From the Uniformity of the Plain White Button Down to Psychedelic Colors and Flashbacks of Romance
Photo on Left and Right:
Our American Century Turbulent Years: The 60s. 1998. Edited by Sara Brash and Loretta Britten. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 168. (Photography taken by: Howell Conant, Life Magazine, Time, Inc. - Ken Duncan; Richard Davis.)
The left picture is an excellent example of the drastic approach 60’s fashion took from the plain and basic look of the 50’s male from looking “like soldiers” as they headed off to work in their almost identical suits to experimentations of all kinds (LIFE: The ‘50s 1998).
One can say that it was the feminists’ push for equality that lead to the variety in men’s fashion or that it was the feminizing in men’s fashion that helped lead to the masculinity of female fashion; but none the less, whichever came first brought the arrival of mod fashion which men soon found themselves in hair styling salons and offered variety of colors and styles, which was untraditional to that of the prior decade. Through the use of men’s fashion, the distinguishing between gender fashions was being blurred as were the roles of the decade’s people. Barber Shops, the crew cut, side part, and plain white button-down oxford were soon abandoned for the sake of style. The dramatic arrival of pink of the prior decade, as the new bold and daring color, was replaced with a million bold colors of all kinds, many times colors of which were considered psychedelic, as many tried to copy the same colors as seen in their acid dreams (Winick 1968). The gray flannel suits of the past saw their own transformation. No longer could a group of men headed for work look like one big army (American Decades: 1960-1969 1995).
With the consciousness of appearance, down to their new hairstyles, men were now becoming even more conscious about what they were wearing to the office and social occasions. The decade before, had seemed to be one of unnatural form, at least when it came to women’s fashion, with the sack-like and poofy petticoat dress, however, men’s fashion had been no different when it came to this unnaturalness in form, their suits had appeared boxy, and their solution to the problem in the 60’s was very much the same as the solution to the problem in the unnatural form of the women’s clothes, slimmer lines. (Winick 1968). By the 1960’s the jacket had become even narrower that it’s first transformation at the end of the prior decade. It was also, nipped and shortened to give a more fitted look. The shirt was not left out of this transformation either, in fact all aspects of the suits seemed to change, even right down to the shape of the tie. White was no longer the universal color, and in fact when it was still used it was often only found on the collar of a checkered, striped, or colored solid shirt. Prevalent in the 50’s, it was now overruled with the use of color and pattern (American Decades: 1960-1969 1995).
The tie much like its jacket counterpart, also took on a more narrow form, which some viewed as even more of the feminizing of men. “Ties are often slender and feminine…The look is the soft, slender, straight line silhouette that also characterizes the shift that has been the major woman’s dress style of the 1960’s…Loss of gender in especially conspicuous in shoes, with woman wearing low boots or low heeled, squat, square-toed, and heavy shoes at the same time, that men’s footwear has become more pointed slender, colorful, and high heeled” (Winick 1968). For people such as this, the tie was just one of many things, blurring the line between male and female, and making the silhouettes a modishly dressed couple on the street, “quite indistinguishable” (Winick).
In many ways, for whatever reason it was, men’s and woman’s fashions were taking two very different turns in the opposite direction. At the same time that woman were seeking the short hair and boyish look to complete the sharp and angled lines of their mod clothes, men were growing their hair out longer to follow the look of the Beatles their girlfriends adored, and wearing the bright colors of dandyism (American Decades: 1960-1969 1995).
The picture to the left not only further illustrates the transformation of men’s fashion, especially with the intricately patterned suit jacket on the man, but also the fact that in a time of mod, harsh lines were not always prevalent. The decade did seek some “soft, romantic” alternatives through the use of “velvet, ribbons, and ruffles harking back to the early 19th century” (American Decades: 1960-1969 1995).
Just as the mod look had added to dandyism and experimentation in men’s fashion, this look was able to do the same. Further upping dandyism, the most daring of men were able to wear not only colored oxfords, but those with ruffles down the front. “The key was …a new freedom of dress” (American Decades: 1960-1969 1995).
Whether men chose to wear these new fashions or not, and whether they chose them out of mere courage or a desire to raise the excitement of a wardrobe, the fact was, contrary to prior decades, they now at least had the option to make that choice.
American Decades: 1960-1969. 1995. Edited by Richard Layman. New York: Gale Research International Limited.
LIFE: The '50s. 1998. Edited by Loretta Britten and Sarah Brash. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books.
Winick, Charles. “The Beige Epoch: Depolarization of Sex Roles in America.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 376, Sex and the
Contemporary American Scene. (Mar., 1968), pp. 18-24. links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002-7162(196803)376<18:TBED...
For further discussion on 1960 Fashion: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1960s_in_fashion