The 60s was a remarkable time in our history on so many levels. This swift change in everything from politics to art and fashion was turned on its head. But it was the Summer of Love in 1967 that exemplified the radical nature of that shift.
Before we can understand the importance of the impact of that shift we need tot first go back 10 years in time to 1957.
Fashion in the 50s was neat and informed the perceptions of how society expected us to dress. Women dressed like women and men dressed like men. A well-dressed woman never thought to leave the house without gloves and a hat. And men would never think to wear anything other than a single colored suit and solid dress shirt to go out to dinner. In addition pants were rarely worn by women except when cleaning or attending the occasional backyard barbecue. Alcohol and cigarettes were the drug of choice. The number 1 and 2 billboard hits were sung by Pat Boone (Love Letters in the Sand) and Elvis Presley (All Shook Up). Furthermore, our involvement in the Vietnam War had just begun 1 year earlier.
In the year of the Summer of Love the notable shift in our culture was so dramatic that it epitomized the expression counterculture. It took just a handful of years for women to go from wearing pearls around their necks to wearing feathers in their hair. And everyone wore pants creating a fertile ground for the unisex movement in fashion. Women and men no longer dressed in the conformity of past generations. The youth of America was rejecting the mainstream values of their parents and exploring a different way of life.
There was nothing neat about the 60s. For those who hopped on a bus to the West Coast it was a time of self-expression and experimentation, a time of protest and a time of free love (thanks to the pill). Clothes were groovy and creativity flowed from the minds of the youthful culture.
Denim became a thing with add ons like triangular pieces of contrasting fabric sewn into the bottoms of the side seam to allow for the wearer to slip on over their boots. And yes, boots were a thing as well. Clothing was worn loose and was cleverly embroidered. Secondhand clothes were restitched and reborn. Wearing lots of bright colors were more important than fit and in some cases fit didn’t matter at all. No pressing was required as the styles became more relaxed.
Sit-ins and love-ins replaced the backyard barbecue. But gloves and hats were still worn by the counterculture however, they were inspired more by sartorial irony. Pot and LSD were the drugs of choice. The number 1 and 2 billboard hits were sung by The Box Tops (The Letter) and Lulu (To Sir With Love). By 1967 we had increased our dominance in Vietnam and the counterculture was having none of it!
Whether we were there or not, 1967 brought to light a new way of thinking that called out the establishment. Fashion was not being copied or tweaked. It all came to us as novel and new. Music, art and political platforms all radically changed as well. Also extraordinary musical sounds were in the making–sounds that we had never heard before. And for the first time in quite some time we questioned authority. “Make Love Not War” was the mantra which, if we can all agree, is not a bad way to go.
Eat well, laugh a lot and be chic!