GIVE A WHAM! GIVE A BAM! DON’T GIVE A DAMN!

Punk Charming WhamShirtIt was August 23rd, 1985, the twilight of the blissful, carefree summer that followed high school graduation. Very soon, we would transition into the role of studious (mostly) college freshmen, but not this day. No, this day my best friend and I were two of 20,000-plus screaming teens counting down the minutes until Wham! hit the Poplar Creek Music Theatre stage.

To stand out, surely catching the eye of George or Andrew, and surely getting invited to some totally awesome after party, we had planned our perfect outfits well in advance. Brenda (not her real name – to protect her from our neon past) and I were ever so creative, going to the local t-shirt printing shop with lines from “Wham Rap”. On the front, in assorted neon lettering, we had “GIVE A WHAM! GIVE A BAM!” printed. The back shouted, “DON’T GIVE A DAMN!” We had to pay by the letter, but it was so worth it! While we waited, we walked to McDonalds and scarfed down some fries and Coke (Classic, not that New Coke nonsense). By the time the shop owner pressed our designs into fashion legend, we had strategically planned the rest of our look. 

My friend went with a yellow and black theme (linking her devotion to Chicago’s short-lived soccer team, the Sting). Layering black lace fingerless gloves over yellow-netted gloves, she continued the theme with yellow-lace knee-highs over black stirrup pants. Declining to wear a trilby hat, she instead tucked her hair into a white driving cap (another strange 80s trend).

As ever, I went with bright pink and white: day-glo fuchsia nail polish; white lace fingerless gloves; knock-off Wayfarers with rose-colored frames; French-braided hair secured with a pink ribbon; and white stirrup pants with neon pink knee-high nylons tucked into white pumps. Usually, I paired my pumps with lace anklets, but I suppose I was going with more of a cool-cat-flash look for the concert. Naturally, my look was completed with Swatch watch and an armful of silver bangles and black rubber bracelets.

Truly, we were a sight to behold! Even in the dark, our hues glowed in the flickering light of the thousands of lit bics that swayed in time with the ballads. My fears of being engulfed in flames, due to residual fumes from layers of Aqua Net Extra Super Hold, were fortunately never realized. Our custom shirts were soaked in sweat and spilled beers and California Coolers from older fans around us, and smelled faintly of the pot that drifted down from the lawn seats. Somehow, we never got that invitation to join the band backstage. Obviously, George had other things on his mind…they would break up the following year. We had our own after-party anyway, playing our Make It Big and Fantastic cassettes at full volume in the car, windows rolled down, as we waited for over an hour to exit the parking lot. Lucky for neighboring cars, my voice was completely hoarse by that time, though it didn’t stop me from singing along. “Hey everybody, take a look at me – I’ve got street credibility…”

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