Every age has its own pariah, its own scapegoat, those that go against the grain and mainstream understanding of each time and create their own history and movement. The following subcultures may be fashion related, but they are not an exception to the aforementioned rule. Though they date back, turning back the years, they have managed to withstand the test of time and their influence remains strong to this day.
A movement that caused a post war media delirium, the beatniks turned their back on jumped up materialism and the cliché ridden reality of their time and firmly planted their flag on the side of sexual freedom and drug related experimentation. They were the “Beat Generation”, graphically depicted in exploitation films of the time, who left their mark during their time with their standout style and eccentric behavior. Journalists labeled them pseudo-intellectuals saying of them: “they are happy in combining Dali-esque painting, a beret, a Van Dyke beard, a turtleneck, a pair of sandals and a set of bongo drums”. Dreamers to the last, they religiously held on to the ideas of Jean Paul Sartre, a generation of kids living on the edge, free from limits and inhibitions.
One could very rightly say that the image of a mod (a shank on the word modernist), was very much the image of the 60s themselves. You would typically find a male mod down a London backstreet, his dandy looks, trench coat stylings and bowl haircut parked next to his Vespa or Lambretta. Stylistically, the female mod cut a far simpler figure. You would catch her moving to the sounds of the Kinks, the Beatles and the Who, wearing a startlingly short dress that harked back to retro kids clothing, opaque stockings, short, often boyish hair and very little make up, save for the heavily styled eyes. When they weren’t working or dancing in a pub or night club, you’d bump into them at a fashion boutique or down the King’s Road at some of the more traditional tailor shops.
1960 The Rockers
Sworn enemies of the Mods – their clashes were immortalized in 1979’s seminal Quadrophenia- the Rockers, also known as leather boys and ton-up boys, were at the other end of the stylistic spectrum. Unlike the overly stylized Mod, the Rocker – a combination of rockabilly culture and Teddy Boy stylings – would opt for a harsher, simpler look, with his perfecto jacket, simple t-shirt, blue jeans and biker boots. The female Rockers would rarely deviate from this pattern. Lovers of swing and rock n roll, Rockers would worship at the altar of Bill Haley and his Comets, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis, while their preferred mode of transport would again be a rather un-mod-like motorcycle, like the Triumph Bonneville.
Grunge started life as one of rock music’s many subcultures, but was eventually assimilated in the fashion and lifestyle vocabulary. Staying close to the overall minimalism that the 90s held on to, as a way to hit back against 80s excess, grunge found its home somewhere between rock, metal and punk music. What is surprising to many, is the fact that the movement didn’t start with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but rather with Seattle based bands like the Melvins and Mudhoney. At a time when society was used to 80s extremism, in blew the grunge movement, with its greasy hair, plaid shirts, torn second-hand blue jeans and all-star shoes, to set up a brand new style. It suffered a massive hit after the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, but it has shown a surprising resilience, holding strong and influencing the fashion world ever since.
Text: Danae Terzakou