No one knew what the phrase meant but the band that coined it would change the landscape of pop forever. Who am I talking about, the Spice Girls of course!
The five straight talking girls burst on to the pop scene in July 1996 with their debut single Wannabe which stayed number one for seven weeks. I was a broke thirteen year old, attempting to record their Top of the Pops performance of the song onto a blank cassette tape while flushing with embarrassment as my Dad announced about Mel B ‘I wouldn’t mind her boots under my bed!’
The Spice Girls were a girl band who embraced individuality with their five alter egos Scary, Ginger, Posh, Baby and Sporty. They were something teenagers of the nineties could look up to with their girl power philosophy. It was a new modern feminism. It taught girls to believe in themselves and take control of their lives as well as the importance of solidarity with female friends. They loved to make a statement at every opportunity – who can forget Ginger Spice pinching Prince Charles’ bum at the Royal Variety or that Union Jack dress at the Brit Awards!
Over twenty years later, it would appear their popularity hasn’t diminished with people last weekend, rushing to announce on social media that they have secured tickets for their comeback tour next year. I never saw them tour in their heyday but did go to their 2008 reunion tour. For me this time round isn’t going to be the same as they are only touring as a foursome, with Victoria too busy on her fashion line.
This year I visited SpiceUp, an exhibition about the Spice Girls at the Business Design Centre, Islington London, with my sister-in-law. Now me being me, I always have to get into the theme and dressed in a denim mini from Oasis, a Spice Girls t-shirt from their 2008 reunion tour and platform shoes from New Look, with a mini backpack also from New Look and Union Jack ribbons in my hair.
The exhibition is a collection of costumes worn by the Spice Girls over the years on stage and in TV appearances as well as extensive memorabilia. It’s creator is Alan Smith Allison, who started collecting memorabilia aged fifteen. It takes you through their many albums and singles and even includes some items and costumes from their solo careers. The Spice Bus from the film Spice World, released in 1997, was the star of the show. I remember Mum and Dad getting me the video of the film which came in a celebratory tin.
I really enjoyed Viva Forever, the musical of 2013, that critics were very critical of and closed early due to financial losses. There was some merchandise from this on display.
Some of the costumes, especially the shoes were unbelievably outlandish and surprisingly most of them looked fairly cheaply made, although there were some designer pieces. I was disappointed that Geri’s Brit Awards Union Jack dress wasn’t part of the exhibition. I remember going to a Spice Girls themed birthday party where the birthday girl wore a replica of that dress.
Pop merchandise for the group took off in a way it had for no other band before or since. They launched channel five and endorsed Pepsi, Chupa Chups, Impulse deodorant and Walkers crisps to name a few. Their faces appeared on everything from collectable photos to dolls, to duvets! At the end of 1997, it was estimated they had earned over £300 million in marketing deals that year. The exhibition even had Pepsi cans with the ring pulls missing, which fans (including me) collected to get a special single – Step to me.
Despite being a young fan who idolised Geri Halliwell, I didn’t think I had that much memorabilia, but as we walked around the exhibition, it appeared I owned rather more than I first thought! “I had that” became a well used phrase.
It was a great blast from the past and it would appear that fashion wise, the Spice Girls aren’t the only thing from the nineties having a come back. Checked suits as worn by Cher in the nineties classic film Clueless have flooded the high street this autumn. I lived in my Benetton sweatshirt in the nineties and it appears sweatshirts are the jumper of choice once again this season. I have two lovely ones from Oasis and one from Joy. Even Buffalo platform trainers have tried to make a comeback!
If you have enjoyed this trip done memory lane, it’s not too late to visit the exhibition and Spice up your life! The exhibition is showing at Intu, Watford now, until 31 December 2018 – say you’ll be there!