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The 1960s and 70s were eras of bold cultural revolutions in America led by dissatisfied youth causing an explosion of self-expression expressed through fashion; breaking traditional barriers that had yet to be challenged. In this paper I will compare the decade of the hippies to the decade of the punk revolution, explaining the cultural relevancies and why those styles are still being seen on runways today. Despite their differences, fashion from the 60s and 70s is still being used as influence and inspiration by today’s top designers. What was once thought to be highly explicit and controversial fashion statements are today’s leading trends.
For many, the 1960s represent the era of the hippies. The 60s were filled with rebellion fueled by the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, the space race and a growing curiosity about other cultures. For the first time, young people were breaking away from traditional standards, creating self-identity and becoming the most dominant trendsetters of fashion. In efforts to protest the war, hippies went about promoting peace and love, typically wearing loose flowing outfits and long hair that represented freedom and free spirit. Fashion has always gone hand in hand with trending music. In the 60s bands such as The Beatles, Jimmy Hendrix and Bob Dylan were being broadcast across the nation playing songs directly connected to everything the hippies represented . In 1960 the contraceptive pill was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and women were parting from traditional, conservative values . The feminist movement started to take off and youth no longer felt the need to dress modestly. British fashion designer Mary Quant is cited for inventing the mini-skirt, which became very popular in the late 60’s. According to Cultural Expressions in the 1960s, “Girls wore both short dresses and skirts which showed their legs. This was very different from the 1950s, where the skirts were much longer. At this time, people became more open-minded about sex. People, especially girls, dressed more daring than before and they were not afraid to show skin.” Before the 60s women wore long skirts. Blue jeans were supposed to be worn while working and were forbidden in public schools for both boys and girls. Today blue jeans are a staple in everyone’s closet and shorter skirts are worn by women without being seen as provocative. The space race was another huge cultural event inspiring clothing designers to incorporate neon and metallic fabrics. Hippies broke away from traditional American life with a driving curiosity about other cultures. This led to the afro becoming a leading hairstyle, something that at the time was seen as highly controversial. While the styles worn at this time were direct statements of dissatisfaction, their influence continues to appear on runways to this day.
Hippies dominated the scene of the 60s, but as America transitioned into the 70s, the dissatisfied youth had adopted a new style that would shock the nation: punk. The word punk originated as an insult in the 1500s and by the 1600s it was used to describe rotten wood. In the 1950s and 60s the word denoted an undisciplined hoodlum, but as the punk movement evolved the meaning became positive, representing someone who challenged everything conservative and comfortable . Youth were no longer satisfied showing their dissatisfaction through flowery and free-flowing ideology. Bold and shocking attitudes filled with rage and rebellion became the expression of the new generation. Americans at the time were unsure of their leaders after the Watergate Scandal and with very little known about the HIV epidemic, everyone was terrified. They were mad, upset with capitalism and tired of the conformity and traditional values older generations had tried to set in place. Bands such as The Ramones and The Sex Pistols influenced youth with their heavy performance sets being displayed on MTV . When young people saw their favorite rock stars dressed in a fashion that had never been seen before, they wanted to incorporate what they saw into their closets. While hippies embraced the notion of peace and love, everything punk was fast, direct, and rough. The Vogue article, “When the Punk Changed Fashion and Music” states, “For women, punk represented an immense period of liberation: PVC and S&M hardware became the norm and make-up was transformed from technicolor disco glitter into ferocious slick black war paint, whilst hair was cut short (inspired by Sid Vicious and Debbie Juvenile). Meanwhile, for men, tight jeans and bondage straps, chokers, torn shirts, and safety pins commanded the breaking down of gender boundaries and societal norms” (Redazione). Although punk played a massive role in the evolution of grunge, it was more about attitude than appearance .
The era of hippie culture and punk style may have occurred decades ago, however, designers today are still pulling inspiration from the dissatisfied youth of those times. While the two styles were vastly different in appearance and mood, they both stood for the same thing. In New York Times article “When Hippies Walked the Runway” Eric Wilson states, “If there is one thing that punks and hippies have in common it is that their styles were actually explicit statements against fashion” (Wilson). Many of today’s streetwear designers consider punk to be a huge influence. “There will forever be something to rebel against,” says Shane Gonzales, of LA-based label Midnight Studios. “The free spirit of punk is what keeps fashion alive. Without it, we would have nothing fresh or exciting. It doesn’t matter what music is coming out of the speaker, punk gives us an identity” (Redazione). While one may argue the idea hippies and punks had little influence on modern fashion, it is evident that their impact continues based on the fact that these styles still dominate the runways. While fashion inspired by hippies and punks may appear vastly different in clothing, both will continue to inspire those looking to make a statement through fashion.
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