Your guide to the North’s most enduring bands and icons, plus the designers who continue to pay tribute to them.
England’s rich history has long been a reference point for creatives, with its pop, rock, and punk sensations and swinging ’60s youthquake (coined by none other than Diana Vreeland). While London garners most of the attention, Northern England, aka the North, is the birthplace of some of the most iconic music and style moments to come out of the brilliantly drizzly country. To get you up to speed, we put together a list of the bands, books, and fashion influences you need to know about. Pour yourself some tea and drink it in.
Liddypool: Birthplace of the Beatles by David Bedford (2010)
To say that there are a ton of books on The Beatles would be a massive understatement, but this one takes it back to the beginning, tracing their early years in Liverpool and setting the facts straight. The author and longtime local, David Bedford, spent a decade writing the book because he was tired of reading incorrect information about the band and their hometown. And there’s no doubt he does them justice. Visual people, take note—the book is filled with 800 pictures even a diehard fan will enjoy.
Set the Boy Free: The Autobiography by Johnny Marr (2016)
One of of the greatest rock bands to come out of Manchester, The Smiths paved the way for many artists, both in and out of England, so it’s exciting to hear their story from one of their own. Cofounder and guitarist Johnny Marr recounts his life and love for music in this fascinating memoir, which also includes chapters on every band he was a part of.
Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division by Peter Hook (2013)
Coming out of Salford in Greater Manchester, Joy Division shook the post-punk era of the late ’70s. Bassist Peter Hook opens up about their short-lived but impactful career, from just starting out to grappling with the death of lead singer Ian Curtis. If you ever wanted a close-up look at the band’s real story—and trust us, you do—this book is it.
The Stone Roses: War and Peace by Simon Spence (2013)
The Stone Roses defined the Madchester scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s, mixing alternative rock and psychedelic pop to great success. Pore over interviews and photographs, and follow their journey from their peak to their breakup to their reformation.
Mr Manchester and the Factory Girl: The Story of Tony and Lindsay Wilson by Lindsay Reade (2010)
Tony Wilson, or “Mr Manchester,” was the man behind Factory Records, the famed record label of bands like Happy Mondays, Joy Division, and The Durutti Column. In other words, you know there are some good stories there, and who better to give them than his first wife, the woman who saw it all unfold.
Raf Simons has looked to Peter Saville, the man behind Joy Division and New Order’s iconic album cover art, for inspiration since day one, but perhaps his most seminal North-focused collection was Fall 2003. He designed knee-length parkas emblazoned with Peter’s sleeve designs, which now go for over $10,000 on eBay.
As a nod to the Manchester club scene, designer Virgil Abloh recreated Factory Records’ storied nightclub, the Hacienda last year at Miami’s Art Basel, as part of a collaboration with the original architect, Ben Kelly. The space was complete with those high-contrast diagonal stripes reminiscent of the ’80s rave hub.
Paul Smith’s R. Newbold line, which is only sold in Japan, also references and pays tribute to Manchester’s explosive music scene. Take his S/S 15 collection, shot in the city and featuring a shirt with the graphic “24 Hour Party People,” a nod to the movie about the Hacienda, and a jacket with an image of the artwork for Happy Mondays’ second album, Bummed.
When it comes to style, the North is all about casual sportswear. Literally everyone has a pair of Adidas trainers. It’s become such a pinnacle of Northern style that the influence goes both ways. In 2007, Yohji Yamamoto designed a sneaker inspired by—what else—the Hacienda for his Y-3 label. It even came in a box shaped like the original dance floor. Ian Brown of The Stone Roses was also a huge Adidas fan and even designing his own sneaker for the brand in 2011.
Newcomer Christopher Shannon’s Northern England influences are both apparent and innovative. In his Fall 2016 collection, aptly named “Comfort and Horror,” he depicts his conflicting feelings about growing up in suburban Liverpool in the ’80s through mismatched patchwork jackets, boxers, and velour tracksuits.
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