The mid-sixties witnessed a radical change in the way in which American and European youth chose to adorn themselves; especially among young men. Not since the Rococo style of the eighteenth century had male fashion been dominated by bright colors, sumptuous fabrics, and elaborate ornamentation. The sober, dark clothing worn by men throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century was gleefully cast off and '...instead of the traditional coat and waistcoat they adopted jerseys and blouses, very similar to those worn by women."
This 'Peacock Revolution' began in the inexpensive, ready-to-wear boutiques of Carnaby Street and King's Road in London which catered to the ultra-fashionable Mods of the early sixties. The dandified Mods rejected the conservative business suits of their father's generation, preferring a youthful silhouette of slimmer fitting jackets worn with narrow trousers. These London teenagers had an insatiable appetite for new and innovative clothing, and reveled in the hedonism and delight of fashion that had been traditionally reserved for females. The incredible vanity of the Mods had a lasting effect, and by the middle of the decade young men on both sides of the Atlantic were dressing like birds of paradise. As GQ Magazine described in 1968, "The peacock has replaced the penguin...traditional formal wear has been assulted by startling fabrics, designs, and colors."
It is important to consider some of the factors that brought about this radical change in men's fashion. I think it is a mix of the sexual revolution and the redefinition of gender roles, the booming economic climate of the decade, pop art, and new role models like musicians and rock stars that brought about the vogue for colorful clothing.
Women's fashion was also becoming more risque and outlandish in the sixties, and a man would have to keep up his appearance to compliment his female companion. Author Marilyn Bender noted "...could a Vidal Sassoon kind of girl find lasting happiness with a man in a Hickey-Freeman suit? Obviously not."
The growing hippie culture on America's West Coast also contributed to the abundance of exoticism, and the blending of cultural dress that was in fashion by the late sixties. It is no secret that LSD, Opium, and Hashish were part of this scene; consciousness expanding drugs caused many individuals to view themselves in a new light, and therefore adorn themselves in unconventional, and spectacular ways. On seeing the hippies in New York's Central Park in 1968, journalist Polly Devlin wrote how "...most look like creatures from another world...They dress as they please..." Mr. Fish, a Savile Row trained tailor who made impeccable yet flamboyant menswear, explained in 1966 that "...you have to think differently before you can dress differently. By changing their clothes, people change their whole lives..."
In short, the huge social and cultural upheavals of the 1960s greatly changed male modes of dress, and redefined the way in which men viewed and participated in fashion. GQ Magazine celebrated the break with convention in 1968 by proclaiming " For 150 years tradition has ruled that a gentleman dress with controlled 'good taste'...suddenly the rules are changing...go all the way and transform your image. The great male rebellion is at hand!"