Right Said Fred are a curious pop phenomenon. They just manage to exist on the right side of kitsch. An inch either way and they would either be condemned as Eurovision Song Contest wannabees or too camp for broad appeal.
Their overtly sexual image came about by chance but it worked. The band pout and pose in frilly shirts, skin-tight leather jeans, fishnet catsuits and Yul Brynner haircuts. Not since Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Village People has a mainstream band sent itself up so much.
It is an image that treads a precarious path. To their too-young-to-be-a-teeny fans they are visual and fun. Look at them a different way and they are a perfectly packaged parody, sans moustaches, of the macho homosexual. Although the trio are, on balance, more straight than gay, they have the same curious appeal as Julian Clary.
Right now campness sells. Even Axl Rose, hard-living main man of Guns N’ Roses, has made his name as a macho icon wearing a cute bandana and tight white shorts.
Peter Hawker, the man responsible for Right Said Fred’s stage clothes, was on holiday when he heard that this unknown and unlikely band’s first record had become a hit. Suddenly, posters of his visual creation were being pinned up on bedroom walls up and down the country.
‘When I met them, they were running around in trackpants, vests and peaked caps. They looked awful. I didn’t take it too seriously when they said they wanted me to dress them for a photo session. The single was outrageous so I thought, why not send up their image too?’
Off came the brothers’ hair, on went clingfilm-tight stretch vinyl. ‘These were big hunky guys. I needed to set that off. I thought as their record was selling sex, they might as well look like they were too.’
Peter thought Richard in particular could ‘carry off the excesses of camp. But it’s a very masculine campness. They must never look too feminine.’
During an American tour, the boys stopped off in Houston, Texas. By then another wardrobe change had been dreamt up. Now they were squeezed into fishnet tops and Lycra all-in-ones. Says Peter: ‘I was amazed by all these big macho types that came up to them and commented on their look. “You look great, man.” “Wow, your clothes are wild.” I don’t think they understood the parody.’
By the time the band had finished their tour, their record company had received hundreds of calls asking where their clothes could be bought.
For the promotion of their third single, ‘Deeply Dippy’, Peter changed their outfits once again. This time it was luminous pink and green frilly shirts slipped into tight trousers with studded lace-up fly fastenings. He says a big high street chain became interested in the impact the look had on the public and there is talk of a Right Said Fred range of clothing.
Currently the band are going through a cowboy phase, though Right Said Fred’s brand of western is see-through chiffon shirts with 10-inch fringes. However, when they first started, their record company wanted them to wear smart suits with nothing underneath. The brains behind this idea thought they could whip off their jackets after the first line (‘I’m too sexy for my shirt’).
Peter thought differently. ‘I didn’t think they should look slick in the George Michael sense. I would never put them in suits. Nor should they wear the rock star kit of jeans and T-shirt. They need a fun image. I always believe in sexy, but you don’t need to reveal all the body – just insinuate some bits by emphasising body underneath. Now men, straight and gay, have started copying their look.’
This is an edited extract, click to read on