"After the war and the austerity years, the means to control how you were seen were newly available to the young. And so was the ability to distinguish yourself visually from your parents. From the Teddy Boys in the Fifties to the Mods and Rockers who took over, and on to the mini-skirted dollybirds of the mid-Sixties and the diaphanous hippies of the later Sixties, many more young people than ever before had, for various reasons, enough money to pay for dramatic self-definition.
"If they left school at fifteen without qualifications, they found jobs, lost them, found them again, easily earning money while often still living at home. At any rate, there was enough surplus after paying the parents for your keep to buy a long, velvet-collared jacket and drainpipes, a sharp Italian-styled suit, a tiny scrap of a frock from Biba, Bus Stop or even, if you saved up, Bazaar, though only the genuinely well-off could afford any of the painted silks and velvets from Granny Takes a Trip. Even when broke, unemployed and living in a damp bedsitter didn't present an impossible bar to style."
I've been re-reading Jenny Diski's book The Sixties, which dissects the big ideas of the decade in succinct manner. The chapter on style in particular, extrapolating the idea that what young people wore was a constant rebuke against the previous generations is particular potent and something to keep in mind when watching this series of videos here. Hopefully, none of you are a stranger to Paul Gorman, cultural journalist, writer and all-round expert and obsessive with the intrinsic relationship between fashion and music in Britain. He has produced a series of films that reveal the yesteryear of Kings Road in London. This well-to-do shopping street may be more well known for being a little bit posh-posh-ra-ra today and frankly, isn't a place that I frequent that often due to its homegeneity, but back in the sixties through to the eighties, there were a string of boutiques that showed independent spirit and emphasised the connection between fashion and music at that time in London, something that the Swinging Sixties started but continued on long after. These establishments represent a side to Kensington and Chelsea that I'm personally obsessed with even though I never experienced it myself. I only caught the very end of it when the once-vibrant Kensington High Street Market was still around in the late 90s and even then it was on its last legs.
It all kicked off with Mary Quant's Bazaar on 138a Kings Road, quite possibly the first ever independent boutique in the world, which opened in 1955 and heralded the arrival of Quant's mini-skirt to the world. Then the notable Granny Takes a Trip opened up in 1965 on number 468, with its amazing shop fronts that featured cars crashing through windows and William Morris prints and decadent tight velvet suits. David Bowie, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix would frequent Dandie Fashions on 161 Kings Road established in 1966, which was actually later acquired by The Beatles to become Apple Tailoring. More luminaries such as David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton headed to the short-lived Paradise Garage on 430 Kings Road where they sold vintage denim and Hawaiian shirts injecting a bit of tropicana in West London. The shop later of course became home to Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McClaren's SEX, Seditionaries and World's End. The likes of George Michael, The Specials and The Clash were then fighting it out for what jazzy suits to wear on Top of the Pops at Johnson's The Modern Outfitters on 406 Kings Road. There was even an eighties Japanese magazine called London Ni Ikitai (I Want To Go To London) that dedicated pages to stores like Johnson's.
Wander around Kings Road today and you'll be shocked that any of this went down...