TOPMAN MAGAZINE: Seen and not Heard – music photographers share their favourite shots

upqUuU1dD4iZQ5QupvEhoXfTyWOhu-qBmrxzVYYiqycThe sight of music is as powerful the sound. A shot of Salford Lad’s Club, from The Smiths’ album, The Queen is Dead, will no doubt fill you with as much teenage nostalgia as hearing Morrissey’s melancholy warbling would, and you only have to witness tourists blocking up the zebra crossing on London’s Abbey Road every day to be reminded how much an album cover can be etched onto our collective consciousness. When a great music photographer captures their subject, they freeze in time the silent energy and spirit that a musician exudes, both in the heady exuberance of a live performance, and in tellingly intimate moments off stage. Here, some of the world’s greatest music photographers, including Laura Levine, who’s responsible for preserving the music of Downtown New York on film, and Peter Beste, who famously opened a window into the shadowy world of Norwegian black metal, share their favourite moments from their own extensive archives.


Turkish, Brooklyn based photographer, Ebru Yildiz has shot pictures for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, NME, Pitchfork and many more of your favourite music mags. She was selected as one of the 50 greatest music photographer’s right now by Complex magaxine in 2012.

APlaceToBuryStrangers_EbruYildizPhoto: A Place to Be Strange, Coral Room, New York 2004.

‘This photo was taken i using one of my favourite films, Fuji Neopan 1600. Neither the venue nor the film still exist. Even the person in the photo is no longer in the band, but this photo will always have an incredibly special place in my heart because it’s of those photos that helped me figure out exactly what I’m looking for when I’m shooting live shows. It’s a defining moment that helped me find my own style.


Mallory is a photographer passionate about exploring the relationship between visual arts and music. She is currently studying Photography and Imaging at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her photos have been featured in publications such as Complex, Rookie, and DEVISE.

Mallory Corr demarcoPHOTO Mac DeMarco at Klub, Czech Republic, May 2013

‘Although Mac and I are both based in New York,  our paths crossed in this college dorm basement/club in a residential district of Prague. The image illustrates everything I love about his persona: dynamic live performances, a cult following, and a lot of cigarette smoke’.


Manchester based Shirlaine Forrest has for the last nineteen years been shooting artists including Paul Weller, Jesca Hoop, Morrissey, and Kasabian. Her work has appeared in NME, New York Times, Vogue and more.

Shirlaine Forrest Haim 13PHOTO: Este Haim, Glastonbury, 2014

‘I don’t have a favourite image of my own, as I shoot so much it changes regularly. I do love shooting Este though, she rocks a bass face! I think that once a photo is published and the audience puts their own interpretation on it, the image is theirs to enjoy or dismiss, it’s no longer solely down to the photographer to cast an opinion, something I love about photography!’


Laura Levine was the Chief Photographer and Photo Editor of the seminal underground music paper, New York Rocker, in the early 80’s.  Her iconic music portraits of Bjork, R.E.M., the Clash, the Ramones, the Beastie Boys, Iggy Pop, Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, Madonna, have appeared in countless magazines, album covers, books. She is best known for her documentation of the music scenes of downtown New York, as well as London, and Los Angeles in the 1980’s and work has been exhibited at MoMA, The Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery and the Steven Kasher Gallery in Chelsea.

Tina Weymouth & Grandmaster Flash NYC 1981 © Laura LevinePHOTO: Tina Weymouth and Grandmaster Flash, NYC, 1981

“I took this photo of Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club) and Grandmaster Flash for the cover of the New York Rocker in 1981. It was the beginning of a new movement in music:  the cross-pollination of the uptown and downtown music scenes, hip-hop and post-punk, black and white. The session was a joy — Tina and Flash had never met before, and got along wonderfully. I took them to a playground on the Lower East Side just a few blocks from my apartment, where I knew there was a great graffiti’ed handball court wall painted by Lee Quinones. They played, they danced, and they had a great time, as did I. After the session they each ended up using each other’s music in their own releases. Boom boxes were the prop de rigeur back then.”


Based in the North East of England, Ian West has photographed and produced music videos for artists including The Futureheads, Badly Drawn Boy and Hyde & Beast. His work has appeared in countless major music magazines including Uncut, Mojo, NME, Rolling Stone and Rock Sound, as well as The Guardian and The Sunday Times.

futureheads_ianwestPHOTO: Promo shot for The Futureheads’ album, Rant, 2012

“Being asked to pick just one shot has been so difficult, but I just love everything about this image from a shoot to promote The Futureheads fifth album ‘Rant’. It seems to encompass where the band were at that time, the style of the record they were making and what you could expect from their live show all in one frame. The setting and the lighting work beautifully, they let me put my style into it and it all works so well together, just a really great promo shot”


New Mexico and New York based documentary photographer Peter Beste has intimately captured numerous musical undergrounds including the London Grime scene, Houston’s rappers, and the mysterious black metallers of Norway. His exploration of the latter was transformed into Vice’s popular book and documentary film, True Norwegian Black Metal.

13_gaahlcabinIMAGE TWO – Gaahl, Western Norway, 2007

‘I spent a week living in Gaahl’s (infamous vocalist for Godseed and formerly Gorgoroth) remote cabin near the western fjords of Norway where his family has lived for generations and the town still bears their namesake. This photo was taken after a brutal two hour mountain hike to a tiny cabin built by his grandparents’.

NEVER UNDERDRESSED: Greta Gerwig says it’s OK to give up

s4g_JyGiOEM5CeQRp7Bv6POdoBV_6bksZK9P591mZTYTo a certain kind of girl – the type who shops at A.P.C, wonders whether Girls is a reality show, and wouldn’t eat a cupcake if she was starving – Greta Gerwig is queen.

Having become an indie-film darling with, amongst other things, a lead role in Whit Stillman’s cult hitDamsels in Distress last year, and writing, directing, and starring credits on the most depressingly accurate break-up film ever, Nights and Weekends, as well as popping up on the red carpet at top fashion events wearing the likes of Saint Laurent and Band of Outsiders, you want to pick her brains as much as raid her wardrobe.

With her mixture of genuine intellect, humour and enviable style, she’s the perfect foil to the faux-cute ‘kooky’ actresses that Hollywood usually tries pass off as indie and alternative – the thinking girls’ Zooey Deschanel, if you will.

With her latest film, Frances Ha, co-written with partner Noah Baumbach, and in which she plays the eponymous starring role, Gerwig gives us even more reason to ink her onto our fantasy BFF lists. This artfully shot coming-of-age tale will no doubt ring true to anybody who has ever felt lost or unsure as they are catapulted through their tumultuous twenties, and a viewing can teach you a lot about the trickily evolving friendships you blindly navigate along the way.

Ahead of the film’s long-awaited UK release this week, we spoke to Greta Gerwig about how Frances came to be, the most valuable lessons your twenties can teach you and what she’s obsessed with right now.

How much does Frances Ha mirror your own experience?
Noah and I put pieces of ourselves and our experience into the script, but it’s really a totally fictional creation, the autobiographical elements just get folded into the movie. It’s like, when you make a cake, you’ll use eggs, but I can’t show you where the eggs are when it’s done. It feels like you use stuff from your life, but then it gets disguised or changed in significant ways and then the story just lives in its own world.

Then the actual acting is a whole other process. You’re costuming this woman, and you’re deciding how she walks and who she is. I felt like I found Frances in a kind of big comedic, physical performance, almost in the tradition of a silent film actor and I was thinking about performances by Buster Keaton and Peter Sellers who are kind of like these alter-ego comedians. It felt like she was larger than life. I’m really not that clumsy – I don’t fall that much! So while there’s certainly a lot of me in the character of Frances, it’s outside of myself too.

In what ways does your physical performance of Frances reveal her character?
She’s running full speed emotionally and literally, and you fall harder when you’re running full speed. She’s supremely confident, even in her wrongness, like she’s running towards totally the wrong thing, but she’s doing it as fast as she possibly can and I think there’s sincerity and purity of intention in that. But eventually you have to take a breath and assess, where are you going?


How did you and Noah write together – did you collaborate from the start or piece together your individual work?
We wrote separately, but we kind of developed ideas together. The film really grew out of this list of ideas that I sent him, and that acted like a springboard that his ideas were added to. They weren’t plot ideas as much as they were little moments or little exchanges of dialogue, and some of them are actually in the film and some of them aren’t. The scene where Frances is deciding whether or not you pay an ATM fee was on the original list so Noah was like, let’s write the scene around that. We thought aboout what surrounds that moment, so I wrote the dinner scene, and then Noah wrote in Frances falling, which led the scene to her date’s apartment, so, you each write something and it fits together later

To what extent do New York and Paris, where Frances Ha is set, become characters in the film?
I think New York is the main lover in the film. Sorry, that sounds incredibly douchey! But I think that when Frances struggles with her ambition to be a dancer, and to live with Sophie in a house, she feels like New York is rejecting her in the same way that everything else is rejecting her. Paris is the lovelorn trip – it’s this emotional reaction to finding out Sophie is moving on. It’s like she’s saying to New York, ‘why can’t you love me back the way I love you? I’m just going to drag my heart to Paris’.

What do you think the film can teach us about changing friendships?
I think there was a feeling that with friendship and career ambitions that it can be just as triumphant to give something up if it’s not going to happen. It can take so much courage to give up your fantasy of what you expected something to be in order to embrace what is actually in front of you, and that you’re able to do. There are so many films that are like, ‘never give up the dream!’ that I felt like there needed to be a counter-balance to that, to say that it’s OK to give up. There’s a tremendous amount of dignity in accepting things on their realistic terms.

How did you use humour in the film?
Her roommate Benji’s nickname for Frances, ‘the undateable’, was sort of playing with this idea that when she starts saying it about herself, it’s like it’s this badge of honour. She’s saying she’s not going to conform to conventions, and won’t be put in this box of marriage, because who could possibly deal with all of that craziness?

What’s the best thing you can do in your twenties?
The best thing is to not think that your twenties is the end. I’m 29, and a lot of my are friends are feeling like it’s too late to be changing paths, that the moment’s already happened. But the thing is, it’s not too late – you can totally change what you’re doing. If you take all of that energy from worrying about it and just put it into what you want to do then you can change things. Like Julia Child she didn’t start cooking until she was forties. You should also not waste any time being envious of anyone else, because everyone’s on their own path.

What are you obsessed with at the moment?
Kendrick Lemar. He’s amazing. I like that he’s honest and weird, and crazy and smart, I love him.

I also really love Sarah Polley’s new movie, Stories We Tell, I’m obsessed with her. She’s a lady director who’s like, the real deal. She writes and directs movies that really go for it, like go for a big cinematic feeling, and I find that totally thrilling. I feel that way also about the Kathryn Bigelows of the world, but I feel like Sarah Polley is more like a peer in a way. I mean, she’s a little older but like me, but doing amazing things, and that’s so inspiring for me.

NEVER UNDERDRESSED: Should you be carrying crystals with you?

F2p-xioo24EhVd_4tQoHbc_oOAYAkZXAQBXl4Fbynn4The fashion world has always been one for a fanciful dalliance, so it comes with little surprise to discover that crystals are now as prevalent as coconut water backstage at the shows. Long-time crystal lover Victoria Beckham recently told an audience of students at La Salle College in Singapore, ‘if I told you my backstage rituals, and was honest, you would think I was a little weird’, and professes to keep crystals about her person, and placed around her studio at all times. ‘I carry my crystals with me which some people might think is odd, but it works for us’.

Katy Perry too shared her love for mystical stones with Cosmopolitan, claiming that her constantly coupled relationship status is down to the fact that ‘I carry a lot of rose quartz, which attracts the male. Maybe I need to calm it down with the amethyst’.

But like Kabbala bands and novelty veganism, are crystals the reserve of celebrity spiritual tourism (let’s not even bring stone-fiddlers Spencer Pratt and Robin Thicke into this), or are they something we should all be embracing? The glimmer of quartz on the odd desk around the NEVER UNDERDRESSED office suggests the latter. Beauty writer Viola Levy, whose computer is flanked by chunks of negative energy-deflecting black tourmaline, stress-reducing amonozite and energising Iron Pyrite, says, ‘I definitely feel calmer having crystals by my desk and by my bed at home’. Personally, I’m with her. The piece of amethyst quartz by my own keyboard, known for its calming properties has zenned me through many-a stressful gif search. ‘It may just be a placebo effect’, Viola admits, ‘but if it works, it works’.

Over at British fashion powerhouse Marks and Spencer, a little bit of crystal magic is also at work. Menswear editor William Oliver told us, ‘I find the age and the mechanics of the creation of crystals really amazing, anything that is that old and naturally beautiful makes me think there has to be attached spiritual properties’. He continues, ‘just having them around makes me feel better, something calm in the middle of quite a hectic city lifestyle. They’re quite a beautiful object, and being around beautiful things – art, clothes, people or crystals – definitely does you some good’.

Beauty is guaranteed to catch the magpie eye of us fashion types, such is the nature of the profession. But why are crystals unique in their allure, and can sceptics be persuaded to do anything other than scoff at them? According to Sheila Young, crystal expert and reader at Psychic Sisters in Selfridges, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in their powerful properties or not.

‘All crystals have energy forces,’ she says ‘so whether you see them as a placebo or something that genuinely works, they will do their thing anyway’.

She verifies this theory with an account of a stroppy teenager, who she saw tamed when asked to sort stones as her mother shopped at Psychic Sisters. ‘Unwittingly her energy was mixed up with that of the crystals and she was calmed down’, Sheila says. ‘It’s the same as when Negative Nora stomps into the office and offloads her negativity onto you; You feel awful and she feels great again because basically, she’s put all her shit in your energy field’. Believer or otherwise, we can all no doubt identify with that.


According to experts, the power of crystals, as opposed to a favourite postcard or sentimental talisman, for keeping your desk free of everyday beef, is their crystalline structure’s ability to absorb and amplify energy. ‘They’re kind of like transmitters’, explains esteemed astrologer and New Age thinker, Shelley Von Strunckel, who since retiring as a fashion stylist and buyer many years ago, has been writing on mystical matters for publications including Vogue and The Sunday Times, providing a voice for these often misunderstood topics.

She’s careful to point out though, that feeling the benefits of crystals is not as simple as ordering some quartz and hoping for the best. Without being correctly energised, ‘crystals are passive, so on their own, they’re just a bunch of rocks’. According to Von Strunckel, the best way to understand a crystal’s energy is to think of it like a computer chip. ‘Computer memory is made of silicon chips, which is a variety of crystal, and when you apply energy to it, in this case electricity, it remembers something’.

‘Like a computer, whatever you programme you put into it is what you’re going to get back from it,’ she continues, ‘whatever you put into a crystal will be mirrored back’.

Simply acquiring a crystal is not enough then. ‘That’s like buying a diet book and then eating whatever the hell you want, you have to make it good for you’, she laughs. But how does one fill a crystal with the power to quell your rage when someone steps on your foot in a tube carriage or you discover your local coffee place is still not doing almond milk? ‘People always ask me who can energise their crystals’ Von Strunckel tells us, ‘and I say, “you can baby, you’ve got the power!”’.

She explains that if you’re given a crystal ‘you don’t know where that crystal’s been hanging out’, so it’s important to cleanse it by placing it in sunlight or running water, ideally, she suggests, ‘a running stream if you’re near one’. Then, she says, it’s as simple as ‘holding it to your heart and focussing your positive thoughts’. An increased understanding of mindfulness and the act of ordering one’s thoughts would indicate that this meditative process is beneficial whether you believe the crystal absorbs your energy or not – the focus will no doubt prove calming regardless. ‘Call it what you will – energy, vibes or whatever’, Sheila Young says. ‘people notice it, spiritual and ordinary people’.


Von Strunckel also agrees that a positively energised crystal is a wonderful gift for a friend, and was given many of hers by the late Kazuko Oshima, who she describes as ‘Miss Designer Crystal’. As well as being stocked in Collette in Paris, she had a case in Barney’s, and ‘every woman in New York knew her’, Von Strunckel proudly explains. ‘She was very generous with her designs and would go around all of the magazines at Conde Nast giving crystals to the editors’, she says. ‘She gave one to an editor who’s been trying to get pregnant, and three months later, she was’. She continues, ‘people tend to think of crystals as new age hippy stuff, but she was so fashion’.

For the more practically minded, or those who work in the conservative kind of office where crystals might not be a commonplace desk accoutrement, Aveda’s new Dual Exfoliation Facialoffers the chance to dip a toe in the crystal waters, as it were. The treatment uses Tourmaline, which Aveda therapist Georgia explains is ‘exceptionally effective at healing and protecting the skin, since the absorption of nutrients into the skin is increased and optimised’ before administering the most blissfully calm facial I’ve ever had. As well as using a ground form of the stone to exfoliate skin, a whole stone is used to massage in the tourmaline charged radiance masque, and it’s undeniable that following the treatment, skin feels plump, smooth and uplifted and looks fabulously glowing.

In the wise words of Fox Mulder, ‘I want to believe’, but do you? Von Strunckel suggest that crystals could have found greater appeal as we learn to ‘step away from stuff for stuff’s sake and look for something different that has a story to it – live a more conscious life’. She continues, ‘The interest in crystals is that they’re not just stuff. They have a capacity to hold energy so a value beyond their existence as an object’.

You needn’t start wearing batik harem pants and adopt a spiritual name to get a step closer to enlightenment then. Just mix some focus, a natural gem and a dash of suspended disbelief into your everyday life, and you may just find yourself radiating a little more positivity and calm. Hey, if it works for VB…


NEVER UNDERDRESSED: Why do we love 90s film fashion? Summercamp’s Elizabeth Sankey talks style nostalgia


What’s your favourite teen movie? Everyone has one, whether Carrie recalls your senior school days, Heathers informed your sixteen-year-old outfit decisions or you spent your half-term leisure time attempting to emulate the girls in The Craft with a game of ‘Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board’.  Call it the eternally adolescent Generation X’s creative powers coming to fruition, or the fact that the genre had simply had time to develop into its own as the twentieth century came to a close, but there’s little doubt that the 90s, and the decade’s overlap into the indecisive first few years of the 2000s, are the golden age of the teen movie, an idea celebrated in a new documentary by Charlie Lyne, Beyond Clueless. The Kickstarter funded film, which debuts at this year’s South by South West festival, is narrated by teen-queen Fairuza Balk, she of The Craft and Almost Famousnotoriety, and is soundtracked by indie-pop dreamers Summer Camp, a band so enamoured by this cinematic canon that they named a song on their first album after My So Called Life anti-hero Brian Krakow, touts itself as ‘a dizzying journey into the mind, body and soul of the teen movie, as seen through the eyes of over 200 coming-of-age classics’.

‘I think that coming-of-age period of time is appealing because it’s so dramatic but at the same time, so meaningless and so safe’, Summer Camp’s Elizabeth Sankey, who describes the subject as ‘very close to [the band’s] heart’, told us over coffee in the type of bohemian hangout in which we’ve seen many friendships decoded and broken hearts nurtured, to an REM soundtrack, on screen. ‘It’s this wonderful kind of escapism with themes that are repeated constantly. Every generation comes to it thinking that it’s all theirs, without realising that they’re repeating patterns that have gone before’.

Clueless is the great one of that time’, Sankey says, ‘and Drive Me Crazy with Melissa Joan Hart’, a film which has Britney Spears’ song of the same name leading the soundtrack as a cherry on a 90s-nut’s cake. ‘Jennifer Love Hewitt in Can’t Hardly Wait does that thing of being really cool, but really relaxed’, she continues, ‘and I love all the Scream films’.

More so than the 70s and 80s, which feature notable teen-film gems including Grease, Fame andThe Breakfast Club, the 90s throws up more of the genre’s stone cold classic, in particular the much-aforementioned Clueless, as well as The Craft, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, American Pie, Cruel Intentions, Go, She’s All That and 10 Things I Hate About You, not to mention TV favourites such as Clarissa Explains it All, Dawson’s Creek and Party of Five. ‘So much of it is the attitude of that time – everyone just seemed so nonchalant and sure of themselves’, Sankey offers of as explanation of the era’s appeal. ‘There are a lot of very strong females in these films too. Seeing a girl shave her head like Robin Tunney’s character in Empire Records, was like whoa! That’s exciting!’. Considering it in retrospect, she laughs, ‘it’s also lame – she was just a girl working in a record shop so things can’t have been that bad’.

The fashion seen in these films is particularly prevalent right now too. Band of the moment, Haim, with their Alanis Morissette hair worn with washed floral dresses and oversized biker jackets reminiscent of the wardrobe in the Winona Ryder classic, Reality Bites, look like they’ve been lifted out of the cinema sometime between 1993 and 1996, and pop star Iggy Azalea, she of the Christina Aguilera circa 1998 look, recently released a video for her song, Fancy, where she re-enacts some of your favourite scenes seen at Bronson Alcott High. On the catwalk, London label Antipodium cited Alicia Silverstone’s infamous valley girl as a direct influence for its spring 2014 collection, a theme that seemed to continue in Miu Miu’s candy-crush teen dream offering for autumn 2014. Sankey too, when we meet her, wears trainers, high-waisted, tapered trousers, a textured cream bomber jacket and a baby pink mini-rucksack – just a tip of the iceberg of the 90s film inspired wardrobe she shares on her popular fashion blog, ‘I remember a few years ago finding things and being like “god, that’s so like something [Clueless’] Cher would wear” and nearly buying it, but thinking, noooo, I can’t’, she laughs. ‘But now it’s such a huge thing’.

Sankey continues, ‘what I love about teenage films is that they create this kind of aspirational teendom’. She’s right – anyone who didn’t long to drink punch from red cups at wild parties that like, the whole school crashed, instead of squashing into your friend’s bedroom to watch said scenes play out on their portable TV-Video Combi is probably lying. ‘A film like Clueless is interesting because nobody was actually really dressing like that in the 90s’. She says, ‘I talk to my friends in fashion and they’ll say, there were some plaid skirts and knee-socks but also everyone was really grungey or there was actually a lot of very simple clothing and work wear’. Instead, the prevalence of some trends that we’re seeing come back around are ‘the look of the films rather than what people were actually looking like’. Think about it – when was the last time you actually saw someone wearing ski-pants and a shell-suit jacket? 1992?

Of course, with the internet offering such a bountiful source of reference, not just giving you access to all the scenes from every film from the era, but also showing you how and where you can re-create the looks from them, it’s no surprise that replicating the trends that are etched on our psyches is such a huge trend in itself. ‘It’s so easy now – you can compile these lookbooks and once you have an outfit, you can just google “short floral dress” or something and it’s right there to buy’, Sankey says. This means that unlike previous generations, who’ve always tapped the past for inspiration, girls now are walking around in exact replicas of what their idols from 20 years ago were wearing. ‘Ten years ago I feel like vintage was a lot vaguer’, Sankey remembers. ‘You’d go to Beyond Retro and get stuff from the 80s, because that was the trend then, but then alter it, and you might have a bit of 70s as well, so it would be this kind of amalgamation’. Where the first time around ‘you’d want to be Liv Tyler in Empire Records, and you’d get one thing that was right, but then you wouldn’t be able to find any of the other stuff’, now, ‘you can just go to the high street and completely recreate outfits, which is amazing, but also sort of weird’.

This is of course no accident, as it’s not just the people buying the clothes who are using the internet to inform their sartorial decisions, the brands are too. ‘There’s a lot more communication between brands and the customer, particularly those who’re online, because they can easily tap into that world’, Sankey suggests. ‘They can look at Tumblr and say, “OK, this is what girls like”’, and they respond accordingly, right now, Topshop with pastel ‘co-ords’ and ASOS with straight outta sophomore year floral dresses. ‘You look at a brand’s Instagram and it’s often not that different to the Instagram of a seventeen-year-old girl’.

The question is, what next? Second wave teen classic Mean Girls has just turned ten, and as Sankey points out, ‘there are actually a lot of parallels between that and Clueless, with the pink and short tartan skirts. I don’t know what we’re going to do when we’ve run out of decades to reference’. For now though, Sankey isn’t too worried, and says that with her blog, ‘it’s just really nice to have the space to re-create outfits from films, and I love doing it’. Plus, she says, ‘it’s quite a fun way of getting yourself to wear something different. I’m suddenly like, do I want an ankle bracelet?!’.

NEVER UNDERDRESSED: We go inside the cult of Barry’s Bootcamp

-VoaXS0B80qz63eR2jR6k5o3AV1yJQKaid7BSt3cV40Do you remember a time when nobody really talked about what they did for exercise or ate for lunch, because to put it bluntly, who’d have cared? Even now it would be weird to turn up at the office and announce that you’ve just run 5K with an average of 492 calories burned per hour, or hold your plate up to the nearest person declaring your dinner’s ‘clean-eating’ benefits.

But on the internet, where people use social media to live-blog their every action, and an innocuous coat-hook can become a star for a day because OMG it looks like a face LOL, that’s a different story. Barely a day goes by where Instagram doesn’t enlighten you to a new food that’s allowed on the #paleo diet, or you feel shamed by someone on twitter who’s done 20 burpees, 60 squats and 50 pushups #fitness #gym #workout because particularly when it comes to boasting about health and fitness, anything goes online. The humble-brag is practically the law on Instagram – let’s blame Miranda Kerr and her smug workout selfies.

It’s a sense of sharing that’s seems key to the success of a new craze of ‘bootcamp’ fitness, the high intensity group workouts, which comprise a mixture of intense cardio and heavy weight-training that has taken America by storm and has now migrated to our shores.

Barry’s Bootcamp, the hardcore fitness studio that can take credit for sculpting Kim Kardashian’s famous buttocks, and boasts clients including Victoria Beckham and Naomi Campbell at its Central London outpost that opened last year, is the most notorious. Everyone wants a piece of Barry’s, not least because what happens at Barry’s, which launched in West Hollywood over a decade ago, most certainly doesn’t stay at Barry’s, as a quick click on #Barrysbootcamp will tell you. ‘I think people come here because they read about it and hear that celebrities come here’, founder Barry Jay told us while he was in town for the Barry’s Bootcamp London first anniversary festivities. ‘They’re like, “ooh, I ran next to Katie Holmes today”’.

Geoff Bagshaw, a trainer teaching at the equally infamous Equinox Training Camp, a similarly challenging regime at the Kensington branch of the luxury gym agrees. ‘There’s definitely bragging rights in terms of people surviving the workouts’, he says. ‘The workouts are challenging, so they’re going to want to post to their friends to show what they’ve accomplished’. Indeed when I completed both a Barry’s Bootcamp London and ETC class on the same day without going into cardiac arrest, my twitter followers were the first people from whom I requested a medal.

A group mentality is just as important to bootcamp style training like ETC and Barry’s IRL too. ‘One of my favourite things about it is the camaraderie, the team, the effort and the energy in the room’, Barry beams when I ask him if gym bunnies sticking together is better than being a lone wolf on the treadmill. Often likening his classes to a nightclub, or ‘a party in a box’ as a friend of his dubbed it, he says, ‘if there were just two people dancing in a club, it’d be boring, but when everyone’s up and dancing with their hands in the air, it’s great’. When I sit in to watch the sold-out special anniversary class Barry teaches at the Euston branch, it seems that there really ain’t no party like a Barry’s party.

The crowd at the anniversary class – made up of lithe models and a surprisingly unintimidating selection of women in their late twenties and early thirties, wearing chic but simple leggings and vests – are smiley and pumped full of energy during the 90 minute class (which sold out in 9minutes). This admirable poise is despite spending a gruelling 45mins solid running while Barry leaps around the room, arms aloft, whooping along to Whitney Houston’s I wanna dance with somebody. It’s no surprise to hear Barry wax lyrical about visiting the West End theatre whenever he’s in London, ‘I spent two hours in tears at Les Miserable. It was born for the London stage, it’s so beautiful’, because his workouts are positively theatrical. Even the red lighting, chosen for its sexy vibe, is a nod to the drag queen musical Kinky Boots. ‘There’s one part where Lola says, “you’re gonna make me the first pair of kinky boots, and make them reeeeeeed, because red is seeeeeeeex”’ Barry explains with enough dramatic affectation to make you think he could audition for a part himself. ‘I totally get what she’s saying, that’s what I thought with the lights’.

Between the cacophonous music, a spectacular disco of red flashing lights, and a tightly choreographed routine of sprinting, jogging and weight lifting, you’re basically too distracted to notice that you’ve entered yet another minute of fast running at a steep incline or that you’re onto your fiftieth Russian Twist. Even despite a particularly ill-timed hangover, all I was able to think about during the class were the commands being rapidly fired at me, making even this intense style of training feel surprisingly doable.

Admittedly, I’ve built up a reasonable amount of fitness in the couple of years I’ve been regularly going to the gym, but I rarely even break a sweat on my lazier days when going solo. ‘You feed off each other’s energy, it’s contagious’, Barry suggests. ‘What I love is that a lot of people come to me and say, “you’ve ruined the gym for me!”’. He’s right, even after just one class, I, someone who considers exercise a necessary evil, have been bitten by the Barry bug.

It’s not just the fun Barry’s injects into bootcamp workouts that makes them seem addictive. Promising to burn around 1000 calories in just an hour, it’s pretty damn effective too. ‘The truth is you’re going to work your ass off and you’re going to get results’, he proudly notes. ‘It’s fun that Kim Kardashian is at the other end of the room, but with hard work, you start to see why you’re really here.’

In Kensington at the Equinox training camp, the atmosphere might be more ‘calm gathering’ than ‘raucous party’, but the importance of shared and visible achievement is the same. On the six week programme, a small group of people complete high intensity exercises three times a week with the promise that ‘they are definitely going to notice an improved appearance in their bodies and their overall health’, according to Bagshaw, who runs the course. He notes the ‘emotional commitment’ you get when working towards set goals as part of a group. Thanks to Facebook groups set up for teams taking part, ‘there’s a big connection and we’re really trying to foster the sense of community’.

Like with Barry’s Bootcamp, synonymous with celebrity culture, Geoff admits that ‘there is a status element to being involved’ with ETC. In New York where Equinox launched the programme, ‘the classes sell out in seconds, so the groups are a very privileged few’. It’s little wonder that people who take the classes are keen to use twitter to tell the world that #equinoxmademedoit. It’s obvious then that good old group encouragement is at the heart of the bootcamp craze, and all you really need to be kept fitter than a butcher’s dog. Whether that group is made up of hyperactive fitness partiers, a close-knit workout team, or the followers liking all your smug work-out selfies, is up to you. #GoTeam.

NEVER UNDERDRESSED: How do you know when a trend is over?

Screenshot 2014-07-11 13.52.16‘The act of discovering what’s cool is what causes cool to move on’, Malcolm Gladwell proclaimed in the 1997 New Yorker piece, ‘The Coolhunt’, that has since become part of the canon when it comes to defining trends and a culture obsessed with The Next Big Thing.

By that logic, it came as no surprise when Australia’s University of New South Wales last week announced that we had reached a point called ‘peak beard’. That is, the more men we see wearing beards, a hairy badge of honour that marks the cool craft beer drinkers and crate diggers from the lager-swilling shirt-and-shoes lads with Blurred Lines blaring from their car stereos, the less cool we actually think they are.

If cool is by its very nature elusive, then when a trend becomes so ubiquitous that the lines are indeed blurred between the hipsters and the hoons, can it still be defined as such? What tips a trend from niche to normal? And should we cool-fearing folk, who pride ourselves on living beyond the norm(core), abandon it when that happens?

It isn’t just beards that become entangled in the knotty business of what’s cool and what isn’t. It’s a debate that has dogged fashion since its genesis. Louis XIV wore elaborate collars and cuffs with his luxe silk suits for the same reason the kids skulking around The Royal Oak on Columbia Road have directional and difficult to manage haircuts: everyone else isn’t doing it. So when everyone else does catch on to a trend, either through increased accessibility, or simple copycat behaviour, how can it still be cool?

‘I absolutely think that things can still be cool when lots of people like them, like, Game of Thronesand True Detective’, Bertie Brandes, freelance writer and former fashion editor of renowned cool-authority, Vice Magazine, told us. But, when it comes to fashion, ‘If someone’s wearing something they wouldn’t normally wear just because it’s ‘on trend’, that’s the least cool thing ever’.

The problem is, in a digital age where your Instagram feed can fill with copycat selfies just days after Kate Moss discovers a new way to roll up her skinny jeans, it isn’t hard for a trend to catch on, and the process of discovery to stale saturation has become impossibly fast. We’re no longer talking an organic drip-feed of street culture to style muses to high fashion to dedicated magazine magpies – to everyone else a year later. Nowadays high street brands are wise to what their customers are googling, and which of the freshly snapped street style is being re-blogged the most on Tumblr, a level of insight which acts like rocket fuel in fast-tracking a look from obscure to everywhere.

‘There’s a lot more communication between brands and the customer, particularly online,’ Summer Camp’s Elizabeth Sankey told us when we spoke to her recently about the rise and rise of the 90s trend. ‘They can look at Tumblr and say, “OK, this is what girls like”’. Stylist Charlie Moore agrees that trends could enjoy a longer life before being demoted to démodé in a pre-digital era. ‘When I first started it felt more like trends had an osmosis about them and their growth was a bit more organic, which probably made things have more longevity’, she says, adding that ‘now when people are uploading pictures of everything to Instagram and Twitter, you get bored of something more quickly because you’ve already seen it everywhere.’

So how do you set your style apart from a sea of homogeny, and thus retain your cool, when, as Moore notes, simply shopping on the high street means ‘You walk down the street and there’s someone with the same thing as you’? Well, the answer is actually quite simple: be yourself.

‘Pretty much everything is timeless if you wear it in the right way or with conviction,’ Brandes said. ‘It helps to have a fashion icon, but at the end of the day what you’re wearing has to suit you.’ She continued, ‘You can’t just look like you’ve picked it up because you heard it was cool’.

In fact, when asked about whether beards were still in vogue, she sounds almost exasperated at the idea of having to categorise everything as cool or otherwise. ‘I have no idea whether they’re cool’, she sighed. ‘My dad has a beard and I think he’s cool, but I don’t think he has it in a cool way. I think beards are exempt from being cool, they’re just facial hair.’

The idea of simply sticking with what you know and love isn’t necessarily without its problems though. To return to Gladwell’s ‘Coolhunt’, referring to a man without a Spidey-sense for style, he points out that, ‘because he wasn’t cool, he didn’t know cool, and that’s the essence of the third rule of cool: you have to be one to know one.’
Is coolness then the reserve of a blessed few, gifted by the spirits of Elvis and Louise Brooks at birth? Charlie Moore offers more hope. ‘If you’re really comfortable and confident you can pull things off a lot more easily’, she explained. ‘Angelina Jolie really doesn’t experiment at all. She’s just going with what she knows works and looks confident because of it – that’s why I think people who have their own unique style, something you can’t put your finger on, look great.’

Indeed, the confidence with which Brandes – who is ‘very into 70s at the moment, but like, actually stuff from the 70s, not just 70s-inspired stuff from the high street, because that just looks cheap’ – dismisses the importance of trends goes a long way to explain her cool status. Maybe then, the secret of being cool, is to simply not engage with coolness at all, and that’s something we can all do.

NEVER UNDERDRESSED: Going cold turkey on hair straighteners

Screenshot 2014-07-13 18.15.29At the tail end of last summer, I ended a hot but ultimately destructive ten year relationship. I gave up using my hair straighteners for good. I’d always envied those ‘oh, I don’t really do anything to it’ girls, whose straight, glossy hair actually looks like it’s been attended to by Jennifer Aniston’s loyal stylist. ‘I just leave it to dry naturally’, they’d humbly crow. ‘It’s so boring though’. Boring is definitely not something you could call my hair, although shaping the erratic pouf of irregular curls into anything that doesn’t make me look like Barry Gibb circa 1979 is certainly tedious.

But when quality ceramic straighteners hit the mass market a decade or so ago, smooth, shiny hair was suddenly well within my reach and I, like many others, straightened it into a glossy mane worthy of the hair-tosses Beyoncé did in the Crazy in Love video. It was amazing and I devotedly straightened the frizz right out of my hair almost daily for years to come until one day, it snapped. Literally.

All that heat might helped me achieve the style I wanted, but it’s also seriously damaging if not used sparingly. Addiction to it came at a cost, in the form of broken lengths, split ends, and a total inability to ever grow my hair past my shoulders.

‘It’s very hard to wean someone off hair straighteners because they are basically like drugs’ Sidney Sinclair, stylist at the Aveda Institute, sympathetically notes when I tell her of my woes. ‘No matter what anyone does, even professionally, you’re never going to get that flat, sleek ironed look’. For the good of my hair health, it was time to retire my straighteners to the great salon in the sky and that meant learning to love my hair in its natural state.

‘The idea of natural texture doesn’t exist anymore’ super-stylist Paul Windle, one half of London salon duo Windle & Moodie, told me when I sought his words of wisdom. Thanks to our new-found ability to achieve (albeit, damagingly) beautifully coiffed Gisele hair, ‘there’s a desire to be so finished all the time now’. He continues, ‘what was once an American blow-dry trend has caught on here and people want this insanely manicured look’. The problem is though, ‘90% of women don’t have time for that pursuit of perfection and glamour. It’s political, working women can’t keep it up!’ he laughs. As such, Windle’s on a one-man mission to ‘talk clients into accepting their natural texture’, insisting that ‘If you get a good haircut every 8 weeks then the shape should sit well and the texture will look good’.

I’m dubious as I tell him that I’m simply cursed with really wild hair, only to eat my words when a good soak in Bumble & Bumble’s Quench range and his expert scissor work leave my hair looking desirably ‘beachy’ messy as opposed to the head-first into a hedge kind.

Lucy Welling, senior stylist at Percy & Reed’s new Shoreditch outpost agrees that a fresh cut is key, and when she gives my still heat-ravaged ends a trim eight weeks later, I actually leave the salon feeling almost like it’s starting to look longer as continued cutting makes it increasingly less rambunctious.

But let’s not pretend this is all plain sailing. There have been strings of sad-face emoji illustrated iMessages to friends detailing my ‘terrible hair trauma’, and a lot of compensatory red lipstick as I’ve learned to love and rehabilitate my acquired-taste hair. When you get a spot on your skin you can cover it with make-up, and if you put on weight you can alter your wardrobe to better flatter, but there’s no hiding from your hair – its recovery must be made in full view and that’s feels incredibly exposing.

There’s only one word you need to know when it comes to hair rehab, and that’s protein. ‘The best way I can describe hair, is like having a house’, Aveda’s Sinclair explains. ‘You take some bricks away [which in hair terms means any kind of messing with it – styling, colouring and what-not], it becomes a bit wobbly and doesn’t know what it wants to do’. Protein then, in the form of reconstructing products such as Aveda’s Damage Remedy range, is what can be used to fill in those missing bricks and build hair back up. ‘You can do it yourself at home, but a professional one will rock your world as it’s more bespoke and intense’ she continues. ‘We have a botanical express treatment which is a mist that’s able to penetrate right into the cuticle of the hair and make it stronger from within’. Said treatment did indeed leave my hair feeling stronger and looking shinier, as did a dose of L’Oreal Professional’s Fiberceutic fiber-filling treatment, touted as the ‘botox for hair’, at the impossibly luxurious Neville’s Hair in the spa of Mayfair’s Bulgari Hotel.

It’s now been four months, three trims and more protein than you’d find in Hulk Hogan’s fridge since I ended things with the love of my beauty-life, and things are going strong. Sure, I’ve had the odd sneaky straighten (Fashion Week and excessively humid weather made me do it), and only time can turn broken lengths into flowing tresses, but I’ve begun to believe that there is nice hair after straighteners. ‘Embracing your natural texture is actually quite liberating’, Windle tried to convince me, when I sceptically allowed his assistant to blow-dry freestyle. But do you know what? I think he’s right.


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