As I sit at my desk today, on the cusp of the annual long weekend known usually as The August Long Weekend (officially, Monday marks our provincial Heritage Day, making it a long weekend), I can only think of one thing: vacation.
Every summer growing up my Dad took the first two weeks of August off and we’d go away. Sometimes to the West Coast, but usually to the interior of British Columbia and then dip down to Washington State for some back-to-school shopping. That, of course, was my favourite part. Oh, the things you could buy! (I’ve included a gallery here of images that represent things I would have been likely to buy in my ’80s youth.)
And it was not only clothes on my list. Once I hit 12, magazines were also on my shopping list. I remember buying my first copy of Interview from a newsagent in Spokane when I was 14. I also remember ripping the tags off my new clothes at the hotel and donning my all-black layers in the crazy heat and sitting outside, on the edge of a fountain that wasn’t on, smoking and reading the oversize magazine. I thought I was terribly cool.
Over the years, I always picked up magazines that were either hard to get or simply impossible to get at home. I got others to do it for me to. Even today, whenever my partner travels to Europe for work, I get him to lug back foreign editions of Vogue and other titles he thinks I’ll like. The latest, a couple weeks back, was a copy of the new Dutch magazine, Pupmag.
Foreign magazines are a great window into the popular culture and fashion of a particular place. This held especially true in the days before the Internet. I was always thrilled when my Dad would come back with a pile of magazines upon his return from his annual trip to Korea and Japan every spring. I loved the teen magazines, which were packed with both street and studio looks, and very little text which I couldn’t read anyway. Today, it’s a close friend from Japan who provides me with my Japanese fashion fix, sending my daughter and I copies of Cutie, JJ, Kera and Vogue Girl.
As for vintage magazines, I’ve picked them up on vacations since I was a teen. A big fan of thrift shops and antique stores, I’d often find a stack of old magazines tucked in under or behind something else. And among the endless issues of Life and The Saturday Evening Post there would occasionally be a copy of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar or Seventeen. Back in the 1980s, they’d be cheap, too. I remember buying issues of 1950s Vogue for $5 each. Nobody wanted old magazines, but oh how times have changed.
This summer, our family vacation is not particularly exotic. We’re driving south, making a road trip to Montana. Regardless, you can be sure I’ll be scouring the second-hand shops for vintage magazines and casting my eye over the selection at any newsagents we happen upon. But I won’t be sitting in all-black, smoking on the edge of any fountain, working or not.
1. Ray-Ban Wayfarers, Seventeen, June 1987.
2. Converse All Stars, Seventeen, June 1983.
3. Levi’s, The Face, July 1983.
4. Esprit, Mademoiselle, June 1985. Photograph by Oliviero Toscani.
5. Irving Penn for Vogue, June 1984. Clothing by Perry Ellis.
6. Walter Jackson for Harper’s Bazaar, March 1982.
7. The Gap, Vogue, December 1987. Photograph by Herb Ritts.
8. JH Collectibles/Nordstrom, Glamour, May 1985.
9. Grendha, Mademoiselle, March 1985.