1960s vintage shirtsJuly 8, 2015
The 1960s were remembered by those who were there at the time as a moment when men were coming out of the rather grey and drab 1950s, to get their chance to be peacocks.You had Mick Jagger wearing scarlet military jackets and white frilly dresses to perform in, and David Bowie was doing his gender-bending thing. 1960s vintage shirts come in stark contrasts: the really sharp, well tailored Mod styles, the crazy flouncy chiffon styles, and stripy matelot shirts all had their moments.
Mods in 1960s vintage shirts
Famous proponents of the Mod style include the Small Faces, who were famously well turned out and inspired a generation of boys to adore a well cut suit and a well pressed shirt.
Marc Bolan, as a teenager, was a Mod too. He says it started when, as a short guy, he couldn’t get suits to fit and so he had them tailored. But as the trend became mainstream, he abandoned it because he liked to stay one step ahead. Later in the 60s you see him in totally the opposite style of 1960s vintage shirts – crazily coloured and printed.
The Mods were also into target symbols and the Union Jack, so some shops made a killing by having these printed up onto t shirts.
Because of these eclectic looks and men’s desire to look individual, the rise of the flea markets of Portobello Road and shops like ‘I was Lord Kitchener’s Valet’ on Carnaby street were marked. They sold second hand clothes, so if you were looking for something a bit different they were the place for a rummage. The Beatles, Eric Clapton, and other pop stars popularised this look alongside Mick Jagger and Marc Bolan. Carnaby street was a dress up parade where you could be a princess in a floaty gown one week, and next Saturday emerge as a Native American Chieftain.
Young Designers making 1960s shirts
King’s Road in Chelsea, meanwhile, had shops with young designers and zany window displays. It was quite a staid and stuffy district, but rents were actually quite cheap then, so it was where a lot of start up businesses, boutiques with little money but lots of ideas could go and try out their concepts.
Many were successful and soon King’s Road was really the place to see and be seen. If you find your 1960s vintage shirts have a label from any of these little boutiques, you know you have something special.
Tailored 1960s shirts
Picadilly was an area where London’s shirt makers and tailors had always been based. They saw the demand for sharp Italian suits, and matched it: they also knew that their younger customers were now looking for the same high quality and finish in their 1960s vintage shirts that they always had, but with a twist – flamingo pink shirts replaced white ones, and impeccably fitted white suits shocked the traditional men’s clubs that the well-off wearers wore them to.
In fact, in some conservative establishments these dedicated followers of fashion were actually thrown out because of what they were wearing. A pink shirt and white suit on a man today is still striking, but not shocking enough to be barred entry anywhere. Those modern dandies of the 1960s really threw down the gauntlet for what menswear could be.
Small Faces, sharp suits.
Marc Bolan (foreground) as a Mod. Picture by Don McCullin.
The Beatles in the early 60s.
The Beatles looking more flamoboyant.
Kings Road in 1968. Photo by Dezo Hoffmann / Rex Features
Turnbull and Asser shirt and kipper tie