Words From An Old Hippie

Okay kids, sit down and I’ll give you a short lesson in the 60s and 70s. For a number of years I’ve seen retro-styles on the racks and in the media, and people seem to be a little confused about what exactly are the icons of each of those decades...

First of all, it’s important to understand that trend-wise, no decade begins and ends exactly on the first or last day of the year. For example, what we call The Seventies didn’t begin on January 1, 1970. Through the five decades I’ve walked around on this planet, I’ve noticed a kind of cusp effect. I think The Sixties began with the arrival of the Beatles in America on February 7, 1964, and they didn’t end until 1975 when the war in Viet Nam ended. Within these decades there is a rainbow spectrum of fashions, cultural icons and fads, and I’ve noticed that people are being fed a kind of revisionist history in films, television, and in the printed media.

Let’s take bell bottoms. The first bell bottoms I remember were worn by Cher, then of Sonny & Cher, in 1966. They were very wide at the hem and tight at the butt, low (called hip-huggers), and were made of large floral or striped prints. I bought my first pair in 1966 at the Lerner Shop in Santa Barbara for $7.00, and I hardly wore anything else that year. In 1966-67 (with the Beatles’ release of Magical Mystery Tour) the psychedelic look came in and we were suddenly introduced to tie-dye, beads, and Peter Max colors–blue and green, pink and orange, red and blue. Paisley prints were especially popular. In 1968 Navy dungarees became wildly popular and most of us knew someone who could get us some. They were great because the bells were huge and the waist was low. Besides, they were very comfortable. (In fact, if anyone knows where I can get some, email me!)

Until the psychedelic look came into vogue, the predominant fashion trend was “the London Look”, typified by Mary Quant, Vidal Sassoon, Twiggy, and Yardley cosmetics. In 1976 Sonny and Cher debuted their television variety show, and that’s when I think the fashions took a real turn, with slinky fabrics, exposed midriffs, long silk headbands, wet-look knee boots, and extravagant hair styles. Actually, this part of 70s was nothing more than a glamorizing of the Haight-Ashbury fashions of the late 60s, the media’s attempt to “clean-up” the rebellion after the war was over. I best remember the early 70s for the midi skirts, GunnySax dresses (although I remember something similar making its advent as early as 1965), full beards (thanks to the Beatles), and the “Afro” hair style.

But there are some mistaken notions out there, and I’d like to clear them up.

The Sixties, not The Seventies:

* Lava lamps
* Big, bright flower power stickers
* Paisley prints
* Love beads
* Psychedelic-painted VW bugs and buses
* Peace sign (both the circle symbol and the “V” hand sign)
* Houkahs
* White calf-high Go-Go boots
* Pudding Basin hairstyle
* Long hair, parted in the middle (mistakenly attributed to Marsha Brady)
* Polka dots (remember those godawful shirts the Beach Boys wore?)
* Madras shirts
* Levis’ powder blue cords
* East Indian influences over just about everything
* Incense
* Mini skirts
* Pop Art

The Seventies, not The Sixties:

* The “Have a nice day” smiley face
* Platform shoes
* Beanbag chairs
* White patent leather shoes and boots
* Polyester
* Pantsuits
* Midi and maxi skirts
* Lace-up suede boots (not the fringed men’s mocs, the stack-heeled women’s boots)

So that’s all I can think of right now.