Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Swinging Through London

In 1965, Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue magazine, said "London is the most swinging city in the world at the moment." And she wasn’t far wrong!

If you were a bright young thing in the 1960’s hip and with it, Swinging London was the place to be. For fashion and culture, London was the centre of the universe, and symbolized one of the quickest and most explosive cultural revolutions of the 20th century. London flourished and the rest of the world followed its lead in all things modern and hip.

Basically a youth-orientated phenomenon that lay emphasis on the new and the modern, Swinging London saw its beginnings in the recovery of the British economy after post World War II austerity.

This was a time when the world’s first supermodels were becoming celebrities in their own right, Jean Shrimpton was the world’s highest paid and most recognized. Shrimpton at the time was being hailed as “The Face of the ‘60s” and was considered by many as "the symbol of Swinging London" and the "embodiment of the 1960s.” Veruschka, Penelope Tree and Twiggy were fast following behind the Shrimp’s sling-backs and were putting London on the map.

Two of the epicenters of this phenomenon were the fashionable shopping areas of Carnaby Street Soho and Kings Road, Chelsea. Carnaby Street proved a magnet for hippies and mods alike with many independent and well known designers setting up shop there. Mary Quant, Marion Foale Sally Tuffin, Lord John, Merc, Take Six, I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet, Kleptomania, Mates, Ravel, and others drew crowds of bright young things shaking off the conventional attitudes of the 1950’s to embrace the swinging sixties. With bands such as Small Faces, The Who, and Rolling Stones appearing in the area to work, shop, and socialize, it became one of Swinging London's coolest destinations.

As Time Magazine proclaimed “Perhaps nothing illustrates the new swinging London better than the narrow, three-block-long Carnaby Street, which is crammed with a cluster of the 'gear' boutiques where the girls and boys buy each other clothing…”

The British flag, the Union Flag, became a symbol, assisted by events such as England's home victory in the 1966 World Cup. Adorning everything from mini-skirts, shirts, bags and shoes one would think that all our fashionable young Londoners were very patriotic.

It is strange today to associate one city with a cultural and social revolution. With advances made in technology and with the help of the internet changes and trends are universal and instataneous. Swinging London developed over time and exploded just when the time was right.


  1. I remember those days well....the atmosphere was very exciting...change was happening everywhere....the music was mesmerizing...I so love Twiggy and mary quant.....stripes were big too, and then i could wear them....

  2. I also remember that time. I wore a mod cap and had a prized tea tin from Carnaby Street. Perhaps you remember the futuristic crown that Prince Charles wore at his investiture as Prince of Wales, sort of a Space Age get-up. That, too, was part of that design revolution.

  3. brilliant & hip post David!
    Twiggy lashes definitely spoke VOLUME!


  4. This time and place produced Julie Christie and that's all I care about. Thanks for the fun post.

  5. Lovely post David, as always, would´ve killed to be in London at that time...still I wish someday I get to travel there..I have always thought its so a stylish and chic

    The Black Label

  6. Hello:
    This may come as something of a surprise, and we are not sure that it is wise to admit it, but we were there, Bright Young Things, - in London during those, what now seem so far off, days of the Swinging Sixties. Yes, there was Carnaby Street, Mary Quant, et al. And of course that fashion store to rival all others: Biba.

    Did it all, as you suggest, come about as a reaction to the austerity years of the 1950s? Possibly so, but also the very beginning of globalisation of which London happened to be in the vanguard.

  7. There were times I had the TIME always in my mailbox.
    TIME and ROLLING STONE helped me to learn English *LOL*.
    London will be my next trip.
    I want to go there for a weekend in July (when I'm not completely broke after Venice. Someone told me that a gondola ride costs 150 Euros!!!).
    Thumbs up, great post, as always. I'm absolutely addicted to your blog.
    I must pack for the trip but I always drop everything when I see that you've posted.

  8. I was born in the 60s so I couldn't be witness to that, but I do believe London has since kept some of that mixed atmosphere of tradition and vanguardism forever.
    Beautiful Post to read, and remember.

  9. Everyone was so pretty back then!

  10. Beautifully written and illustrated post. It really was a unique and special place and time. The fusion of history with things colourful and new contributed to a very unique ambiance. Although as I child I was somewhat aware of this phenomenon, your review of it is excellent. I think your article would be particularly informative for someone young who had not lived through it, as you explain it so very well and succinctly.

    For me the most important aspect of the mod English influence was the music of the Beatles.

  11. <3<3<3<3 LONDON...

  12. Oh, this is my soft spot - the glamour and freedom of Fashion before the era of being politicaly correct.:-))) Sometimes I wish I would have 9 lives, like a cat, so that I could eperience this peronally. Fantastic pictures, David, they are so on the point with the air of that age. :-)

  13. Ah so many comments and some from people who were actually there! How I envy you! Wouldn't it be great to all go back together?

  14. I remember "Oh De London" perfume .. I was just 14 when the London Look came Downtown Cleveland, Oh I so loved the carnaby hats the mod glasses the floral dresses, bell bottoms. I loved the Yardley lipsticks and i so was a fashion diva back then. It was the time of the British Invasion, the songs, that era was so special in my life. Today I am 60 and still think that was the best era. Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton ruled the magazines. The hairdos from long to french curls on top, the umpire dresses, the so feminine shoes..square toed. I could go on forever but I will stop here. I miss the 1960's.


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