By late 1975, Gary Valentine was the first to cut his hair short; then Stein and Burke did the same and adopted a retro 1960s style. “There’s a picture of Debbie and me walking down Fourteenth Street,” Clem Burke said, “and everyone is looking at us, and I’m wearing what you would call a slim-fit suit. They weren’t looking at us because we were famous, because we weren’t yet. We just didn’t dress like everyone else then.” During the early years of the CBGB scene, no one had Mohawks or any of the other styles that are now punk clichés. The people on the scene mostly took their inspiration from Beatlemania-era fashion: black jeans and skinny ties. It was a pronounced contrast from the prevailing trends of the time, when earth tones, blue denim, and bell-bottoms prevailed. Designers weren’t in the habit of making black slim-fit jeans and suits—and even if they were, the members of Blondie didn’t have the money to buy new clothes. Instead, Burke purchased thrift store suits, wore them in a tub full of water, and then walked around in the summer so that the clothes would shrink around his body. “Everybody loved the skinny ties,” Lisa Jane Persky recalled. “There was a place in New Jersey where they had brand-new ‘old stock.’ It was all these old peg-leg pants from the early sixties, and they were brand new. We used to go there and get stuff all the time.” Burke once bought a bunch of unworn 1960s clothes from that store—such as Levi’s Sta-Prest jeans and button-down collar polka dot shirts—then lugged them to the Blondie loft. Some of those items ended up on the cover of the band’s debut album, because the guys in the band often shared clothes.
From Chapter 31 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore