In terms of fashion, the ‘60s continued until about 1975 when the Mary Quant mini-skirts and zip dresses relaxed into Flower Power’s flowing fabrics, long hair and hippie trails. Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Boots’ turned into The Mama’s and the Papa’s warble. Fashion and music have always enjoyed an effect on one another. Fashion has a way of emulating the glamour of a celebrity high life in the everyday person, when they dress up to go out on the weekend. However, the costume changes of ABBA’s Benny and Bjorn weren’t readily available to all, so there was still a hint of the ‘1950s wardrobe among folk – thick wool skirts, well-made but demure to the point of being monastic. The ‘50s may have swung in Elvis and rock’n’roll but it still held onto the notion that you were children until you became adults – and if this was the case in life – it was similarly so in fashion. Male or female, you moved from consciously childlike clothing to replicas of your parent’s wardrobe, and often, their way of life.
However, with the ‘1960s came the Pill and along with it: the idea that ‘the youth’ existed as separate from, and more often than not, opposite to the older generation. They were more than children, but they were not yet old. In Glasgow and other big cities across the UK, the new ‘youth’ began to decide and divide; depending on which new subculture they associated with.
Enter the ‘Mods’, those of scooter and Parker fame. If you were a mod, you’d likely wear a clean-cut suit with slicked back hair or a miniskirt, square-toe boots and sleek bob haircut. Your focus would be the fashion and music scene emerging at the time: soul, rhythm, blues and ska. On said scooter, you would be looking for a fight, probably with a Rocker.
Rocker men come clad in the leather necessities of their motor biking antics. Their hair was grown long and styled into a ‘pompadour’ (similar to Danny in Greece), their music choice was the rock’n’roll of the ‘1950s. Rocker women wore full skirts, bomber jackets and bright prints that were best if you were dancing to Eddie Cochran and Bo Diddley on a Saturday night. The hemlines were generally shorter – so were the tempers. Any chance for either group to come into conflict with the other seemed actively encouraged, with rallies ending in brutal riots, the weapons used ranging from fish hooks to flick knives and bike chains.
What about ‘60s fashion in Glasgow? If you were older you would still be living with the memories of the wartime ration book and your clothes were therefore a spend thrift patchwork of fifties and late forties style. If you were young, you would be drawn to the new commodity; affordable fashion. You would be more liberated than the previous generation – both sexually and financially – but the going was still tough and the playing was equally rough.
It is the year 1960, it’s Christmas Eve, the city is heaving with people. Alasdair Gray is teaching at the Art school and the infamous Barrowland’s Ballroom is re-opening after a fire two years earlier had destroyed it. You’re going because your parents would hate it. You’ve chosen your uniform and you’re dependant on the music genre of your vinyl record, playing in the background of your poorly lit flat. If lucky – your friend or boyfriend will pick you up on his scooter or motorbike and zip you over to Glasgow Green – but probably you’ll just end up walking or taking the last of the trams still rattling about the city. Choose your Brothel Creepers or your Mary Jane’s and let the fun, and the fight, begin…
By Nancy Hervy Bathurst