“Image isn’t everything – desire is.” Or so said the advertisements of the day. But just saying so confirmed that, in fact, image was everything. The colors and styles that replaced school uniforms and drab clothing signaled to anyone walking within ten meters of someone else just who they were dealing with. New uniforms announced whether you were in the presence of local provincial royalty or just another unpredictable street thug. Clothes could also help avoid political misunderstandings in daily life. After all, it was obvious what a woman in a wooly beret stood for, or what views a street musician had.
But applying labels is a risky business. Even today, it’s sometimes hard to imagine how members of one political party or even one family can have different views. It’s clear now that an apparently uniform society in the 1980s had only been concealing its differences. Come the 1990s, it began to show off those differences – through clothing, language and behavior – as one more expression of newfound freedom. Literature began to display different forms of slang, and films and plays also started to pay more attention to the origins of their characters. Much was revealed through words and clothing – quickly and plainly. Did it become easier to find our bearings because of that? Not entirely, because there was more and more of everything. But it did become more fun. And we started to smile.