How The Beatles Led a Fashion Revolution
Updated: Mar 19
It's not difficult to see why people were intrigued and felt a connection to the four young British men on The Ed Sullivan Show in '64. The Beatles didn't have elegant accents or posh backgrounds- they were just like the person on the other side of the screen raised in a restricted post-war society that seemingly didn't have much to offer. They resembled the rebellion that the 60's would bring as the young people demanded for the autonomy of their youth. The Beatles became partly being known for rejecting their own religion, donning bright colours, staying loyal to their working class backgrounds and later on challenging unfair politics as more mature solo artists. Although the legacy of The Beatles is based on music, they were also fashion trend setters ever since they rose to fame on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.
At first, the band wore cowboy boots and leather attire to establish themselves as a rock band but when they met their manager, he completely changed their look to help them get a better reception in America. The cowboy boots were swapped for Chelsea boots (that are still very much a staple today) and the rebellious leather coats and trousers were replaced by form fitting suits. That is the way Brian Epstein wanted The Beatles to enter America in '64. Their 'mop-top' haircuts quickly became a go-to haircut for young men around the world; it's also the same haircut that shot Justin Bieber to fame over 50 years later. Although the young people loved their look, it was mocked by adults for its unusual length and the haircut was considered 'highly rebellious' in the Soviet Union; so much so that young men were taken to police stations to have their hair forcefully cut off. The 'mop-top' replaced the American fashion of combed-back hair as it represented androgyny and seemingly less threatening male sexuality.
In 1967, the band changed not only their music but their style too. After The Beatles dropped their much anticipated eighth album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", they changed fashion forever. On the cover, the men appear wearing bright coloured military jackets, ditching their form fitting suits. Their look became contradicting, the colours they were wearing would have been considered feminine but at the same time the military jacket was considered a staple of masculine bravery giving them an even more androgynous reputation. They became the epitome of mod fashion and hippie culture of the late 60's. A British fashion magazine described this time in fashion as "a state of anarchy" and commented that in the 60's "the questioning and rejecting (was) going on in more significant areas than fashion... but it is in dress that it shows the most." The bright psychedelic colours of the military jackets were meant to be an contradiction- to go against the connotations of a uniform. The jackets were not worn often but The Beatles did not ditch their loud colour pallet, often wearing floral shirts and pastel trousers empowering the hippie culture of the time.
Fast forward to the "Abbey Road" era, The Beatles showed a new fashion sense which was now much more toned down and mature as they appeared on the famous cover in jeans, white shirts and sandals. Their clothes were no longer bright which came to resemble the ending of their glory days, they were no longer the young boys that shot to fame in 1964. They were now grown men with wives and children and it's evident that they wanted their art to showcase this newfound maturity and life experience. This album cover symbolised an end of an era as the group showed a new taste for minimalism evident in the clothes they wore and the location they chose which was just outside their recording studio. The Beatles appeared on the zebra crossing wearing basic wide-leg trousers and loose blazers, far from the experimental look they proudly donned two years before. Their teenage fans were now grown women (or men) and the group recognised that it was time to move on too as they disbanded a year later. The new style they presented became prevalent in the 70's as there appeared a new demand for simplistic clothing contrasting with the psychedelic patterns of the 60's.
The Beatles showed a new approach to men's fashion; for the first time in ages men started wearing floral patterns and garments that before would have been considered 'too feminine' without shame in a patriarchal society full of silent rules men set and felt they had to obey to be considered a 'Man'. The Beatles were androgynous and experimental which was enough to inspire many other artists. After a decade of craziness, they disbanded in April of 1970 but their influence was just as strong as solo artists, just think of Lennon and his famous round glasses. Today, they are considered not only 60's icons but also musical legends that stood the test of time.