Sixties Poster

Britain took the sixties by the horns, wrestled the staid earlier decades to the ground, and rose like a Phoenix from the ashes in an explosion of colour and frivolity. The touch paper had been lit as the decade was filled with sex, spies, and scandals, a million miles from the decorum of previous decades. The 60’s became one of the most defining moments in history, never has quite so much changed socially, culturally, and economically in such a short period of time.

Parents of the new emerging generation were at odds, hoping their children should not suffer the same hardships they had in post-war Britain, at the same time being exposed to a movement of liberty that for many was shocking - and pretty hair curling. The dresses got shorter, nobody wanted to do as they were told anymore, and free love was encouraged, if not mandatory.

The music scene came alive in tandem with the evolving decade. In Liverpool, 1960, four squeaky clean band members were waiting to take the world by storm. The Beatles were loved by teens, and mums alike as their image portrayed the nice boys next door. It wasn’t long though before they were caught up in the fever of change and by the late 60’s they were swinging with the best of them and embracing psychedelia and unusual, quirky costumes.  In London, 1962, some two hundred miles away The Rolling Stones were hot on their heels gyrating their hips and offering a different kind of Satisfaction. Music was changing forever, and the way fans reacted to that music would also change forever.

The music wasn’t just a backdrop and inspiration for free love, John Lennon released the single Give Peace a Chance in 1969, an anti-war song. The natives were becoming restless, they weren’t just flippantly challenging and questioning authority, they had become political. There were ‘movements’ for just about everything, reinforced by voter turnouts being higher in the 1960s than in any other decade since WWII. These were the first generation free from conscription, and they put their money where their mouths were.

We often look back and view the 60’s as another age of enlightenment, images of hippies offering signs of peace and chilling whilst smoking a joint. Drugs became synonymous with being a peaceful, gentle, caring human being. Or could it have been yet another poke in the eye to the establishment, as there had been a worldwide ban in 1961 on the production and supply of cocaine, cannabis, and opiates? But If you do your research you will see that fewer than 5% of young adults dabbled in hallucinogens in the 1960’s.

The economy boomed, and in the golden age of employment, with some spending money in their pockets, the young people of the sixties were out to treat themselves. Buying records and keeping up with the most current fashions was a favourite pastime, especially in the thriving Metropolis of England’s capital city. Carnaby Street, one of London's coolest locations in the 60’s, was a mecca for mods and hippies, with an assortment of independent retail shops including Mary Quant, it was a hive of wannabe models and artists. Gone were the tailored suits and dresses, and out came the kinky boots and cheery floral patterns, the bolder in colour the better.

Swinging Sixties Fashion

This radical socio-economic change in the sixties spanned all popular culture, film, theatre, music, literature etc… prominent playwrights were responsible for bringing down censorship of language, and succeeded in toppling the Lord Chamberlain and his archaic sense of propriety. Women were no longer presented as prim and proper wives, the twin set and pearls came off, and films were full of casual sex and beautiful people. The working class maverick emerged, finally giving young people of the lower echelons stars they could aspire to. Journalism was also changing slowly, they no longer assisted in cover-ups or hiding scandals, the press had now become ‘free’. 1963 welcomed the arrival of That Was The Week That Was with a newbie David Frost at the helm, it echoed the feeling of society with its satire and comment, continuing the unceasing attack on the Government and politics.

1964 saw the first Labour government since 1951, with its progressive legislation things were changing to match the changing times. ‘The pound in your pocket’, and ‘A week is a long time in politics’,  became the catchphrase of politics in the sixties. More notably, in 1967 homosexuality was decriminalised. In the same year, Abortion was legalised. The 60’s freed the country from the constraints of an oppressive society. As trends are want to do things levelled out during the 70’s, viewed as being slightly less ‘wild’, freedom no longer a novelty, there was nothing left to prove.


Nearly 50 years on from this story of sexual revolution and ‘dolly birds’, the noughties (ironically) has bred a new generation of young people asking women to put their clothes back on, lengthen their skirts and ensure models have a bit more meat on their bones - unlike in the iconic image of Twiggy where she waif-like, was staring gauntly into the lens - Although I expect they wholeheartedly approve of her androgynous appearance as we swap overt sexuality for a genderless society. Hey, it was fun, more than fun, while it lasted, but all good things must come to an end.

Article by Lisa Ives