RIP the questionable era of the shell suit

They made you look like a redundant clown or possibly swathed in the remnants of a parachute and a disciple of conspiracy theorist David Icke, writes JOANNE SAVAGE

Saturday, 29th May 2021, 8:00 am
Shell suits, worn by unfortunately deluded men and women alike, were often accessorised with the heinous bum bag

Crafted in ridiculously flammable lightweight nylon that made you feel as though you were heavily insulated by bin bags so that you were sweaty almost as soon as you donned the hideously neon pink and purple stripped affront to taste, as I remember my own in the late 80s and early 90s, shell suits are definitely best relegated to the past where they certainly, if there is a God with any sort of fashion sense, must remain.

They added serious bulk to one’s frame, (was this also the era of Mr Blobby? And who needs added body mass apart from Kate Moss?) and came in manifold colours with all kinds of geometric shapes and patterns, invariably matched with Hi-Tech high-top trainers, some of which had flashing neon lights encased in the side of the soles, underneath which may have been white, yes, white, sport’s socks (always a cardinal sin).

So you would have stopped traffic all right, could maybe even have moonlighted as a traffic warden, mostly because you looked like a bloated irradiated technicolour chump possibly with Martian relations and recently rejected from the confines of a dodgy youth club or an amateur circus troupe.

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If anyone had lit up a fag next to you, the chances of combustion were high, the shell suit being an actual fire hazard, and it reached a point where everyone but everyone was wearing them of their own free will, incredibly, and not because of some astonishingly bizarre fascist fashion government fiat designed to make the population learn humility by making us all homogeneously look like unskilled, redundant clowns.

You were contained in a nylon shell, and it also looked slightly like you had swathed yourself in the remnants of a colourful discarded parachute having possibly dropped from the air balloon, sustained a head injury that caused you to entirely loose your marbles and found yourself unable to put your hands on anything more rational and fitting to wear in civil society.

I was at least a pubescent when I wore one, but adults were at it too. My mother had a red and white atrocity in her early fifties and as I remember a lot of other mums at the school gates were similarly sartorially damned. My aunt Mary was guilty too, and sported a turquoise, purple and lime affair, emblazoned in my memory, but for which I can thankfully find no hard photographic evidence (I did not imagine it though and do not suffer from psychosis).

A descendant of the tracksuit, the outfit was popular with the hip hop and breakdancing scene of the era, and was manufactured from a mix of cellulose triacetate and polyester to make them super shiny on the outside, and available in gaudy rainbow shades.

Apparently they originated as part of the Liverpudlian counter-culture of the 1980s and were most memorably popularised by the conspiracy theorist and former footballer David Icke, who began wearing a turquoise shell suit which he saw as a ‘conduit for positive energy’. Really?

Given that Icke famously believed that he was a ‘son of the Godhead’ in a world that consisted of vibrational energy and infinite dimensions, as well as his certainty that a shape-shifting race of reptilian beings had hijacked the planet and manipulated events to keep humans in fear, perhaps he was not the sanest man to look to for sartorial inspiration.

Either that, or he was about to instantiate a new world order wherein our hearts would be filled with love, and he was, and remains, some kind of demented prophet. But a prophet in a shell suit? Who would listen?

Nobody can possess gravitas while wearing one, let alone convince people of the machinations of an otherworldy lizard-like tribe intent on destroying human freedoms.

At least Icke’s imagined reptilian enemies would have demurred at such a tawdry wardrobe. Indeed, humans are making such a mess of earth currently that maybe another non-shell-suit-happy species should indeed be given the reins to take over in this the age of Covid apocalypse and catastrophic climate change.

These days, nobody in their right mind would be seen dead in a shell suit, but you have to wonder at the delusion of the collective cultural consciousness that made them so a la mode for a frightening moment in time.

Maybe Icke’s imagined reptiles had instantiated some form of mass hypnosis we’ve thankfully all awoken from, to a damned but admittedly more glamorous world.