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Carnaby Street: An elusive legend

Loved as they may be, some influential high points of popular culture can only be siphoned from, and never re-created. London, England’s Carnaby Street was one of those rare moments, a confluence of an entire century’s best ideas all boiled down to one civic center, where said ideas could be exchanged and reflected throughout the planet.

Carnaby Street was essentially a fashion district during the 1960s, but it would be very short-sighted to understand fashion during this period as strictly about clothing design, or even forever-changing trends. In fact, much of what was seen during the second half of the ’60s on Carnaby Street owes as much to the antiquity and thrift shops of Portobello Road than it would to someone cramming out ideas to stay ahead of the pack. Also, music was influenced by the dive into vintage styles reflected through the Modern kaleidoscope.

The Mod movement in England took its initial inspiration from both the Angry Young Man literary scene in that country, and the late ’50s clothing designs of Italy (perhaps best viewed in the Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita). The scene later documented in The Who film Quadrophenia and Richard Barnes definitive picture book Mods captured its early flavor, also spurred by club disc jockeys who were then heated by collecting the latest American Soul records.

Mid-decade invoked Modernism design best displayed by 1965 issues of Vogue. That year specifically was the high point, because by 1966 things had taken off, and were out of the original instigators control. However, this was a grand moment of no rules in a scene that was set off by all the right triggers. Perhaps it is best envisioned in the mind when we hear records such as The Rolling Stones’ “We Love You,” The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” b/w “Penny Lane” 45, or The Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play.” The sound of these discs are matched by the clothing each group can be seen wearing in photographs taken during the time. This indeed is an elusive confluence, though it would be reflected at such scattershot entities as Sears’ Junior Bazaar Shop.  It did help for a while to make it all a cooler world.

Comments

  • Scott Brookman 4 years ago

    Dom: I'm having trouble keeping up with your output. The "60's Fashion" clip is a great find. Thanks for posting it. This takes me back to Andrew Loog Oldham's book and his beginnings in fashion (pre-Stones).

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