Staff writer Yasmine Duncan analyzes the sartorial influence of the psychedelic era.
It’s 2018, and we’re in a digital age where it’s more convenient than ever to create our own future. Yet, more than ever, today’s youth is looking back at the past. Accounts on platforms like Instagram can boast more than 3 million followers just by posting images from before 2000 (this isn’t a complaint at all, as I follow these accounts myself). Why do I follow them though? Where is the appeal for me and so many other people?
Looking at eras where everything wasn’t so instantly accessible creates this idea of how simple everything must have felt. The average teen from the 70's wouldn't have had the bombardment of social media and other societal pressures in the prominent form of push notifications. To just imagine that alone is a breath of fresh air.
The first time I ever saw online dedication to a decade was in 2012, where many millennials were feeling nostalgic about growing up in the 90's. It was romanticized by childhood memories, and people were quick to post-and-repost cartoons and toys they grew up with. There was also a reemergence of grunge culture (which I remember mostly as a very heavily used tag on Tumblr). It was a tag saturated with screenshots from Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and pictures of Kurt Cobain. Around a year later, tattoo chokers would become a popular trend again. My mom would even comment on how much she loved wearing them to school in the 90's. Recently, though, I think the 1980's is becoming the more sought after decade, mostly after the premiere of Stranger Things in 2016. Whether it’s the In Living Color-inspired music video for “Finesse” by Bruno Mars and Cardi B, or the colorful, electric trend of colorful makeup, there’s definitely something to be said about an 80's aesthetic resurgence.
I have nothing against the aforementioned decades, but I’d like to shift the focus on my two favorite one: the 60's and the 70's. Not only did these decades create some incredible music, they were also times of extreme social change in the realms of politics, race, and gender. As a direct reflection of these changes, these decades created some pretty incredible fashion and beauty trends. Some of the trends were very specific to the decade. For example, the fashions of the 60's was influenced a lot by the British, especially Mod style.
The early 60's wasn’t a big change from the 1950's. Elegance was still sought after, along with dark, Earthen shades of purple, red, and green. The body may have been accentuated at times, but it also remained mostly covered. In 1962, things began to change more dramatically. “It” girls heavily influenced fashion, whether it was Twiggy, Brigitte Bardot, or Jane Birkin. Twiggy’s slim figure and short hair enraged some for being too “unisex”, a term that would become more common throughout the decade. Pants started to become more acceptable, even with people like Nan Kempner not being allowed into New York-glitterati events for wearing them.
Accessories became simpler, mostly because youth couldn’t afford the diamonds that were still trending from the previous decade. Hats, belts, and bows were popular. The emergence of the space race inspired designers to create looks that were more “out there”: shiny materials became more popular, such as the material on the iconic white go-go boots of the era.
Another absolutely iconic trend of the 60s was the mini skirt. The polarizing fashion is credited to British designer Mary Quant. After seeing a girl in a dance class wear a very short skirt with her tap shoes and a turtleneck, she was inspired. She named the trend after her Mini Cooper and began selling them at her boutique. Originally, her design for the skirts wasn’t incredibly shocking, but the edge was raised by the women who would come in and ask if they could have the skirt just a little bit shorter.
People no longer wanted to adhere to the fashion standards of their parents and long-standing designers. People wanted styles that were feminine, but not necessarily elegant. Individuality was celebrated. Despite straight hair trending for most of the 60's, black people in America began to stop chemically straightening their hair and begin rocking their natural styles by the end of the decade.
Natural hair was a trend that continued into the 1970's. Afros became extremely popular while straight hair was simply worn down. The 70;s also shared the previous decade’s desire for freedom-- there weren’t any specific rules when it came to fashion and beauty. However, the lack of strict rules meant that multiple social and fashion cultures could exist at once: disco. Punk. Psychedelica (just to name a few).
Trends were able to coexist on opposite spectrums; for instance, mini skirts were still popular along with midi skirts that came to the knees. Clothes were form-fitting and unapologetically so, but a lot of clothes were also unafraid to be big and flowing. Bright colors and prints were also popular (but so were earthy tones). There was also no such thing as “too much." An outfit that consisted of a wide brimmed hat, oversized sunglasses, and a striped, green pantsuit? Perfectly fine. Add some glitter to it if you want.
Both the 60's and the 70's shared some striking similarities: among the rise of sexual liberation in the 1960's, women had more options with their clothes. This gave way to pants, suits, off-the-shoulder tops, and wrap dresses. Unisex fashion was also popularized. Masculine fashion was more acceptable for women, and it was more accepted for men to wear feminine style likes metallic print or eye makeup in the 70's. Pioneers of this include artists like David Bowie and Freddie Mercury.
The most important thing to note about the fashion of the 1960's and 70's was that people were not afraid to take up space. Afro's and beehive hairstyles. Flared jeans and platform heels. Sequins and fringe. Ruffles and exaggerated silhouettes. Within the realm of fashion, there was no need to stifle your presence or personality.
Both decades make a reappearance every few years. Yet- even with Balenciaga boots and fashion bloggers- I’m not sure these decades have had their moment yet like the 90's did. However, looking at their trends, one can see where inspiration has been drawn.
A reemergence of 60's and 70's fashion would be no surprise in 2018, as there are so many similarities. The youth of the those decades wanted to be free from strict social expectations and express their individual identity despite political policies and dehumanizing and discriminating beliefs they didn’t agree with.
To think of it this way, maybe the youth of yesterday and the youth of today aren’t so different after all. ✉