The Rock era began with conservative 50s and 60s dress. Just check out some early pictures from Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, and you’ll see crew cuts on the boys and pony-tails or bouffant hairstyles on the girls. Knee length dresses were the norm for women and button down plaid shirts for men’s casual wear.
Note that the guys were all wearing sports coats and dress shoes. This was the norm for school dances in many parts of the country. Canvas sneakers were just coming into fashion but weren’t in fashion for a dance. Leather sneakers or athletic shoes weren’t around yet. School dances all had rigid dress codes. Jeans or skirts too short got you sent home.
Mid 60s Dress and Style
By the mid-60s, fashion had done an 180-degree turn. Miniskirts and hot-pants were in for girls, sometimes paired with go-go boots. Ponytails were gone and long, straight hair was in. Granny dresses, the peasant look, and clunky shoes were all in style. Quite a difference from just a few years earlier.
Men’s hairstyles grew long and shaggy, with beards, mustaches, and sideburns. The Afro was popular for blacks of both genders. Bright colors, Nehru jackets, and turtlenecks were in style.
The Beatles hair told the whole story. Their hair was slightly longer than normal in the early 60s, a contrast to the crew cut standard. It flopped around a little bit (driving the girls crazy) as the performed. By the mid-60s it was definitely long, came down to their eyes in the front, and flopped around a lot. By 1967, they added mustaches, and by 1970 they wore their hair shoulder length and with full beards.
Towards the end of the decade, unisex styles became popular 60s dress, with bell-bottom jeans, screened or embroidered t-shirts, and love beads being the fashion of choice. Flower, bright colors, paisley, and psychedelic themes were everywhere. And it’s tough to forget for formal wear, those big wide ties, 5 inches wide was the standard in stripes and plaid, and it made no difference what other pattern it was worn with. What were we thinking to wear one coupled with a polyester leisure suit?
It was clear that individual expression won out in the 60s. Teens, even from the most conservative areas, wanted to be different than their parents and dress was a big distinction. Older teens could choose their own clothes, younger teens that made up the majority of the baby boomers still had to stay within the school and parental guidelines. It made for some interesting combinations.