The first issue of i-D magazine came out just a few months after the first issue of The Face in 1980, and both publications would go on to define and catalogue the coming decade in different ways. While The Face was glossy and slick from the very start, i-D looked more like a punk fanzine. The first issue was 40 hand-stapled, two-colour pages that cost 50p and was printed by Better Badges, the Portobello Road maker of punk badges who had expanded into a cheap printing service for London’s music fanzines.
Founder/Editor/Designer Terry Jones (who had been the Art Director of British Vogue and designed the PiL logo) used a visual style he called “instant design” with layouts put together using photocopies, stencils, typewriters, handwriting, and collage. Jones also recognized that what was happening style-wise on the streets at the time was far more exciting than anything coming down the catwalk and that’s what the magazine focused on.
He couldn’t have picked a better time to do so because 1980 was when England’s streets were a peacock parade of youth cults: Mods, Punks, Skinheads, Rockabillies, Rude Boys, Teds, Soul Boys, New Romantics, and kids who just had their own style. i-D shot them from head-to-toe on the street in a format they called the “straight up” with simple captions detailing where they got their clothes from and what music they listened to.
This was also the era of DIY self-expression kicked off by Punk. A lot of the kids they featured put their looks together from things they bought at basic high street shops like M&S and Millet’s, together with second-hand shop finds, stalls in Kensington and Camden Markets, or items they customized themselves. As someone who was trying to look a bit cooler back then i-D‘s attitude helped take some of the closed-off mystique out of fashion and make the trendy shops of Chelsea and Soho seem a bit less intimidating to a clueless newbie like me.
The first ten issues were in an unconventional landscape format but even when it switched to a standard portrait size and became more colourful the magazine still kept it’s punky edge: type was stretched and warped on a photocopier and it was printed in clashing colours that pushed the bounds of legibility. The Face was probably a better read at the time and it’s design is more heralded, but i-D had its ear closer to the underground and I think it’s look was very influential on 90s magazines like Wired and Ray Gun.
In case you’ve never noticed it, the i-D logo is a winking face turned sideways (it’s one of the first emoticons), and every single cover has featured someone either winking or covering an eye. Remarkably, i-D is still going today — years after all the other “style bibles” have gone kaput — though it no longer looks like a fanzine.
Back in 1980 Terry Jones had been told there was no money in street fashion which is why he published the magazine himself. Now any new youth styles are almost immediately copied for sale on the racks at Top Shop, instantly commercialized like everything else. Photographing ordinary people’s style on the street is a fashion magazine staple now, and there are blogs dedicated to it. Sadly all the cool indie boutiques and markets of Chelsea and Kensington that used to be in i-D have been replaced by chains and cell phone shops.
Here’s some dirty funk from 1984 that the i-D club kids would have been dancing to at the time. I know I did.
Download: In The Streets – Prince Charles & The City Beat Band (mp3)