Frankie Knuckles rocking GA

Frankie Knuckles rocking GA

The Giorgio Armani – 'GA' – and the chicago house scene, by Elbert S. PhillipS.

During the long, hot summer of 1983 my preppie look was all about fresh Polo Ralph Lauren. I thought I had the current Chicago club  look perfected. I even took a chance and ventured to the Playground – a teenage juice bar on 14th & Michigan where Farley 'Funkin' Keith of the WBMX Hot Mix 5 was the Saturday Night resident – on my own.  The Playground attracted the hippest kids, and hottest girls. 
But Stan, my sister’s boyfriend at the time, told me that I needed to get up on what he called “GA", Giorgio Armani.
I thought back to that first night, standing in line to get in at the Playground. There were two separate lines for entry, one for girls and one for guys. Every guy in line had on a Ralph Lauren shirt, be it a polo, or one of the many button-down pastel colours. Until that conversation with Stan, all I could see was Polo and Izod. Everyone wore Polo Rlph Lauren and Izod Lacoste. Both preppy brands could be found at discount shops like Marshalls if you wanted to avoid downtown prices, which were $16.50 for an Izod Lacoste shirt, and $22.50 for Polo. 
But, the GA Golden Eagle wasn’t quite as common; it was the next level.


I got closer to the burgeoning Chicago underground House music culture that mixed fashion with music.  You would find the kids who were trendy, and or those who utilized fashion as a means of expression, at places like the Muzic Box, and Powerplant. Here Giorgio Armani, Parachute (Harry Parnass & Nicola Pelly’s edgy Canadian line) and Kansai were some of the designer labels that were symbols of status within these spaces.
If you were into Giorgio Armani, you traded your shirts and or sweaters with someone who had an equally clever garment. Or you shopped (perhaps shoplifted) at the smaller specialty stores like Bigsby & Kruthers on North Clark Street in Lincoln Park, and Syd Jerome on Monroe just east of LaSalle in the financial district.
There was a Bigsby & Kruthers in Evergreen Plaza on Chicago’s Southside, and that store got pillaged big time when the GA tank top was stocked! By 1986, GA t-shirts and sportswear featured the GA eagle and typeface in printed or embroidered form on shirts, and sweaters. It was the first run of Giorgio Armani garments from 1981-1985 in which the GA Golden Eagle was in patch form, with Emporio Armani being the exception.
The Playhouse in that July of '83 vibrated to the sounds of  imported European dance music: such as Feel the Drive by The Doctor's CatNew Order's Confusion, Freeze's IOU and Stopp's I'm Hungry. We were HOUSE before HOUSE and we wore the  GA Eagle proudly.


The end of the 1983 / 84  season saw the sportswear era well  and truly over. And like the club kids in Chicago, the dressers at the match looked towards European knitwear for inspiration in the one-upmanship stakes.
Just like the African-American  dancers in Chicago's teen clubs, it was those GA jumpers that caught the attention of the Herberts whom Saturday afternoons well and truly belonged to.
Browns, 'up west' on South Molton street, was truly a step up from Stuarts in Shepherds Bush. It was where Rod Stewart and Bryan Ferry dressed; for West End girls, not east end boys. The golden eagle on the arm was everything that summer, as kids danced to Herbie Hancock’s Rockit and Shannon’s Let the Music Play in disco pubs. These aped San Antonio bars, down the (far from gentrified) Hackney and Old Kent roads. Although strangely enough, back ‘up west ‘, the GA eagle would probably get you a KB at the Wag or Mudd Club, from the door whores quite rightly worried about Casuals .

The Armani Eagle remains a Casual icon and a 'must-want' for younger collectors who have created a scene of their own with vintage GA. Unlike other styles of that era, there have been no reissues. So there's no middle aged  Adidi-Dads squeezing into the garms, and no films with cartoon  characters wearing the eagle. Perhaps it's for those reasons that it's remembered with such reverence.

Issue FourSteve Beale