1964 – the year of the show-a-leg mini skirt. Mary Quant – the icon of Swinging London – invents the miniskirt and markets it with the help of a seventeen-year-old hairdresser, Leslie Horby, better known as ‘Twiggy’.
“The miniskirt wasn’t my invention and it wasn’t Courrèges’ idea either. It was the girls on the King’s Road who invented it,” said Quant. It’s a little known fact that at the end of the 19th century the French feminist Hubertine Auclert had created the League in Defence of Short Skirts! A great victory.
In the sixties, several new musical trends first make their appearance in England, including the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. The Beat Generation takes hold in the USA. The new music represents a break with the past: it is freedom, a breath of fresh air as far as customs and daily life are concerned. The Supremes, Chubby Checker, Stevie Wonder, The Doors, the Beach Boys, Elvis Presley. At 5.17 pm on Friday 15th August 1969, Richie Havens sings Freedom, and the Woodstock festival in Bethel begins:
‘Three days of Peace, Love and Rock Music’ is what it’s all about. Over 400,000 young people and thirty-two groups and musicians. Society is changing, and the music is evidence of this. The Woodstock festival is a triumphant affirmation of the idea that ‘another world is possible’. It is the victory of free expression, choice and the ‘take your pick’ experience of a generation whose beneficial influence is still felt today.
1980 – The casual look triumphs. A way of dressing that lays the stress on comfort and personal expression – formality is a thing of the past. The style emerges in England at a time when football stadium violence was becoming a real national emergency. The government tries to put a lid on hooliganism, but the fighting on skinhead-packed terraces continues. And it is the cropped hooligans who make the casual look so popular – an English youth subculture that manages to leave its mark on the rest of Europe. Today ‘casual’ has less to do with sport but with street style and easy chic: a way of dressing that is smart without being too overbearing. A way of life. Complete with a curious semantic field of reference.