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Posts Tagged ‘1980s New York City’

Mercury in retrograde’s about to hit this month, starting from July 14th and ends Aug. 8th,2012. For those who believe in astrology, it works a bit like this;  it’s both a time of reflection, and ‘Murphy’s Law’ in full effect. In other words, communication lines get crossed, so what can go wrong will.

Sometimes, right before merc in retrograde hits, you just might get a preview. Plans interrupted arguments and fights relating to misunderstandings, sometimes outright catastrophe. Yet it’s not all negative. As I’ve said before, during this time it could be used to reflect. Don’t be surprised that out of the blue, you’ll come into contact with someone from the past who you haven’t spoken to in years. Also, some of those unsolved conflicts that have knocked on your door have a chance to be resolved.

Enough of this mini-lesson. What this crash course about mercury in retrograde leads to is a chance to you show some of my relics. Not only does it bring back my personal teenage memories, they’re also pop culture artifacts. These buttons exhibits a part of NYC that is now long gone.

Back when I was growing up during the 80s, many teenagers flocked to the NYC area of Greenwich Village. West side, east side, 8th Street, Broadway, it really didn’t matter. It’s still the case now, but the popular shopping sites are significantly different. Back in the 80s, the trendier retail places gave away free buttons with every purchase.  Hell, sometimes you didn’t even need to buy anything. Just go to the counter, stick your hand in the small hard plastic transparent box, and grab a handful of these badges. Afterwards, you would display your coolness by pinning these items onto your over-sized vintage overcoat, or on your army schoolbag. You would arrange these pins right along with your pop and post new wave band buttons. This was exactly what I did back in my freshman year of high school. This didn’t last long, as I progressed the next year into a full-fledged Siouxsie clone. My badges went from store promotion to the bands like The Cure, Specimen, etc.

Before I bore you with details, here’s a photo.

1980 promotional buttons from NYC retail stores, Greenwich Village area. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.

The stores listed before are no longer around. I’ll give you a brief breakdown about some of these places.

Flip was a clothing store located on west. 8th street. They specialized in selling new wave, punk, goth and glam rock threads. In fact, one of my first ever punk tees was purchased right here at this location.

Postermat was more of a novelty place. They sold all types of buttons, posters, tees, gag items. A bit like that Spencer’s chain store you see in the local mall nowadays. The buttons and pins were sold in the front of the store. They were stored behind glass counters as if they were precious goods. Two tiny black round controls when pressed, slowly spunk around the shelves inside. An army and navy store has taken its place.

Canal Jeans Co. survived for years, but eventually they shut their doors as well. This business was so successful at one point, they had two locations. The location on Canal Street is now one of the cheapest art supply stores known as Pearl Paint. The bigger store, located in the Soho area of Broadway sold both new, vintage, upscale and bargain merchandise. They shut down, very briefly re-opened for a hot minute on Broadway and Astor, and then closed for good in the early 2000s.

Canal Jeans Co. buttons had their iconic checkerboard background, in a variety of colors. Check the photo below:

Promotional buttons from Canal Jeans Co. Photo by Michele WItchipoo.

Zoot was a vintage clothing store. Zoot wasn’t around that long, but it’s competition, Andy’s Chee-Pees, hung around for a while. Zoot was located on Broadway, Andy’s on West 8th street.

Unique hawked its wares all throughout the ‘80s, going out of business in the early ‘90s. Also known as Unique Boutique, the large space had a variety of different departments. You had graffiti artists spray painting on clothing, vintage duds, and when it was extremely fashionable, a huge selection of bright neon attire.

As for some other shops that’s been around for a while. Enz have opened and closed, and opened again. They’ve moved around to different locations so Enz doesn’t count. Ditto for Andy’s Chee-Pees. Even Patricia Fields moved from its prototype home on 8th street to the now trendy Bowery area. Probably the only store left from that era is Trash and Vaudeville. Still at the same location since the 1970s, and still going strong today.

Keep in mind, I didn’t even touch upon all the numerous record stores open around this time. I’ll touch upon that in another post.

Other types of businesses got into the badge marketing act. Check out this photo here. There’s MTV when they were known as a video music channel.  WLIR was a Long Island based radio station that specialized (at the time) in New Wave, a tiny bit of Post-Punk, and imported UK Pop music. Then there’s the original Hard Rock Cafe. The first location in NYC was on West 57th, before they moved to the current location at Times Square. All three are still around today.

MTV, WLIR FM, and Hard Rock Cafe. 1980s promotional buttons. Photo by Michele Witchipoo.

It’s a different time now. There’s the revitalized Brooklyn to contend with now. Trends have changed. Yet the ‘80s memories still stand.

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