60s Fashion and its Origins in Subcultures

This weekend, across the valley, businesses will come together to celebrate a truly transformative decade. Here at The Whitaker, we’ve been looking at all the ways that the 60s changed the lives of those in the valley at the time, including music, food and nostalgic stories (the Astoria has had a fair few mentions). 

A highly influential part of this era were the fashions, which were usually driven by the prevalence of youth culture. In this post, we’ll be discussing those subcultures that sprung up over the decade and the trends that they created.

Mod culture is hard to pin down with its influence being dated back to many different sources. One thing that can be agreed upon was its original basis in modern jazz music and sharply tailored, Italian-inspired suiting. 

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As the decade progressed so did the symbols synonymous to mod culture; cafes and coffee bars with jazz infused jukeboxes featuring black American R&B bands or British bands who were influenced by them, such as the Small Faces and the Who. For the boys; three-button, 14” bottom, mohair suits fishtail parkas; Fred Perry polos, Hush Puppies, and a Vespa with 20 or more mirrors. For the girls, Mary Quant mini skirts, shift dresses and a twin set with capri pants. The doe eyed eyelash look, famously doned by model Twiggy paired with a cat eye look was a must as well as blonde pixie cut or blunt brown bob. 

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Rockers were the notorious rivals of the mods. Favouring motorcycles (usually factory bought and modified for racing) over Lambrettas and Vespas that were the vehicle of choice for the Mods. Synonymous with motorcycle gangs and dirty leathers, they were also referred to as Cafe Racers and were perceived as a rough and violent crowd.

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Rocker fashion style was born out of necessity which meant they donned a large amount of leather clothing, usually heavily decorated with studs, pins and patches. Paired with Levis’ or Wrangler jeans; white or black t-shirts; and tall motorcycle boots (typically made of Lewis’ Leather). As for hair; voluminous, pompadour hairstyles which were popularised by the rock ‘n’ roll stars of the 1950s were their style of choice. This fashion translated fairly unisex, with girls also wearing leather jackets, jeans and t-shirts, but usually paired this styled this with heavy black eyeliner and smudged black eyeshadow. 

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Beatniks were a less than mainstream approach to fashion during the 60s. Influenced by writers, artists, musicians and poets, this underground subculture was epitomized by celebrities such as Andy Warhol and Jack Kerouac. 

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The Beatnik style reflected much of their rejection of materialism, staying simple and casual. Tight fitted, cotton shirts; black turtlenecks paired with black jeans and shoes; striped shirts; and the all important, beret (black of course). Women’s style much reflected this but included some important pieces, including capri pants, stirrup slacks and pencil skirts.

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Hippies (or hippy) first began to take shape in America during the mid-60s, translating from the early Beatnik scene, to new movement entirely, one that was conscious of political and ecological climates. 

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Hippie fashion was influenced by its free-spirited ideals. Men and women would wear jeans and grow their hair long, which might seem typical by today’s standard but during a time that conservatism was the norm, this was an outlandish statement. A lot of the clothing was Native American, African and Eastern influenced and usually paired with bell-bottoms, vests and tie dyed garments. As an act of defiance against corporate culture, much of this clothing was self-made or bought through flea markets and then modified. Men would often grow their beards long and women would wear minimal make-up (a complete contrast to the Mod/Rocker/Beatnik style).

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These subcultures have had a massive impact on today’s trends. Cord skirts and denim jackets; shift dresses and mini skirts, parkas and berets; leather jackets and Dr Martens boots; are all trends that have continued to permeate through to the 21st Century. That’s why we’re inviting you to celebrate these innovations in fashion this weekend. Whether you identify with the Mods, Rockers, Hippies or Beatniks, we want to see you dressed in your best vintage garb. If you’re lacking, join us at the Revival vintage clothes stall or bring the kids and experice the Magic Wardrobe.