While in the earlier decades clothing and fashion had in some ways remained an interest that was the prerogative for women, with the 1960s there was a complete transformation in the attitude of men towards clothes and fashion in general. Many men became more style conscious than ever before.
In the 1950s, fashion trends for men tilted towards the decorous and the conservative. Clothing for men in the sixties on the other hand saw a change in fashion palettes like never before. Clothing choices became bolder and there was a marked difference in apparel.
If you take a look at the sixties style, you will notice a definite difference in clothing in the first part of the decade when compared to the latter half. While in the early '60s, clothing styles for men were more refined and gentlemanly, towards the latter half with the hippie movement in full swing, there was a shift to a more androgynous style of clothing with men and women sharing clothing patterns in many ways.
Let us now take a look at the clothing styles for men in the sixties.
What Men Wore in the Early Sixties
In the early 1960s, men's clothing underwent what can be termed a fashion renaissance of sorts. Designers looked towards European (especially Italian) dressing for inspiration. Clothes for men became more fitted with tailored jackets and narrow lapels becoming the norm for most people.
Leisure suits and single breasted suits became extremely popular and were worn with shirts that had narrow collars. The thin ties that are so popular today are also a throwback from 1960s' fashion. In fact, broad ties all but disappeared from the fashion scene in the sixties. The Modernists (a subculture that was born in England) or Mods as they were popularly referred to, were responsible for this change in attitude towards clothing and fashion.
Clothing preferred by the Mods gave them a look that was often known as the city gent look. Trousers were generally slim fitting and worn with narrow shirts. If they wore jeans, then the preference were for those manufactured by the denim company, Levi's. Winklepicker shoes with their long and pointed toes were the most popular footwear for not only men but also women.
There were some staples amongst clothing for men in the sixties. These must-haves in the wardrobe included turtleneck t-shirts which were teamed with a variety of other clothing options. They could be worn under a blazer, with a sweater, or even a shirt. While turtlenecks of most colors were popular, black remained the preferred choice, especially for the Beats.
Another fashion trend that picked up in a big way was the Nehru jacket that was an import from India. With its stand up collar and small buttons, these jackets were made popular by The Beatles. '60s' clothes for men also saw the popularity of plaid shirts which till then were worn only by lumberjacks and workers. Plaid shirts were worn by both men and women during this period.
There are very few decades that saw such a drastic change in dressing styles in a period of a couple of years. In the sixties, the difference between the clothes that men wore in the first half and the second half was extremely varied. From a sophisticated way of dressing, clothing became more relaxed, and fashion became more about showcasing your individuality.
What Men Wore in the Late Sixties
In the latter half of the 1960s, clothing underwent a sea change and became very different from what was prevalent in the earlier part of the decade. Men and women started wearing very similarly patterned clothes. An effect of the hippie subculture, clothing was more about being individualistic and non-conformist in nature. Questioning authority was synonymous with the decade itself and this thought was reflected by the hippy clothing of the '60s. Bell bottom pants, paisley shirts, and polka dotted ties were some of the most popular clothes for the men in the late 1960s. Both men and women started dressing in colorful clothes with psychedelic patterns. Pants and trousers became frayed and distressed.
Tie-dye patterned clothing was very popular with men. In fact, t-shirts and bandannas with tie-dye designs on them were the fastest selling clothing items of the era. A man in the sixties who was a true follower of the hippie movement could not be seen without a pair of denims and the grungier the jeans were, the better it was considered.
Fashion in the sixties was all about promoting thoughts of peace, love, and freedom. Ponchos, peace signs, chain belts, and velvet trousers were all an important part of the clothes that most men wore in the sixties. Fringed buckskin jackets were also popular amongst men in that period. Surprisingly, despite all the focus on peace, another all important clothing for men in the 1960s were army fatigues which were teamed with t-shirts and shirts that were colorful.
As mentioned earlier, the late sixties was all about embracing yourself, expressing a sense of individuality, and questioning rules that were thrust on you. Fashion and clothing reflected the same thought process. So while there was general similarity in clothing styles, there was a sense on uniqueness about it.
Clothing for men in the 1960s, whether hippie fashion or the Mod subculture which inspired fashion in the earlier part of the decade, showcased a marked departure. This was the decade when an active interest in men's clothing developed and fashion became more all encompassing.