1960s Mens Fashion: Peacocks, Pacifists and Psychedelics

For men and women, the sixties were a fashion watershed. 1960s mens fashion changed dramatically, but not immediately. As the spirit of the decade spread throughout youth culture, teens adopted hippie styles and, in time, trendy fashions left an indelible mark on clothing styles, even transforming the business suit.

Dramatic Changes

Though teen fashions became more central than ever before, not all men were teenagers. In London, the heartland of the sixties fashion revolution, conventional gents in bowler hats and pinstripe suits still commuted to their offices in the City.

But thanks to men who were young, trendy and stylish enough to embrace the new mood, men's fashions changed more dramatically than in any previous decade.

In formal and informal wear, sixties fashion celebrated color, prompting the phrase 'the peacock revolution'. Even the dinner jacket became colorful. Instead of the drab, utilitarian materials of conventional suits, velvet became a style option, as did new man-made fibres.

Dinner jackets drew on the look of the Regency dandy. An alternative was the double- breasted neo-Edwardian jacket. Formal shirts sported conspicuous ruffles.

Pop stars at the start of the sixties still wore conservative suits, as early footage of the Beatles and other bands of the decade prove. Yet, business suits were evolving, jackets adopted wider lapels, and were worn with shirts with larger collars.

At the same time, the collar-less Nehru jacket enjoyed temporary popularity. Bolder prints and weaves also became more popular, as did wide ties (if worn at all). This was the era of flared trousers, and in informal wear, bell- bottom jeans.

The sixties style ethos, and its core shallowness, was roundly satirised in the Kink's song 'Dedicated follower of fashion'. It tells of a man whose clothes were 'loud but never square'. 'One week he's in polka dots, the next week he's in stripes...'

Another notable development in 1960s mens fashion in Britain was linked to the subculture of the Mods (short for 'modernists'). The Mods adopted a suave and stylish, tailored look, bucking the trend for wide cuts in favour of jackets with narrow lapels, thin ties and a European sophistication. This was, after all, the decade of individualism, and conformity was pass'e.

Key Influences: Idividualism & Non-Conformity

Though the clich'e of the 1960s fashion is that of the flower child, the hippy look never became the dominant style for young people of the era, although it was often standard on university campuses and in the new alternative communities that sprang up in this decade. Nor did it really catch on until the end of the sixties, when certain disillusionment with pop and mod styles and conspicuous consumption set in. In came Eastern philosophy, kaftans and unisex clothing.

Counterculture fashion of the 1960s had a profound effect on youth style that continued into the following decade. Flowing robes, T-shirts with political messages and images (peace signs and Che Guevara), tie-dyed fabrics and psychedelic were some of the hallmarks of the hippie style.

In this age of individualism, a variety of style role models were available, but with pop stars, counterculture figures and movie icons prominent. The Mods took style tips from French cinema, while movies like Easy Rider and the musical Hair promoted the hippie look. 1960s mens fashion represented a real break with the conventions of many decades and helped change the way men dressed forever.

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