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Modernism 1961

Whilst I can see a plethora of 'style' articles on here that feature mohair-suits, Fred Perry shirts and parkas I can find no mention of my earliest generation of modernists from '61 thru '62 in London.

The lightweight suit (mohair) was important and so was the button down / tab collar shirt ( all plagiarised from visiting US modern 'jazzers' or seen on album sleeves) The US clothes were bought at Austin's specialist menswear store on Shaftesbury Avenue. Shirt brands such as Hathaway /Arrow etc.

However, where have the 'plastic' Pakamac type  raincoats with the 'Peter Pan' collars buttoned-up, gone? Even the beige duffle-coat and Univ-scarf had it's place at one time!

The deliberate choice of 'round-toed' leather shoes (as opposed to the pointed winkle-pickers of the Teds) or 'Penny loafers'? (obtained mail order from US)

The short-hair was mainly in the 'Ivy League' actor Tab Hunter cut, not back combed (later) Casual wear was usually Levi's/Wrangler's or Lee which were usually purchased from Shipping & Merchant Navy outfitters near Docklands.

Sailors 'washed-out' and softened' their somewhat  stiff,16oz denim jeans by putting a rope thru' the belt loops and throwing them over the stern. for a days sailing time.

We had to use a bath with a tiny drop of bleach and our mother's laundry 'mangle' to get that 'just right' blue (jeans, sometimes having a 1" turn-up, or 'cuff' sewn up -years later adopted by skinheads)

Tight-fitting, fine-knitted short sleeve Italian cycling shirts (with pockets on the hips) pre-dated the Fred Perry tennis-shirt. The longer sleeve 'John Smedley' type casual shirt, in merino-woll was usually an Italian import and as now, very expensive.

The Madras striped 'boating-jacket' came about after seeing French film star Alain Delon wearing one in the 1962 french-movie (with sub-titles) 'Purple Noon' (later remade years later as 'The Astonishing Mr Ripley') In that movie Delon also wore a pair of white buckskin slip-on loafers!

Music? Was mainly cool-jazz, or french-singers such as Juliette Greco/ Jacques Brel and of course Jacques Loussier's orig 'Play Bach' album. Black music was only played on AFN (American Forces radio) out of European military bases. It was on this barely audible  radio-station (long before VHF came along), that I first heard the iconic 'Green Onions' in 1961. Stevie Cropper's guitar blew me away! So much so, that I tool an interest in blues and almost gambled my money on buying an early-import  Buddy Guy album from Dobell's in the Charing Cross Rd. I believe Eric Clapton bought his about the same time.

And of course there was immaculately applied (by your girlfriend) eye-liner and mascara...which guy has put their hands up to that one?

To be honest, 'real' modernism was dead by 1964. After that, a bunch of fashionable street-kids took over and the media dubbed that wave 'Mod'. Soon, almost everyone across the UK was a 'Mod' and the flannel-suited, Harris-tweed sports-coated, Double-Two shirted and Brylcreem'd man of the 1950's was but a distant memory.

 

Hope this is of interest, as I'm now nearly 67 yrs old!

 

Christopher Quayle

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  • Hi I was a mod in the 60s in Chesterfield Derbyshire the local night club was the scene with the tamla mowtown and geno washington also there where clubs in Sheffield the mojo club run by peter stringfellow. Allways wore desert boots rain and shine doc martin no,  nylon bomber jacket no. fish tail parkas only exUS army . Good times one side of town mods the other rockers and teddy boys 

  • These pictures I put together are attempting to illustrate the style icon that French film-star Alain Delon certainly had (amongst others),1061605213.jpeg on the London Modernist movement in the early 60's. Incredibly, these pictures are from 1960-61 and add credence to the maxim that 'Fashions fade, style is eternal'

  • Eventually, as raincoats achieved better styling (as opposed to your Dad's old 'mac', or the bouclé tweed o/coats of the 'Teds') a new street-look gradually emerged, where the fine Italian knit merino-wool sweaters in roll-neck or turtle-neck that then became available, were worn under a 'Peter-Pan' style collar, with the top button 'always' (unlike the photo) done up.1061605212.jpeg

  • Here's a mans nylon raincoat of that era on a woman, it was all about 'protection' of the clothes underneath.1061605209.jpeg

  • In my article above I referred to 'Pakamac' (which the site-master kindly supplied an image for) however this (below) was the raincoat I really meant to highlight. It's a US Govt. 1950's issue Airforce raincoat that was obviously lightweight and could be easily folded up into almost 'nothing' after you had entered a club, having protected the all important and expensive 'suit' during inclement weather. They were available in green and blue and were extremely durable, being very well made.

    These were for a time (like the scooter rider's orig. military 'Parka') available from certain Surplus Army & Navy shops, no doubt having been purchased from the U.S.Govt's depots that were at that time still supplying the needs of the many post WWII US military bases that remained in the UK and Europe.

    Iconic, UK 60's club soul-singer Geno Washington was a member of such US military personnel and used to come up to London on weekend leave, where he 'got up' with the odd band. After his discharge from the services, he stayed on in London and formed the 8-piece Ram Jam Band, which could pack a club out, weeks in advance! 

  • 1061605214.jpeg?width=750

  • This is fascinating stuff, real social history, it was certainly a fine time for style and fashion.  The cinema of this time fascinate me and I take a lot of style cues from this point.  This kind of first hand information is great, the observations of the man/woman in the street and what concerns him/her is rarely in the history books.  My daughter loves the rude boy style form the eighties, a la ''This England', and as I was part of that she is forever picking my brains, and nicking my gear.  A pleasure to read.

  • Those Soho memories come flooding back.  As a 17/18 year old, I lived in Edmonton but nearly every night was spent going up west, and edgey Soho was where I aimed for.  Some of the places I recall was the Scene club, Ham Yard and of course the Marquee and beforehand in the Les Enfants Terrible (sorry about the spelling).  As regards suits you can beat the feeling of putting on a handmade suit jacket for the first time you don't have to fight your way into it, it just falls into place.  It's a shame that you will never be able to replicate the heady atmosphere of those days, when you felt so alive and in tune with all that was happening around you. 

  • OK, these postings are getting quite fun, I have lot's more 'info and comments,' but where to start first? Let's start where I came in, 'the suit'.

    If you've never had a made-to-measure or bespoke suit, then you've never had a suit. No matter how you twist and turn in front of a mirror, at your local ready-to-wear store, that suit doesn't fit you! My advice would be to find a small individual specialist tailor, ask him for a price, negotiate by any means possible (cash always helps) and if his work is good, stick with him!

    A well made will fit you 'like a tattoo', taking care of any obvious anomalies we all have as humans, such as shoulder heights, arm, and leg lengths etc. But it also takes care of your body 'girth' and the relationship between your hips and how the trousers 'hang' to your shoes. This means the waist band doesn't pull, or go out of shape and the jacket buttons always align properly. Good point,...the trousers should always be 'lined' on the inside,to the knee.

    The biggest 'add-on', is to your confidence. A made-to-measure suit increases it by a hundred per cent and more!

    As for 'the cloth' that's up to you, personally I'd pick a useful navy-blue for my first deal with the tailor, then experiment after that. A good weight Tonik-style mohair, great for going out, but not for constant day-wear.

    I once had a pal that thought he'd go for a 'tropical weight' mohair suit. Trop-weight, was very thin mohair, used where the weather is very hot n' humid, as the name suggests.

    However, as the cut of a 'man's jib' was judged by the crease in his trousers back then, the constant pressing with his mother's steam-iron did his trousers no good at all. One evening, as we all met up in the local coffee-bar to go 'up West', my pal came in looking great....and then sat down! As he did so, the creases in his trousers 'parted' all the way up his legs, just like you would fold a sheet of paper before tearing it!

    Last advice, try and discover the features you admire in the styling of a suit. 'Swelled edges', or a 'hand-stitched' finish to the lapels?, Double, single, or no vent at all to the jacket? (vents were for horse riders!) Straight cut or slightly 'waisted'? Three or two buttoned jacket? (four button is a massive 'No')

    And last of all,...always remember that a good 'wool' suit should hang in your wardrobe for at least 5-days in between it being worn...and always inside a plastic suit cover.

    Any other 'historic' advice? Shirts? Casual wear? Shoes? If you want to discover 'modernism' it's all about about 'knowing' what you are wearing, not just putting it on!....laughs!

  • brilliant article, more insights please!

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