11 episodes

Gus Casely-Hayford unpicks the hidden histories behind what we wear by exploring ten key moments in fashion spanning the globe and five centuries.

Torn BBC Radio 4

    • History
    • 5.0 • 4 Ratings

Gus Casely-Hayford unpicks the hidden histories behind what we wear by exploring ten key moments in fashion spanning the globe and five centuries.

    Air Jordans

    Air Jordans

    It's 1985. Nike is hoping to finally get a foot into the world of basketball. They're gearing up for a new release of basketball boots that 21-year-old rookie Michael Jordan wears during a pre-season match for the Chicago Bulls. The National Basketball Association then tries to ban the trainers on the basis that they break the league’s rule stipulating that players must wear shoes that are either 51% black or 51% white.

    
In the tenth episode of Torn, Gus Casely-Hayford tells the story of how Nike’s response kickstarts a revolution in trainers that turns a simple sports shoe into one of the most covetable fashion items of all time. Jordan saw his sponsorship deal with Nike morph into a multi-billion-dollar business making him the richest athlete of all time.


    Casely-Hayford finds that from the early noughties, the lines between fashion and sportswear blurred further. Enter some of the world's most renowned fashion designers. Designer Air Jordans regularly adorn the feet of celebrities from rappers Drake and A$AP Rocky, to the supermodel Naomi Campbell and tennis star Roger Federer. But Air Jordans have a dark side that have spurred riots, robberies, and even murders committed by those desperate to get their feet in a pair.
    With the curator Ligaya Salazar and the artist David White.


    A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
    Presenter: Gus Casely-Hayford
    Executive Producer: Rosie Collyer
    Assistant Producer: Nadia Mehdi
    Researcher: Zeyana Yussuf
    Production Coordinator: Francesca Taylor
    Sound Design: Rob Speight

    • 15 min
    Ray-Ban

    Ray-Ban

    In 1920, during a record-breaking test flight in a single-engine fighter plane, things almost went fatally wrong for the pilot Major Rudolph 'Shorty' Schroeder. He lost consciousness but came round just in time to land at McCook Airport in Ohio State. When his colleague Lieutenant John MacReady pulled him out of the cockpit, he was shocked to see that Major Schroeder’s eyeballs had frozen. It was the catalyst that led Lieutenant MacReady to embark on a mission to help design protective eyewear for military pilots that resulted in Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses.
    In the ninth episode of Torn Gus Casely-Hayford charts the history of Ray-Ban sunglasses, and explores how a piece of protective equipment designed for pilots, evolved to become an iconic fashion item worn by presidents, actors and rock stars looking for a dose of classic cool whilst shielding their emotions or their hangovers from paparazzi and the public.
 Casely-Hayford finds that Ray-Ban owe their success to embedding themselves with a powerful ally, first the US military, then with Hollywood, that has catapulted their sunglasses far beyond function and firmly into the realm of fashion.

    With anthropologists Aron Cromwell and Sally Applin, and pilot Ben Jenkins.

    A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
    Presenter: Gus Casely-Hayford
    Executive Producer: Rosie Collyer
    Researcher: Zeyana Yussuf
    Production Coordinator: Francesca Taylor
    Sound Design: Nicholas Alexander

    • 15 min
    Miniskirt

    Miniskirt

    It's 1965 and London is about to become the capital of cool.

    Designer Mary Quant is watching the fashionable girls of Chelsea go by from the window of her shop, Bazaar. Their hemlines seem to be getting shorter and shorter. Inspired, Mary gets to work and what she comes up with many will find deeply shocking. It’s the miniskirt.

    In episode eight of Torn, Gus Casely-Hayford finds that media, society and feminists can never agree on whether the miniskirt is a good thing. Fashion historian Valerie Steele draws parallels with the 1920s when feminist disagreed over whether the knee-length flapper skirt was frivolous, or favourable to feminism. 


    Gus discovers that when Mary Quant popularised the miniskirt in the 1960s, no matter what the papers or parents had to say about them, girls and young women were desperate to get their hands on one. Eve Shrewsbury was one of them, and she shocked the older generation in her village in rural Northamptonshire by wearing a miniskirt. Fast forward to 2019 when Clara Mitchell decides to wear a miniskirt to high school in Little Rock, Arkansas and the controversy surrounding her decision goes viral.


    Presenter: Gus Casely-Hayford
    Executive Producer: Rosie Collyer
    Producer: Tiffany Cassidy
    Assistant Producer: Nadia Mehdi
    Production Coordinator: Francesca Taylor
    Sound Design: Rob Speight

    A Novel production for BBC Radio 4

    • 15 min
    Fisherman Sweater

    Fisherman Sweater

    Fisherman sweaters have been part of fishing communities around the world for centuries. They're knitted with wool, often with unique and intricate designs, and can take more than a hundred hours to make.

    In episode seven of Torn, Gus Casely-Hayford sets out to discover if it's possible for traditional clothing to live on in a world where machines manufacture clothing at record speeds and record low prices.

    The story begins in the early 1900s off the Isle of Lewis in the Scottish Hebrides with two fishermen clad in traditional woollen sweaters known there as ganseys, and continues in the present day with their descendant Alice Starmore who is the only person to have documented local knitting patterns in a published book.

    
Gus discovers that the tradition has come under the spotlight over the decades thanks to celebrity pizzazz. In 1950, the fashion magazine Vogue photographed Grace Kelly sailing, decked out in a cream cabled Irish fisherman sweater. Recently, Adam Driver wore a chunky white cable knit in the Hollywood movie House of Gucci, and the sweater worn by Chris Evans in Knives Out was a viral sensation. Yet the tradition of knitting fisherman sweaters is being lost as fishing communities die out in towns such as Filey on the coast of Yorkshire, where Margaret Taylor is one of very few people still able to knit them.

    Presenter: Gus Casely-Hayford
    Executive Producer: Rosie Collyer
    Producers: Tiffany Cassidy, Janieann McCracken
    Assistant Producer: Nadia Mehdi
    Production Coordinator: Francesca Taylor
    Sound Design: Rob Speight

    A Novel production for BBC Radio 4

    • 14 min
    Readymade Suit

    Readymade Suit

    It's 1848 and a London-based company is changing the way that clothes are made and sold. E Moses and Son operate out of striking buildings across the capital. Men from all points of the compass are converging on the store with one thing in mind. They want a suit. 

    
In episode six of Torn, Gus Casely-Hayford finds that quick returns, division of labour, economies of scale and thoughtful innovative investment in advertising are among what will shape the history and present of low cost fashion. 

    While there is no evidence that E Moses and Son used sweated labour, their innovation led to plenty of their competitors to do so, particularly sweated women. 
Gus explores how the advent of sweatshops in the 1860s gave rise to exploitation in the garment industry. From the British city of Leicester that saw higher than average infection rates during COVID, to the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka where over 1000 workers died in a building collapse in 2014, the legacy of exploitation continues to the present day.

    With historian Sheila Blackburn, child labourer-turned-activist Kalpona Akter, and archival material from the readymade suit manufacturers E Moses and Sons.

    Presenter: Gus Casely-Hayford
    Executive Producer: Rosie Collyer
    Producer: Tiffany Cassidy
    Assistant Producer: Nadia Mehdi
    Production Coordinator: Francesca Taylor
    Sound Design: Rob Speight

    A Novel production for BBC Radio 4

    • 14 min
    Viscose Rayon

    Viscose Rayon

    It's 1924 and the young Russian graduate Alexis Sommaripa, like so many migrants to the United States in the period, is looking for something new. He takes a job with a company that’s been in the viscose rayon business for about five years but wants to figure out how to sell it. He finds out that women want it to be less shiny and more soft.

    In episode five of Torn, Gus Casely-Hayford follows the astronomical rise of Sommaripa - from fleeing the Bolsheviks during Russia’s revolution to becoming a key player in the production of viscose rayon, a fabric that is widely used in fashion today as an affordable alternative to silk.

    Gus finds that, although viscose rayon has democratised fashion, it has done so at a significant cost to the environment.

    Viscose rayon is made by processing wood pulp with chemicals. This turns it into a viscous liquid, and then into threads. More than 200 million trees are logged every year and turned into cellulosic fabric, such as viscose rayon, according the the organisation Canopy.

    With professor of business history Regina Blaszczyk, sustainability expert Claire Bergkamp and extracts from Alexis Sommaripa’s autobiography.

    Novel Production for BBC Radio 4
    Presenter - Gus Casely-Hayford
    Executive Producer - Rosie Collyer
    Producer - Tiffany Cassidy
    Assistant Producer - Nadia Mehdi
    Production coordinator - Francesca Taylor
    Sound Design - Rob Speight

    • 14 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
4 Ratings

4 Ratings

bklne ,

Fascinating!

Well-researched and beautifully presented. I am really enjoying the focus on the fibers, chemistry and production techniques that go into the clothing each episode focuses on. A pleasure to listen to!

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