Exploring Menswear: Chapter 4 – East End Flaneur


Rooted in a flamboyant urban camouflage, the East End Flaneur is a media-savvy neo-bohemian.

The Flaneur (Charles Baudelaire, and later Walter Benjamin): an urban voyeur, an individual who lived life on, and inspired by, the streets.

Fashion and dress is closely linked to environment, a particular location as a source of creative inspiration. The “East End” part comes from the location: London’s industrial district in the east where young designers, stylists, publishers, artists, musicians and DJs found the place as an environment where they could escape the pervasive and homogeneous culture of mid-1980s England.

“The East End was a blank, definitively urban wasteland on which they could build an alternative and insistently non-conformist culture” (Cicolini 2005, 66) East End dandyism manifests itself in numerous ways:

• Quasi-military iconography of a functional ostentation

• Revival of vintage branded goods and bohemian lifestyles

• An aesthetic stemming from the extravagant sartorial style of rock outsiders

Luca Cazal guitarist for The Cazals

Each of these are influenced by their context in an intense and passionate engagement with the realism of urban life – “a potent cocktail of back street tailors, glass fronted city banks, dive bars, flower markets and the area’s darker history of violent confrontation, gangsters, gambling, boxing and the seductive pleasures of the music hall and prostitution.”

One branch of this style 1990s-2000s was rooted in a flamboyant urban camouflage in reaction to a growing national ‘terror’ psychology perpetuated in the media/government. Using military tested fabrics and styling, blade and slash cutting, and camouflage prints, turning the tools of the establishment against themselves.

(Maharishi, Vexed Generation, Griffin and 6876 produced “supermodern clothing…designed to respond to the physical and psychological demands of transitional spaces such as roads, railways, airports and the street”)

Johnny Vercoutre proprietor for Time for Tea

“We conform to nothing, we rebel, we offer something alternative, something personal. I would call that dandy.” The East End Flaneur is the ultimate expression of the music, fashion and art trinity that characterises London street style today. It is this focus on originality and personal identity that forms the sole link between these supermodernists and another feature of the East End Flaneur, which tallies more closely with the eccentric, 1960s rock surrealism.

“… a breeding ground of bohemianism… the East End’s high-speed, DIY, hit-and-run art-making… was seen as a miniaturised version of punk rock’s cultural revolution: an overturning of the old established order by young, fast, sharp and shocking artists.”

Bohemianism: the collapse of art into life

Alistair Mackinven guitarist with The Country Teasers & Cunst


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