Do the Popcorn- How Belgium Saved Black Music Part 3: The Style

Music and clothes have always been linked in subcultural scenes, but Popcorn, with its elusive essence and down-to-earth simplicity, can bring tailored suits and ’80s synthetic tracksuits on the same dancefloor.
Popcorn main
The groove, Ostende, 1970. Picture from:

Before 2000-2004 few had heard about popcorn outside Belgium. The work of labels such as Mojo Records (US) and Soulful Torino (IT) and club nights like Pow Wow (UK) brought this new consciousness to Europe and the UK.

Stafford’s Top of the World northern soul nights were first responsible for mixing popcorn rhythms with classic northern soul thanks to DJ Keb Darge.

After more than 10 years popcorn is now a solid reality within soul, R’n B or mod nights, so these Belgium mass-public rhythms are exported to nights where dress code is as essential as music.

The Groove, Ostende, 1970. Picture from:

DJ and clothes designer Scott Fraser Simpson says: “I don’t think there is a style for popcorn. It really depends on the night, whether it is more soul or mod and so on.”

Also the day matters according to Scott. He says: “I wear suits as much as I can, but for example for a mid-week or Friday night I tend to prefer knitwear which is less formal.”

As a mass-appeal scene, popcorn never had an own peculiar clothing style, as photographs of ‘80s dancers in thick moustaches, mullet haircuts and eye-catching acrylic cotton tracksuits attest. Even today, due to its down-to-earth popular appeal, Belgium dancefloors are filled with nearly kitsch clobber.

Due to its mass-public appeal popcorn dancefloors always mirrored contemporary trends, like the original northern soul scene where the dresscode was not too different from the average British early ’70s casual look. On The Popcorn or Groove dancefloor you could have found leather coats and flares as well as vests and knitted polo shirts, topped with some iconic sportswear elements in the style of Adidas or Puma.

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Recent contacts with the mod scene and the nostalgia element have now brought retro outfits ranging from the 50s to the mid-60s to Belgian dancefloors as well.

As often happens in music, though, the greatest record collectors and DJs are those above suspicion and lousiest-dressed ones. How clothes should be sported when playing rhythms so versatile as popcorn ones becomes a matter of personal tastes.

Federico Voria, founder of Soulful Torino, says: “There’s no point in dressing as at a masquerade if then you have records reproductions.”

Teen Scene DJ Scott Fraser Simpson (right) believes music can’t be separate from style.

Scott, instead, believes that music can’t go alone without style and tries to get a balance. He says: “I can’t understand those people spending everything on records to the point they don’t go on holidays for years.”

Undoubtedly in the UK three-buttoned mohair suits and Weejun Bass loafers are preferred due to sub-cultural reasons and as Federico recalls: “At a Pow Wow night I was the only one wearing trainers.”

Read more about Popcorn here:

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