Thursday, April 5, 2012

Revisiting the "Youthquake"

Landon Jones coined the term “baby boomers” in his 1980 tome Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation, but, as the book's title indicates, the great horde born in the years following World War II was already distinguished as more than just a baby boom – it was the baby boom. In fact, boomers had been the subject of intense interest and considerable attention from the beginning; Dr. Benjamin Spock’s runaway best-seller, Baby and Child Care, was first published in 1946.

LA's Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip
And then Dr. Spock’s babies grew up.  In 1963, Diana Vreeland, long-time editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, coined the word “youthquake” to define a cultural phenomenon dominated by the young that was a mixture of music, fashion and political disaffection.

Britain figured prominently in “youthquake” culture. Designers like Mary Quant whipped up trendy “mod” fashions and Carnaby Street became an epicenter of style; British models Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy epitomized the waifish, leggy look of the era, and London-born hairdresser Vidal Sassoon created “wash & wear” geometric cuts that revolutionized hair styling. “The British Invasion” swept popular music in 1964 when The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who,  The Kinks, The Animals and a multitude of others generated a flood of hit records. But the U.S. was not without influence. New York, where Bob Dylan made his ascent, had a thriving youth scene and in L.A., where youth is what it's all about (still), bands like The Byrds and The Doors built their reputations at clubs on the Sunset Strip before breaking out nationally.
The Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York has been showcasing “Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion Revolution” since March 6. An exploration of the impact of the youth culture of the ‘60s, the exhibit features clothing, accessories, videos and related media and runs through this Saturday, April 7. Click here for more information.

The Rolling Stones in the '60s
Click here for a link to Sunday Night is Mad Men Night, the blog event that inspired this post...


  1. I always find it amazing how fashions that were so hip or contemporary, call it what you will, at one time now seem now strange and well, "old fashion." Back then, in the 60's as a teenager, I remember thinking how old fashion my parents and grandparents clothes were, and I am sure today, the young generation sees the 60's and 70's styles as weird, and tomorrows generation, those now in diapers, will look at the young kids today with the droopy draws and all and think "how quaint and old fashion."
    I think fashion tells us a lot about the kind society we live in. The late 60's era reflected the new wave of thinking that was exploding around the country, sexual and personal freedom, a do you own thing attitude as opposed to the button down era of the 1950's. If that statement is true, then where are we today?


  2. John - The style of the '80s is the look that seems most outre to me now, though I remember how stylish the big hair, big shoulder pads and bright colors once seemed. It was a big business era, as I recall ("greed is good"), with women finally making it big (breaking 'the glass ceiling'). However, 20th century styles seem to occasionally re-cycle. Shoulder pads and platform shoes, mini-skirts and maxi-skirts, etc., etc., come and go, but always just a bit differently than before - I'm sure Christian and Kay have a better understanding of this than I, though. Where are we today is a very good question on many fronts...

  3. Youthquake sounds pretty terrifying to me. I don't trust these youths. I've seen Wild in the Streets; I know what their real agenda is.

  4. Dave - I'm just hoping "Wild in the Streets" wasn't ahead of its time...

  5. Eve, I hope that you received email that I sent you a couple of days ago. I wanted to thank you for thinking of me..

    It is so funny that you posted the picture of "Twiggy". My husband now calls me "Twiggy" after my last hair cut..

    I love "almost" everything about the 60s and the 70s..

    I also wanted to let you know that I'm spotlighting this post in my "This week N and CF" post.

  6. I have two reasons to wish I were somewhere else this week: New York for "The Youthquake!" exhibition, and Los Angeles for the TCM Film Festival (being middle America has some real drawbacks sometimes). Regarding the phenomenon of fashion to appear inexplicable seen through the reflection of time; I'm convinced I would have found each "improvement" uncomfortable no matter the decade. I'm fascinated by the 1920s, but even in my youth and with the appropriate figure, I would not have been a happy flapper. I really like the bright color block fashions of the 1960s, especially the orange, pink and yellow combos, but I wouldn't wear them outside the house. By the way, did you catch "We'll Take Manhattan" when it aired on the Ovation channel last month? The film portrays Jean Shrimpton and David Bailey on their 1962 trip to the city.

  7. Hi Dawn, I did get your email and am glad you enjoyed that brief "Sally Draper" moment. Thanks for spotlighting this post on "This Week" at N&CF, a great weekly feature. As for Twiggy, I had a Twiggy haircut when I was young and was once followed down the street by a man who insisted loudly that I was, in fact, her.

    'Gypsy, At different times I've had an affinity for different eras: the Roaring '20s, the glamorous and sophisticated side of the '30s (definitely not the Depression, though), the '40s, etc. But each era has its upside and downside and we forever live in the present. I didn't see "We'll Take Manhattan" but, hopefully, it will air again. Loved Jean Shrimpton (who echoed Audrey Hepburn in some ways) and have been aware of/interested in David Bailey since seeing Antonioni's "Blow Up" years ago.

  8. That is great that someone thought you were the real "Twiggy". At my age.. I'm sorry to say, that will not happen.

    I just introduced the series "Mad Men" to my father.. I know he is going to love it.. He was a nuclear physicist at the time, for the government. I can not wait to hear what he thinks of it.

    Right now, he and I comparing notes on the awesome series..'The Tudors".

  9. Dawn, I discovered "The Tudors" on BBC America a few months ago (was looking for "The Hour" but found "The Tudors" instead). Jonathan Rhys Meyers is a great Henry VIII - moody, arrogant, powerful, sexy. Wonderful cast and no expense spared on the production. Really enjoyed it.

    I don't know how far into "Mad Men" you are, but Season 2 included an episode ("The Jet Set") in which Don & Pete go so So. Calif. in pursuit of clients in the aerospace industry - this might be of particular interest to your dad. Plus there are episodes in which John Glenn's space flight and the Cuban Missile Crisis figure prominently.

  10. Thank you Lady Eve.. I will look for those episodes. I have only seen two so far.. I plan to dive into it after I finish with the "Tudors".

    I think that the "Tudors" is one, if not.. the best series I have ever seen...

  11. Your post Lady Eve makes for a stimulating and thought provoking "flashback" to the 1960s.
    The characteric aspect about the 60s is that so much of the youth has antenna for all kinds of trends and influences. Not the least of which, as far as fashion goes, was influence of the 1920s flappers on young women. But how do you merge that with the almost simultaneous influence of Native American and Eastern European Gypsy
    costume? The 60s were all about looking for inspiration from the past in the name of changing things today.

  12. Wonderful assessment, Christian. It seems that the young people of that time, in rejecting 'establishment' values - perceived as corrupt, conformed and rigid and stocked with parental figures - looked to the past, perhaps idealistically. 'Youthquake' politics were certainly progressive...

    There were so many fashion influences, as you mention. I remember an Edwardian look as part of the mix at one point.

  13. John, as someone who works at The Museum at FIT and in an office right off the Youthquake gallery, I can tell you that all the young FIT students do not find the 1960s fashions to be "weird" or "old fashioned" at all. Funnily, they actually relate to the mod aesthetic and I often hear the sounds of "ooohs and ahhs" and lots of mentions of wishing they could buy something like it today. Thought you'd find that interesting!

    1. Museum at FIT - Thanks for stopping by - I'll make sure John is notified of your comment. Great to hear that FIT students appreciate the mod aesthetic, I love the style myself...

  14. Museum of F.I.T. - Thanks for sharing this information. Am glad to hear it.