Street Style: Let’s face it – London has invented every decent youth cult and street style worth its salt. From the Teddy Boys of the Fifties, through the mods, the rockers, skinheads and punks, right up to the multitudinous style we see on the capital’s streets today. If it came from the street, it came from one of London’s streets.
At its best, fashion has always been about play-acting, a way of artificially presenting one’s self to the world, an elaborate form of disguise or fancy dress. Fashion still has the ability to shock us in ways to which we think we’ve become immune, and over the years it has encouraged us to look like gypsies, tramps and thieves, as well as hoodlums, members of the Beider Meinhoff gang or undernourished Nepalese peasants.
To the world at large, London really became the centre of street style during the Swinging Sixties. Looking back now, it almost seems as though everything happened at once. In a decade dominated by youth, London suddenly burst into bloom. It was swinging, and it was the scene. The Union Jack suddenly became as ubiquitous as the black cab or the red Routemaster, and all became icons of the city. Carnaby Street’s turnover was over £5 million in 1966 alone (money absorbed from the West End’s own “Carnabitian Army”, in Ray Davies’s famous words).
Quite simply, London was where it was at. In the space of a few months the skies over London had become kaleidoscopic, full of multi-coloured swirls and curls, and curlicues of every imaginable shape and size. It was as though colour had replaced coin as a symbol of wealth and success, as though pigment was the cure for all known evils. There appeared to be no affliction not tempered by the application of some glitter mascara, or the donning of some extravagant garb. Colour became almost confrontational. Fuelled by growing prosperity, social mobility, post-war optimism and wave after wave of youthful enterprise, the city captured the imagination of the world media. Here was the centre of the sexual revolution – the pill had been introduced in 1961 – the musical revolution, the sartorial revolution. London was a veritable cauldron of benign revolt.
And so it is today.
Take a look at our London Menswear Map to explore the evolution of men’s fashion in London during the past 300 years.