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Fashion and music in Liverpool

During the late 1970s and early 1980s Liverpool was in the grip of economic decline. The widespread loss of jobs in the port and in related trades meant that unemployment and recession hit the city harder than most.

An antidote to the grim realities of life lay in the city's vibrant music and fashion scenes. For teenagers facing life on the dole or a wage of less than £20 per week, they offered an escape route. Dressing up, going out and belonging to one of the many 'style tribes' gave many young people a sense of purpose and a creative focus. They lived for the weekend and the chance to express themselves through their musical and fashion tastes. A few of Mellina's photographs of different styles from the exhibition can be seen in the image gallery below.

There was a range of sub-cultures to choose from, but the punk, Rockabilly, New Romantic and emerging Goth scenes were the most prominent during these years. Followers of these musical scenes had their own distinct look and fashion sense, but they could not be bought ready-made. They were carefully put together and developed, from second-hand clothes shops, army surplus stores and a small number of specialist retailers, to produce an individual outfit.

Liverpool's many clubs and music venues played host to the city's sub-cultures. The famous Eric's club in Mathew Street, later renamed Brady's, was a focus for punks and Rockabillies, while New Romantics and Goths gravitated to clubs such as Cagney's, Jodie's and Michelle Claire's. But there was much crossing over of styles in clubland and none of the venues were exclusive to any one group.

This was the world captured by the lens of Liverpool photographer Francesco Mellina. With unique access to the city's many emerging bands and to the sub-cultures in its bars and clubs, Francesco's work forms a fascinating visual record of a crucial time in music and fashion history.

Image gallery