What are the main differences between ‘subculture’ and ‘counterculture’ and what do they tell us about fashion and the rebellion in the 1960s?
I shall be studying about the difference between ‘subculture’ and ‘counterculture’ and what they tell us about fashion and rebellion in the 1960s. I shall do this by looking at the way how the 1960s influenced the generation of the hippies era in relation to fashion, music, media and photography. I am going start by exploring the definition of ‘subculture’ and ‘counterculture’.
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‘Culture is the way, the forms, in which groups ‘handle’ the raw material of their social and material existence’. (Clarke et al, 1975: 10) ‘Subcultures are sub-sets – smaller, more localised and differentiated structures, within one or other of the larger cultural networks’. (Clarke et al, 1975: 13) both references from (Populism, Jim McGuigan, Chapter 3, Youth Culture and Consumption, pg95)
The 1960s were an immense time to be young. Youth culture and youth fashion, had begun to take shape in the fifties, blossomed as never before.
Hippies culture became very popular in the 60s after the Beatniks.’Hippie culture, with the new interest in vegetarianism, the environment and peace, proved ready not just for revival but for a permanent place in this ‘endless’ youth culture’. (Post Modernism and Popular Culture, Angela Mcrobbie, pg.159) As of Stuart Hall, he saw the ‘hippy movement’ as an ‘identification towards poverty’. ‘It was also politically informed in the sense of being determined to create an alternative society. This subculture was therefore able to develop an extensive semi-entrepreneurial network which came to be known as the counter-culture’. (Post Modernism and Popular Culture, Angela Mcrobbie, pg.143, Subcultural Entreprenuers)
‘Hippies popularised kaftans, Macrame bags and Afghan coats. the flares of the late 1960s widened out to bell-bottom proportions before high-waisted straight trousers and platform soles stepped into view’. (Speak the Culture, Britain, Be Fluent In British Life and Culture, Neil Thomas, ThoroGood, Pg.253) The distinct style of hippie are mainly colourful and floral wear, a lot of accessories such as headbands, rings, necklaces and earrings, usual would wear flip flops for footwear. Carnaby street was where they would all shop, ”Hippie Land” that is what I would call it. Summer of Love was associated with the hippies, known as the Swingin’ 60s
Carnaby Street in 1966. During the 60s, Lord John was the ”hippest” store. (Fashion of a Decade, The 1960’s pg.41)
This is where Twiggy comes in, famous model, with her long lashes, big eyes and bob, she became the British style icon of the 60s. Made it big for wearing the ‘mini-skirt’. And to this day she has brought a new life to fashion for the ‘older’ person as they relate to her and connect her to Marks and Spencer, which has made profit to them.
A new style then came into sight, by a new group of teenagers which they called Mods. The Mod style were inspired by the beatniks and from American fashion.
The well known designers at that time were Mary Quant, Zandra Rhodes and Barbara Hulanicki.
Mary Quant introduced Britain to mini-skirts, and that made a huge impact in fashion in the 60s. The mini-skirt was mainly worn by the young, most of the audience were shocked, others saw this as ”free will”.
Zandra Rhodes influenced by pop art, with her unconventional clothes and pink hair. Rhodes sold some of her first textiles work to Marion Foale and Sally Tuffin. Associated with pop art during this decade were artists such as Andy Warhol, the fact that this movement was unrealistic, the audience were interested from the use of expression and abstract, which made people feel free, this is how the hippies were seen as. Pop art became the ”parcel” of fashion, which made clothing more fun and colourful.
Barbara Hulanicki opened a clothing store with her husband in the early 60s, she later became known for the garments she had designed for Cathy McGowan, the TV presenter for the music show ‘Ready, Steady, Go’.
Till this day these three designers are the icons of modern fashion. Retro fashion is always coming back with new and fresh looks. Many contemporary designers now such as Anna Sui, Diane von Furstenburg, Erdem are influenced by the hippie culture.
Music in the 1960’s has made a big impression in the lives of youth culture. They still have an appeal to old and young, they were the ones mainly responsible for the change in music and social change from the war and 50s onwards. For example, the Beatles, which created ‘Beatlemania’ their style was a start of a new era, having long hair with long beards, Lennon known for wearing the ‘granny’ glasses, this is where the Beatniks were introduced, which then led to the ‘hippy movement’. Elvis Presley known as the King Rock and Roll. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones.
The Glastonbury Festival, would have varieties of artists, in an open field, which lasts up to 3-4 days, usually visited by hippies during the 70s when it was first held, the festival was an excuse for sex, drugs, socialising with others. And to this day The Glastonbury Festival is still a successful event.
This is where technology comes in, it is rapidly progressing from records to cassettes, to cassette tape walkman, to cds, to cd walkmans, to mp3 players such as Ipods,mobile phones. Also being able to download music from the internet illegally, this is causing music stores, such as HMV to close down shops, due to not enough sales to keep the business afloat.
During the 60s, youths from under 25 years of age regularly visited the cinema as entertainment before TV became more popular. Also it was another excuse to socialise with others when they take a visit to the movies. The theatre was also popular for the upper age group as a form of entertainment.
Photography plays a big role in fashion advertisement in a form of magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair, which introduces the upper working-class to upcoming fashion trends, which is currently still happening today with many more magazine options to choose from such as Dazed and Confused, ID etc. ”Fashions and faces: Beaton, Bailey and Rankin”
‘As Britain pursued its passion for photojournalism in the mid 20th century a more affected genre of photography also evolved, set to explode in the 1960s. It embraced fashion, advertising and high society (in short, beautiful people) and found its outlet in magazines like Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Cecil Beaton bore the torch with staged, glamorous images of Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn and the Royals from the 1920s through to the 60s’. (Speak the Culture Britain Be Fluent in British Life and Culture, Neil Thomas, ThoroGood, pg.245)
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To conclude, I have discovered that the subculture of hippies in the 1960s, were free spirited, peace loving, rebellions against war, and also introduced a fashionable trend that are still current in some societies. What I think about the difference between ‘subculture’ and ‘counterculture’ is that subculture is the identity of an individual. You can show your personality through clothing, the music you listen to, where you get together in the environment, the region of a culture. E.g. When you think of Camden, you automatically think of punks and rockers. Notting Hill Gate, the Notting Hill carnival comes to your mind. Where as counterculture, as seen as the political part of the culture i.e hippies. ‘A subculture is the way of defining and honouring the particular specification and demarcation of special or different interests of a group of people within a larger collectivity’. (Culture, Chris Jenks, pg.10)
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