What Was Swinging London? Mods, Miniskirts & Music In '60s England

By | May 17, 2019

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Left: Michael Caine during the filming of 'Alfie,' a promotional image from the 2017 documentary 'My Generation.' Right: Pete Townshend of The Who sporting a Union Jack blazer in 1966. Sources: IMDB; Chris Morphet/Redferns/Getty

The Swinging Sixties in London was more than just The Beatles and people saying (in that Austin Powers voice), “groovy, baby.” Swinging London represented a change in attitude and art that brought England to the forefront of culture and fashion in the 20th century. After a decade of post-war austerity, the youth of London were ready to party, and party they did. The dress code was sharp and sexy for the models and rock stars who defined the scene, icons like Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton, The Who and the Small Faces. Throughout the ‘60s there was a cultural explosion - people got weird, the skirts got short, and music got loud.

The cultural domination of the ‘60s in London can’t be overstated. Everything that happened in this one English city rippled out across the western world and made the world cooler. By the mid-1960s, young people in other countries were wearing miniskirts and rocking the Union Jack, and British music was "invading" the four corners of the globe.

The Streets Of London Were A Runway

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Source: (pinterest.com)

When you think of the sharp fashion of the swinging '60s the first things that come to mind are mini skirts, go-go boots, thick eyeliner, and razor-thin suits in all manner of colors. If you lived in London you had to look good, and that meant wearing your best duds no matter where you were. The woman behind the most important look of the day -- the miniskirt -- was Mary Quant.

Quant designed fashion specifically for young people, and with her boutique on the King’s Road, Bazaar, she began selling mind-blowing outfits in groovy colors like sherbet orange and mint green. Her fashions were seen on the sharpest babes; Jean Shrimpton, an icon of the London scene, made the high-rise skirt a must-have after stopping traffic with its eye-popping length (or lack thereof).

At the same time, London was going gaga for the rail thin 16-year-old model Twiggy. Born Lesley Hornby, Twiggy was known as the “queen of the mod” and her girlish looks inspired women across the western world to crop their hair short and adopt a disaffected air.