I was a teenager growing up in London in the 1960s.
At first I was a mod and that was easy.
All about style and design.
Find out what everyone else was doing and do something different.
Something more unusual, more stylish, more creative.
That was why the whole mod thing started at art school.
If you wanted something different you couldn’t just walk into a shop and buy it.
By definition, if you could buy it so could everyone else.
If you wanted something really different you had to make it.
That’s why made-to-measure tailoring was so important for suits.
You could dictate exactly how the suit should be different.
The width of the lapels.
The number of buttons.
The slope of the pockets.
Flaps or slits on the pockets.
Pleats or vents at the back.
The depth of the vents.
The width of the knees and ankles.
Turnups or straight cuff.
Belt loops or buttons for braces.
Zip fly or buttons.
And that was before you even got to the material.
And there weren’t any hair stylists in those days, just barbers.
So if you wanted a different hairstyle you had to cut and style it yourself.
I remember I wanted a pair of glasses like General MacArthur wore.
But you couldn’t buy them anywhere then.
So I bought a pair of square, wire-frame sunglasses.
I took the lenses out, reshaped the frame with pliers, to be exactly what I wanted.
Then I took the frame to the optician and asked him to make me a pair of black prescription lenses to fit.
I was very comfortable, in London, with the art school side of being a mod.
But, when I got to art school in New York, I was much less comfortable with being a hippie.
Suddenly it felt that no one had any style.
They’d let their hair grow long, but it still had a parting just like when it was short.
They all wore bellbottom jeans that dragged on the ground.
They had banal logos on banal T-shirts.
And worst of all, everyone looked like everyone else.
I felt like I’d been sent to an old folks’ home.
And the main part I couldn’t get to grips with was the supposed spontaneity of everything.
To act without thinking.
I tried to do it, but I found I just couldn’t act without thinking.
Acting without thinking was the same as acting without caring.
And that seemed pretty pointless to me.
Certainly it was the reason everyone looked is if they didn’t care.
But not caring wasn’t freedom.
It wasn’t rebellious, or outrageous, or art school at all.
Just people confusing sloppiness and laziness with creativity.
At the time, not being able to stop thinking felt like a handicap to me.
Not being able to be truly spontaneous.
I felt rigid and uncreative.
Until I discovered the Bauhaus.
And true creativity was summarised for me as: Form Follows Function.
Form Follows Function.
Think, then act.