*** 20th century English boys clothes : post-war the 1960s continental influence

English Social Trends: The Swinging Sixties

Mods and Rockers
Figure 1.--At first, the encounters between Mods and Rockers were scuffles between small groups. Sudenly full out combat between large groups soccured throughout Britaun (Easter 1964). This was the scene von the High Street of Hastings. Photographer: Terry Fincher.

The 1960s as in America and Western Europe were called the Swinging or less commonly Screaming 60s depending on whether you focus on the political or cultural/sexual changes underway. Either way, it was a time of unusually intense change. Staid Britain suddenly became a hot-bed of social change. Part of it was because parents came out of the challenging Depression and World War II period. There was desire to enjoy life and the prosperity of the 1950s enable them to so. And this generated a permissiveness that allowed the Baby Boomer generation to express itself with a level of tolerance unusual for other generations in the relatively rigid British social system. Their parents had neither the time or opportunity to find their own identity. They had to think about finding a job during the Depression or dodging NAZI bombs during the War. The baby boomers embraced the new cultural environment. We see the emergence of distinctive trends in fashion, music, dance, and entertainment. Fashion is the easiest changes to follow, but there were many more important changes underway. There were important social and cultural events which impacted English society. The clash between Mods and Rockers made headlines, but many other changes were even more important. The 1960s in particular were a decade of rapid change. The mere speed of change was a powerful element of the 60s. The pace of life picked up markedly from the more easy going 50s. Charlie Fleischer may have phrased it best when he said, "If you remember the '60s, you really weren’t there.”

The Generation

Teenagers in the 1960s, were the first generation of British teenagers that were not subjected to military conscription. Young people in the 60s managed to emerge with unheard of freedom of expression and the ability to do what they wanted. Their parents had spent their youth fighting the NAZIs for Britain's very existence and endured severe rationing for nearly a decade after the War. Many wanted their own children to actually enjoy their youth and have more fun and freedom than they had as youth. And by the early-1960s, teenagers were already very different than their parents as teenagers. More than anything, they were a generation less willing to defer to their elders than any other in history.


We see a many new fashion trends in the 1960s. The variety of these trends for both men and women was phenomenal. There was a notable shift toward more individualistic and openly rebellious styles. Colorful and unconventional clothing became popular among young people, especially teens and young adults. Children fashions more directed, but no longer dictated, by parents were more controlled but there were still notable change. More young people than ever before wanted to express their individuality through what they wore and in an increasingly permissive society were able to do just that. A major fashion trend of the 1960s was the 'hippie look'. This meant by loose-fitting clothing, long hair, and casual fashions with psychedelic prints and vibrant colors. These fashions fit in with a casual lifestyle. This style was closely associated with the growing counterculture movement and became a symbol of the counter-culture revolution. Hippie favorites awere tie-dye shirts, bell-bottom jeans, and hemp jewelry. Music played an out-sized role in shaping cultural and fashion trends in the 1960s. The rise of rock music, particularly bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, inspired new fashion styles of dressing that became known unsurprisingly as 'rock and roll fashion'. This might mean tight-fitting T-shirts, leather jackets, and jeans for young men. Mini-skirts and knee-high boots were popular with young women. As is often the case, it is women's fashions that usually define a decade. And nothing says the 1960s more than the mini. These fashions in many ways mirrored the social changes underway in the 60s. It was iconic British fashion designer Mary Quant became famous for popularizing the mini-skirt -- turning it into the iconic image of the 60s. It was female version of the Mod fashion movement. The mini was symbolic -- essentially the embodiment of free and liberating young women. They could now 'run and jump'. Showing the ankles was scandalous in the 1910s. You can imagine the impact of the mini. Quant's Her fashion designs employed basic geometric shapes and bright colors. Women now free to wear playful, youthful clothes that would have seemed outrageously indecent only 10 years earlier. These styles gradually filtered down to children and not just teens.


The 1960s were a time of enormous great musical innovation, with several distinct styles of music emerging. And music would be the defining aspect of the 60s. American music was impacting Britain. Rock music was born in America with Elvis Presley a leading light. Folk music was still popular in the early-60s, but the rock and roll music phenomenon of the 1950s rose to new heights. Rock music dominated the decade. Rock music began affecting on Britain in the 1950s, but at first because of American music. It was not until the early-60s and the emergence of the ‘British Invasion’ that groups like The Beatles, that rock began its revolutionary impact on Britain. It is the Beatles that exemplify how Rock influenced the lives of young Britons. The Beatles continued the rock and roll genre of the 1950s early in the decade, iy was 'Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; that was a kind of turning point in music history, in both Britain and America. They inspired other musicians, such as The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones, to experiment with all kinds of new sounds and develop truly innovative pieces. It was these later albums included lyrics seen as encouraging rebellious behavior. Young people began to increasingly stand up for their non-conforming beliefs and the ability to express their individuality.


The movies had become an important industry in the 1910s. Radio became important after World War I, but unlike America under government control (1920s). The talkies appeared (1930s). Television or the small screen replaced radio after World War II (1950s). Many Brits brought their first TV so they could view Queen Elizabeth's coronation (1953). Television continued to grow with both technological and content innovation (1960s). It has been observed that the 1950s were in black and white, the 60s were in color. The introduction of color television led to advancing the viewing experience. New channels appeared beyond the three networks. We see MTV and HBO which began a significant of the options available to viewers. The same was true for the movies where film for the most part became made in color.


Recreational drugs usage was virtually synonymous with the 1960s. It was not as serious a problem in Britain as in America. We are not entirely sure why. We suspect that young people had access to less money than in America. We also suspect there was a stringer tradition of individualism in America. Drug usage was an increasing problem by the late-60s, in both America and Britain. The Woodstock Music Festival in America was enormously influential (1969). Images of people in Hippie dress, openly using marijuana and LSD, dancing in the open with painted faces and long hair flowing free in the open hair is a symbol of the 1960s even though it occurred at the end of the decade (1969). People in the entertainment industry were especially drawn to drugs. And from their platform, they were influencing young people. They were susceptible because like all young people looking for fun. And heavily influenced by film and music idols, many followed the siren call of hallucinogenic drugs. Drugs like LSD engendered a happy, optimistic feel without any real effort on their part. It was a factor in the growth of the hippie movement. The dramatic effects of these drugs were depicted in psychedelic art and films, resulting in the popularity of vibrant and exciting colors and patterns. The Beatles' 'Yellow Submarine' film with its mixture of psychedelic images and music show this dramatically.


Britain and other Europeans were not involved in America's efforts to save South Vietnam. But Britain and other European countries were impacted. The Cold War was primarily about the future of Europe more specifically Germany. Soviet propaganda was having an impact. Many Europeans had begun to think that there was little difference between America and the Soviets and that the great danger was a nuclear war. They also were seeing the American effort as a colonial war. Britain didn't participate in the Vietnam War, but scenes of War appeared on British TV. And celebrities like John Lennon brought helped raise the issue by helping organize the through protests against the conflict. Beautiful songs like 'Give Peace a Chance' attempted to simplify the issue of war. The horrors of war are unquestioned. Pointlessness is another matter. Actually without war there would be no United States. Slavery would still exist. Hitler and the NAZIs would control the world. Many young people are prone to follow their idols rather than read a history book. delve into the actual facts. Peace and freedom are beautiful things. The great tragedy of human existence is that freedom is often only achievable with war. Hitler offered Britain peace in 1940, but the British people in 1940 led by Prime-Minister Churchill understood that that Hitler's peace meant the loss of freedom. Many Brits and Europeans during the 1960s were more set on peace than freedom. The Ban the Bomb movement merged with the Pacifists that almost resulted brought about the end of Western civilization in the 1930s. Pacifism was a mainsty of the Hippie Movement.

Profumo Affair (1963)

The Profumo Affair was a distinctly British affair. It was a headline-grabbing scandal, mixing sex, spies and government. It had a little bit of something for just about everyone's taste and captured the public's attention. The Secretary for War John Profumo was found to be having an affair with a woman who was connected to a Soviet military attaché. Profumo at first denied the affair but later admitted that he had lied before the House of Commons and resigned. The Affair fundamentally changed the relationship between government. Chamberlain and Appeasement should have dine that (1930s). But it was the Promumo affair with the dded sex component fundamentally undermined the public’s trust in their politicians. The added to the growing loss of the traditional deference to established authority. The authority once respected was now being replaced with suspicion and mistrust, especially among young people. The establishment was the target of the 60s generation, just as 'Barbie' has made the patriarchy the target of the 2020s generation


Feminism has a long history. Professors teaching feminist history normally go through a long litany of legitimate issues women have had over time. Rarefy do they, however, mention that Britain and America as well as Christian Europe in general is where women developed more rights than anywhere else in the world. Feminist professors routinely compare America and Britain with utopia. Nor do they mention that America and Britain were at the vanguard of feminism in the 19th and 20 centuries. It is in the 1960s that feminism became a real serious movement, primarily in America and Britain. More and a wider range of jobs were becoming available for women. This allowed unmarried women to move away from home and become independent young women. Also we see more women attending university which had enormous implications fir the future. England legalized the contraceptive pill for all women (1967). This also had a range of social consequences, giving women more choices about when and if to have babies. Britain's Women’s Liberty movement was just beginning to function. At a Ford factory in Dagenham, 850 women went on strike, demanding equal pay with their male co-workers (1968). This would result in Parliament passing of the Equal Pay Act (1970). Women were also becoming increasingly involved in politics. Barbara Castle became the first and only woman to be appointed First Secretary of State (1968). Mrs. Thatcher was still a little over a decade away, but British women erre beginning to finding a voice in society and government. Feminists continue to make equal pay an issue, but today the impediments are biology and choice. First, women have babies which can disrupt promising careers. Second, many women choose careers that do not have the highest salary paths.


There were important technological advances in the 1960s. Largely unnoticed at the time, in part because of Sputnik, most were coming from the United States. Interestingly, much of the technology was World War II secret searcher begun by Britain. Unfortunately for the British people, the Labour (Socialist) Government was more interested in building socialism and the welfare state than an actual functioning modern economy which could pay for the welfare state. So it was the Americans who ran with it. The Soviets were actually doing important scientific work, but they were intent on keeping it secret, so their own factories and business reaped little from the massive expenditures in research and weapons development, in sharp contrast to American business. Some of the World War II technology was leading to increasingly important consumer products. A major impact was how people spent their leisure time. The economic advances meant that people were earning more and had more money and spending more on leisure pursuits. Products like color television and pocket transistor radios affected how and when people could listen to music as well as the enjoyment from television. Transistor radios were a must have for teenagers. The microwave oven and other labor saving devices was free women from the drudgery of housekeeping or at least lessening it, freeing up more leisure time. The Space Race ended with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin reaching the moon (1969). Of course that did not much effect people's everyday lives, but the technology that got them there was going to lead to massive changes go come--most notably computers and consumer electronics. .

The Mods and Rockers

One of the colorful developments during the Swinging 60s was the rise of the Mods and Rockers. The Baby Boomer generation was a hotbed of social change around the world. The baby boomers were coming of age in the 60s and the result was tumult. The result in Britain was the Mods and Rockers. They were were unlike any previous generation. Compared to the baby boomers the generation following World War I were conservative traditionalists. The baby boomers were adventurous even rebellious. They were eager to create their own identities. Their parents dis not have the time for such self absorption. Both groups had little regard for British traditions, especially the Rockers. Two now iconic youth movements appeared: the Mods and the Rockers. A culture clash ensued. The Rockers out fitted themselves in American-style leather motorcycle jackets and Doc Marten boots. The Mods wore stylish suits with tight cut pants. The Rockers embraced super-masculinity and were all about their souped-up motorcycles. The outfitted themselves in black leather jackets, white T-shirts, jeans, and motorcycle boots. They looked very much like American motorcycle gangs. They are believed to have been inspired by Marlon Brando's iconic character in the Hollywood film 'The Wild One' (1953). The Rockers might sport pompadour hairstyle and sideburns. They loved rock as well as rhythm and blues music to a lesser extent. Some of the performers that tuned in on included Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, and Bo Diddley. British rock stars included Billy Fury and Johnny Kidd. There was, however, nothing in America quite like the Mods. Their focus was on fashion and music. Rather than motorcycles they lavished their attention on motor-scooters. Mods outfitted themselves in stylish suits with tight cut pants. There music tastes were more eclectic. They might choose jazz, soul, Motown, ska, and British blues bands like the Yardbirds, the Small Faces, and the Who.Energized by surging hormones, youthful rebellion, and the rousing Rock music, the mods and rockers there were street fights when groups encountered each other. The fights was never on the level of American gang violence, but it shocked the British public. The cultural impact is difficult to assess. The media began covering the two groups when encounters between the twp groups, sometimes called tribes, erupted into fighting (Easter 1964). They began to be seen as violent, unruly troublemakers and there were widespread recrimination about British youth descending into delinquency and deviance.


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Created: 5:16 PM 2/23/2024
Last updated: 5:16 PM 2/23/2024