From Madchester Baggy to Britpop

When the sun burst through the grey clouds of Manchester.

By Museum of Youth Culture

Group of friends sitting on grass at the first outdoor rave up North (1989) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

Manchester is North.

In the early 80s Manchester emerged as a bastion of independent music. Originally characterised by a darkness with bands such as The Smiths and Joy Division, by the late 80s a more uplifting sound was emerging. Coming together with Acid House in 1988, Manchester became Madchester with a new sound and people dress in Baggys. We are going to be delving into this exciting music and fashion scene through the photography of Peter Walsh. 

Ravers losing themselves in the music (1991) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

“It was an incredible time – life changing for everyone involved and people thought anything was possible. Some started fashion labels, others became DJs or promoters, and there was a real spirit of togetherness and cooperation”

Peter Walsh , Madchester and The Hacienda Photographer

People on the main dance floor (1989) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

Protestors - Anti Clause 28 demonstration (1988) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

An Industrial Powerhouse

From the textile industry in the 19th century to music and football in the late 1980s, Manchester has been a driving force. 

The Smiths on their last session, Laurence Watson, 1980s, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture
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"Under the iron bridge we kissed, And although I ended up with sore lips, It just wasn't like the old days anymore, No, it wasn't like those days, am I still ill?"

Still Ill, The Smiths, 1984

People on the main stage (1989) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

Positive Madchester Vibes

Inevitably these three strands would weave together. Indeed, as post-industrial Manchester re-invented itself, old textile factories and warehouses became rehearsal spaces and venues. The miserablism of Joy Division and The Smiths gave way to the post-Cold War positivity of Madchester. 

Eastern Bloc record shop on Oldham Street by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

A New Music Scene

Lancashire’s youth became 24 Hour Party People decked out in gear by new local companies like Gio Goi and Joe Bloggs. The Madchester/ Baggy look conveyed a confident Northern identity, with its roots in earlier working class street-styles, Scallies and Perry Boys, which were distinct to North West football crowds, but part of the broader Casual subculture. Madchester coalesced around a network of places including the Hacienda, International I and II venues, and the Eastern Bloc and Piccadilly record shops.

Couple dancing at the first outdoor rave up North (1989) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

Documenting it were M62, City Life and Debris magazines. The End fanzine (Liverpool) linked music, fashion, football, and politics. DJ Dave Booth (Playpen/ Hangout) provided the soundtrack of 60s psych, soul and emerging indie acts like the Stone Roses. Like Acid House, young people came together at clubs and gigs like Spike Island cutting across the lines of class, race, gender, sexuality and musical taste.

Spike Island was the name given to a concert by The Stone Roses on May 27th, 1990 on a reclaimed toxic waste dump in Widnes, Cheshire.

Bez onstage at a Happy Mondays gig at the Free trade Hall in Manchester (1989) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

"It's gotta be loose fit"

Ravers rubbed shoulders with indie kids and football fans led by their shaman Bez with his freaky dancing. Ecstasy increased this sense of community/ communion.  Baggy clothing enabled the loose-limbed liquid movements of the dancers. Dressing for comfort, girls and boys often wore similar clothing creating a seemingly egalitarian, almost non-gendered look. The cut of the clothes defined the look, sound, attitude and lifestyle.   

Kids wearing Joe Bloggs clothing, Peter Walsh, 1989, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture
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"It's gotta be a loose fit, It' s gotta be a loose fit, Don't need no skin tights in my wardrobe today, Fold them all up and put them all away"

Loose Fit , The Happy Mondays, 1990.

Manchester kids in Joe Bloggs flares and baggy tops skip down the street, Peter Walsh, 1988, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture
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All About the Flares

The most distinguishing feature of Baggy style was flared jeans. The black drainpipes of C86/ shoegaze were replaced by extra wide flares resembling a cross between the local Northern Soul scene and the original 1967 Summer of Love. The Manchester flare revival kicked off in 1982/83 when two former denizens of legendary Northern Soul club, the Twisted Wheel, sourced deadstock for their clothing businesses. Flares flew out of Phil Saxe’s Gangway and Joe Moss’ Crazyface and onto the terraces. The nascent Mondays were amongst the very first to wear them.

Bernard Sumner of New Order on the dancefloor of the Hacienda, Peter Walsh, 1989, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture
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By 1985 flare fashion had died. Saxe moved onto ‘baggies’ - baggy all the way down to the 16-inch hems. The Mondays were the first to wear these too. John Squire (Stone Roses) was an early convert. Nevertheless, a small gang around the emerging Mondays/ Roses remained flare obsessives. Despite onlookers derisively dubbing them Baldricks after the Blackadder TV character Cressa, and his mates were influential. Cressa’s purple flares were notorious. In 1987 and 1988 they scammed their way into i-D. Wearing 25-inch flares, big outdoor jackets and Reebok trainers (made locally in Bolton), they were described as a “surreal youth cult roaming the Hacienda”.

The Haçienda was central to the Madchester movement of the 80s and early 90s. Opened by Factory Record owner Tony Wilson and New Order in 1982, the venue hosted gigs and acid house raves, including the pioneering Ibiza night 'Hot.'

Group of Madchester fans drinking (1990s) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

The Stone Roses (1989) by Peter AndersonMuseum of Youth Culture

That slight swish

As former punks and scooter boys the Roses, came late to flares. Indeed, the photos on the inner sleeve of their debut album (1989) show Squire in baggies and his band-mates in straight leg jeans. However, Reni is already wearing the cricket hat with which he became synonymous. Later that year Cressa persuaded Ian Brown to wear flares. Brown told Melody Maker’s Simon Reynolds that he wore 24-inch flares "for that slight swish" and to get a reaction. The exact width was important with 18, 21, 24 and 25-inch bottoms holding subcultural caché at different times. Ian Brown in 21-inch green Wrangler cords and the banknotes t-shirt (Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom, 1989) was iconic. 

Paul Heaton smoking in a Northern Scum t-shirt (1989) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

DIY t-shirt designs

Baggy t-shirts (sometimes bootlegged) were essential with designs on the front, back and often down both sleeves. The images moved with the dancer and were intriguing for anyone watching on ecstasy. The ‘AND ON THE SIXTH DAY GOD CREATED MANchester’ t-shirt by Identity in Affleck’s Palace was very popular. Even Madonna and Jean-Paul Gaultier were spotted wearing them.

Afflecks indoor market, was the location of 'Identity' which was the HQ of the Manchester 'baggy' fashion trend, and the iconic '.....God Created MANchester' T shirt.

Shaun Ryder (1990) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

Kagoules and centre partings

Identity produced other regionally-focused designs including ‘Manchester: North of England’, ‘Born in the North, Return to the North, Die in the North’ and ‘Woodstock 69: Manchester 89’. Kagoules, practical necessities in rain-drenched Manchester, became fashion accessories nationwide. Madchester hairstyles incorporated Shaun Ryder’s centre-parted ‘curtains’ and Bez’s short crop. Kids wanting something smarter went to Andrew Berry on Tib Street or in the Hacienda’s basement.   

Happy Mondays (1990) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

When the Roses and the Mondays appeared on the same Top Of The Pops episode (November 1989) with ‘Fool’s Gold’ and ‘Hallelujah’ respectively, Brown and Mondays drummer Gaz Whelan wore the same Jean Paul Gaultier jacket. Few fans could afford such clothes but they could improvise, often getting gear from Stolen From Ivor (whose yellow bags became cool items themselves) and Joe Bloggs whose everyman name and the clothing’s affordability gave it anti-designer brand appeal.

Ravers with hats at the first outdoor rave up North (1989) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

Everyman Vibes

Elsewhere - London, Liverpool or at Sunshine Playroom (Brighton) - there were regional differences. Football tops were popular but flares were avoided. Indeed, the cover of The Farm’s ‘Stepping Stone’ single (1990) featured a sheep in flares, red Kickers and a cricket hat – seemingly a dig at the stereotypical Madchester look. The Farm preferred Paul Smith gear and saw themselves as ‘neo-mods’. Their understated everyman style even made the cover of The Face.

Shaun Ryder of the Happy Mondays with a balloon, Peter Walsh, 1990s, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture
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"The entire nineties are a blur to me. I can remember the 1960s better, and I was 8 years old when that decade ended, so that says it all."

Shaun Ryder , The Happy Mondays

Damon Albarn of Blur (1990s) by Laurence WatsonMuseum of Youth Culture


Britpop style presented a continuation of Mod and Casual influences. Damon Albarn even described Blur’s image as ‘mod-ual’ mixing Sergio Tacchini tracksuit tops, Fred Perry polos, suit jackets, DMs, jeans and Adidas. “I’ve got Trimm Trabb, like the flash boys have” (‘Trimm Trabb’, 1999).  Their controversial ‘British Image 1’ (1993) seemed to draw on Skinhead imagery –turned-up jeans revealing cherry red DM boots.   

View of streets and the Liverpool skyline (1965) by Clare & Keith LaflinMuseum of Youth Culture

"We became obsessed with this fantasy England we had created.... a nostalgic, comforting green island where everyone was all right."

Damon Albarn , Blur, 2008

Oasis's first ever band session taken in Castlefield, Peter Walsh, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture
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While Blur dressed down Oasis’ style was more aspirational and modern like the original Mods and Casuals. Liam Gallagher looked cool in an M&S jumper and a Next anorak at early gigs but he soon graduated to luxury labels like Stone Island. This broad mix of brands was common on the terraces and with Britpop fans. Mod parkas and desert boots were defining items. Button-down shirts were worn untucked. Heavy duty anoraks were zipped right up to the top. Upmarket Henri Lloyd sailing jackets (from Hurleys) were appropriated for going out. All delivered with Manc-style swagger.

Paul Weller and a large record collection (1990s) by Laurence WatsonMuseum of Youth Culture


Bootcut jeans and cords were essential. Clarks Wallabees in suede, Adidas Gazelles and shell-toed Superstars were go-to footwear. Yogi shoes with negative heels filtered through in the late 1990s.   

Woman dancing at The Boardwalk in Manchester, Peter Walsh, 1991, From the collection of: Museum of Youth Culture
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Perhaps mindful of PJ Harvey and Mambo Taxi’s exhortations not to dress to satisfy the male gaze, Britpop women swerved tight dresses and high heels for jeans, tops and trainers. Madan, Debbie Smith, Louise Wener, Justine Frischman were strong and articulate role models. One set of female fans, known as the Fairies, were distinctive in outfits topped off with fairy wings.

Blow Up was a pivotal club night that was founded in the early 90s at "The Laurel Tree", a small pub in Camden. The night quickly became the centre of the emerging Britpop scene in Camden, attracting long queues of eager scenesters. Early regulars included members of Blur, Pulp, Elastica and Suede.

Pulp (1990s) by Laurence WatsonMuseum of Youth Culture


In Manchester fans still shopped at Affleck’s Palace or the more stylish Aspecto. London had Duffer, 6876, Acupuncture and Hope & Glory as well as Burro, a shop/ label popular with fans and stars like Jarvis Cocker and Paul Weller.   

Audience members (1989) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

Everyone's in the Band

In Baggy and Britpop you could aspire to dress like Ian Brown or Liam but you could actually be one of the other band members. Accessibility was important. Bands and fans could combine rock star style and everyman appeal.

Clubbers on the main stage at the Hacienda Club (1989) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

Key Photographer: Peter Walsh

Mancunian photographer Peter Walsh spent 30 years of documenting the energetic 1980s music scene in Manchester. As a regular punter and in-house photographer, his 8 years documenting The Hacienda have given him an incredible archive of this bastion of rave. He went on to capture the Madchester scene in full swing, from Acid House to the first press photos of Oasis.

Inspiral Carpets - fans after gig (1990) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

“Manchester has changed enormously since the late 80s,” he says. “The city’s regeneration began with the ethos of Factory Records, Tony Wilson, Rob Gretton, and The Haçienda. The music and the clubs were what made people want to go to Manchester, to study or work there – and it changed the city forever.”

“These photographs capture a defining moment in the UK – of a youth culture that changed the world. They bring back great memories and I’m happy I followed my instinct to document what was happening at the time and not spend all my time on the dance floor.”

Peter Walsh, Madchester and The Hacienda Photographer

People on the main stage (1989) by Peter WalshMuseum of Youth Culture

Tune In

I Wanna Be Adored, The Stone Roses, 1989
24 Hour Party People, Happy Mondays, 1987
(What's the Story) Morning Glory Oasis, 1995
This is how it Feels Inspiral Carpets, 1990
Pacific State 808 State, 1989

Credits: Story

Johnny Hopkins is a Senior Lecturer in Music & Media Industries at Southampton Solent University specialising in public relations, music history, popular culture, and history. He also works as a PR director and developed extensive knowledge, expertise and contacts in the music, media and cultural industries.

This essay was curated by The Subcultures Network, which was formed in 2011 to facilitate research on youth cultures and social change, and commissioned as part of the National Lottery Heritage Funded project to build the online Museum of Youth Culture. Being developed by YOUTH CLUB, the Museum of Youth Culture is a new destination dedicated to celebrating 100 years of youth culture history through photographs, ephemera and stories.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund invests money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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