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REVISITING THE PAST
My baby pictures feature ladies in maxi dresses and gentlemen in skintight shirts and pants with decorative “sister boy” buckles at the hip. Both sexes wore big afros. Today, variations of that style can be found at any hipster bar on any given Sunday (minus the sister boys. Which is kind of a pity because those sister boys were cool). Current incarnations of the tight pants are more like jodhpurs than the superfly bell-bottomed pants my godfather wore to my christening party, but the tight shirts now in fashion are straight out of those old albums. Walking through the mall with my daughters last week I was hit by a dizzying wave of the 80s. A girl walked by me wearing an outfit I swear I wore myself circa 1989: tight acid-washed jeans and a scoop-necked jersey that hung off one shoulder. She even had my old haircut, a short, asymmetrical bob. As we made our way around the mall that day, that most despised decade kept poking me with its inescapable neon colours, busy abstract prints, and indecisive silhouettes.
I wondered if I could have kept my old clothes and snuck them back out of the closet 20 years later. That trapezium top that I loved so much would have blended right in— remember the one I wore to the C+C Music Factory concert? No? Well, anyway, that one. I could have kept my acid-washed jeans—the ones Daddy banned me from wearing because they had that big rip by the bottom and were extremely tight. On second thought, forget it; I couldn’t wear them anyway, since the past 20 years have added more just than the weight of memory to my waistline (such as it is). Seeing the 80s resurgence that has penetrated main street fashion I now understand how people ten years older than me might feel when they see another Quiana maxi dress in a psychedelic pattern. Déjà vu. It is a fact of fashion that it continually cycles back to styles from the previous generation. There might be some philosophical grounds for this, or maybe an underpinning psychological need to revisit and revise the recent past. I don’t know. I do find it annoying to see those 80s fashions coming back, considering how trashy and tacky I find many of those styles now. I also pray that lace gloves and puffy Madonna hair don’t make a comeback. Lord knows nobody needs that. But it’s not only fashion that cycles back. The urge to revisit the past appears today in the headlines as well. As frightening as I find the idea of the return of lace fingerless gloves and big 80s hair, it pales in comparison to the threat of the return of the Flying Squad. The Flying Squad was an “elite crime-fighting unit” under the leadership of former Police Commissioner Randy Burroughs; they “achieved folk-hero status with their crime-fighting exploits”, noted Trinidad and Tobago Guardian editor Suzanne Sheppard a few weeks ago when our new Minister of National Security Jack Warner, after his swearing- in, aired the idea of bringing back the squad.
Sheppard added, “The Scott Drug Report sparked a precipitous fall from grace for Mr Burroughs and his Flying Squad, with evidence that several police officers were ‘complicit in operating protection rackets for the larger dealers’ and ‘evidence of engagement by policemen in other criminal acts, including smuggling, counterfeiting and probably murder.’” Mr Warner said he would take the good parts of the Flying Squad and leave out the bad parts. But in this country, where police are as feared as bandits, can any such squad be trusted? And is the Police Service equipped to follow up on such a squad’s work in a legal, aboveboard fashion? So many arrests during the failed state of emergency last year could not be prosecuted because of lack of evidence that one wonders how legally a Flying Squad could work at all. And without the mechanisms to support it, what is left could be a group of uniformed thugs empowered to stalk, harass and victimise citizens only suspected of criminal activity. I don’t remember the Flying Squad. Like 70s fashion, it is only familiar to me through looking back at other people’s memories. Some remember the efficiency of the squad, but others remember its brutality. If he does give in to his nostalgia and brings back the Flying Squad, I hope that Mr Warner takes both sides into account. This is not as simple as bringing back maxi dresses and tight pants, or neon colours and acid-washed denim. After all, bad fashion never killed anybody.
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