Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Vintage Fashion - Mod Men, 1960s style in England

The mod fashion of the 1960s, which I touched on recently here, was not just for women.

With WWI and WWII men's fashion, especially in England, had taken even more of a back seat than women's fashion in the first half the last century.  The wealth and relative peace of the 1960s was an opportunity for change and optimism  - a revolution was coming! The rock and roll of the 50s evolved into "Rock"  and of course "Pop", and these rock stars wanted to look good, getting rid of their working class image of frayed shirts, cloth caps and dirty fingernails.

the Beatles in suits, 1963
The Beatles, 1963
The Beatles were epitome of the mod look.  Four working class lads from Liverpool in stylish suits were an inspiration for a generation.  Adolescents followed their style lavishly, and for a while it was dismissed as purely a teen fad.  Working class Englishmen, who had always had a fear of anyone who dressed too well, followed the trend, and soon every man could be part of the 'peacock strain' that had run through the aristocracy for years.

Spike Milligan gets fitted for a suit
Spike Milligan gets fitted for a suit
Even comedian Spike Milligan, who once called himself, "the worst dressed man in Britain" got him self fitted out for a suit at Blade's, a hot  London salon started in 1963.

Blades' began with (James) Bond style clothing - Blade's was the name of Bonds club, and also the name given to Victorian Dandies - but soon began their own look "trying to lead fashion, not follow it."  Blade's designer Eric Joy began as a tea boy and apprentice in Saville Row in 1947, and in the early 60s he set up on his own, with backing from one of his younger, wealthier client's Rupert Lycett Greene, who also became a designer in the business. In 1965 photographer Cecil Beaton, a regular customer of Blades, stated "it's a marvellous combination of Carnaby Street Pizazz and Saville Row".

Carolyn Charles was another designer with a hot fashion house.  She left art school after two years and worked as an apprentice to a London courtier, a sales girl for Mary Quant and an assistant to a fashion photographer before setting up on her own at only 22.  Her big break came when buyers for Macy's in New York loved her designs and launched her in the US.  It would seem she had no more world's to conquer, until Ringo Starr came along.  Ringo loved his girlfriend's swinging dresses and asked Ms Charles to make him six swinging suits.  He soon married his girlfriend, hairdresser Maureen Cox, in one of those suits.

If you've designed for Ringo, word gets around, and Ms Charles, used to designing for women, including Cilla Black and Hayley Mills, then found herself making an Edwardian style midnight blue suit for Aussie Actor Peter Finch, "and he looks marvellous in it," said the designer.  Dancer Rudolph Nureyev then ordered a seal skin coat, and rolling Stones bad boy Mick Jagger a few corduroy suits.

Mick Jagger and Aussie actor Peter Finch getting fitted for suits at Carolyn Charles’ London salon, 1965
Mick Jagger and Aussie actor Peter Finch getting fitted for suits at Carolyn Charles’ London salon, 1965
Another hot London designer, and one himself who wanted to get away for the working man image, was Glaswegian John Stephen.  He had a chain of shops stretching down Carnaby Street, off Piccadilly - 15 shops in central London by 1967 - landing him the title "The King Of Carnaby Street" and  "The £1m Mod" in the media. Stephen worked on a formula - including short runs of colored jeans and Tees, simple three button jackets and collarless shirts, loud music, attractive staff with a free- and easy approach, and bright bold exteriors - to sell men's clothes that were right in fashion, and appealing to men from teenagers wanting a cool tee to the man who wanted a fashionable suit for the races.
60s Pop singer Mick Rowley in red leather waistcoat
Pop singer Mick Rowley in red leather waistcoat

Musician Peter Martin in a cord Norfolk Jacket by John Stephens, 1965
Musician Peter Martin in a cord Norfolk Jacket by John Stephen, 1965
John Michael, often called "the Mary Quant of menswear" was the other major London designer in the mid 60s. I quite like the leather jacket and hat combo, but not sure about the blue knit jacket.....

vintage Leather coat with Prussian collar and cord hat
Leather coat with Prussian collar and cord hat

White reefer jacket and navy fisherman's knit jacket

Caramel double breasted reefer jacket & beige jacket with prussian collar
I don't know about you, but I would love to see more young men in suits today!

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