t forget, men’s jeans fitted different to ladies’ jeans. The waistband on men’s jeans was always bigger than ladies’ ones – you had to go on the hip size. Wrangler did ladies’ jeans, but they didn’t fit and they used thinner weight denim.
Clothing was expensive compared to wages in those days – I used to make up school jumpers for kids and sell them down the market. I also made hats – one day, when it was raining I even sold the hat off my own head!
All the clothes was chucked on a pile and you used to go through ’em. Often you’d grab one end and, “Ooh, I like that!” and somebody else would be grabbing the other end. Sometimes, you picked something up and said, “This is nice Mum, in’t it?” and she used to say, “’Ere, let me have a look,” and then she’d hold it up against the back of me to see if it’d fit. It was embarrassing if your schoolmates walked by. They’d go, “ner-ner-ner,” ’cause they was second hand clothes.
People would donate to charity shops. Some of the charity shops had a relationship with market traders, and would sell any of the good stuff on to them. The market traders would have it cleaned, and then pack it in polythene like you would a normal garment. The average person, looking at a rail of garments nicely done up in cellophane and labelled would think they were new. The only way you could tell was if you looked at a rail and there was only one of each garment, whereas if it were standard stuff, you’d reckon there would be several the same, maybe a rail full.