Expert Answers
appletrees eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were two distinct periods of fashion in the 1960s, and the shift mid-way in this decade was fairly radical. The early 1960s saw fashions that were something of a carry-over from the 1950s post-war era: women were still wearing fairly feminine silhouettes that accented their figures, and hairstyles were elaborate and required a fair amount of upkeep. This began to shift as gender roles began to shift towards a greater presence of women in the workplace.

American fashions were also influenced by the mid-1960s "mod" look from London: including longer hair on men, long straight hair on women, slim trousers, geometric shapes, and mini-skirts. The Beatles had an influence on fashions as well: their shaggy hair and working class suits became popular. When the Beatles found Eastern mysticism in the late 1960s, this brought an Indian flavor to fashion: bright cotton patterns and colors, flowing skirts, long jackets on men, exotic jewelry and beads, and long loose hair on both men and women.

Other ethnic cultures also influenced fashion: the Civil Rights Movement included a rebirth of interest in African culture, and this brought African clothing and more natural hairstyles into the African-American community. Because the Civil Rights Movement also caused a shift in social patterns, this fashion influence carried into other communities, and young people in particular were interested in wearing clothing that reflected different cultures. The development of new synthetic fibers also influenced fashion and many colorful fabrics made with polyester become part of the mod 1960s look.

The Women's Liberation Movement of the 1960s also influenced fashion: women were encouraged to be more comfortable, and not to adhere to sexist styles, so women in jeans, loose hair, flat shoes, and men's clothing were starting to be seen everywhere. Finally, the era of anti-war protests also had an influence on fashion: the use of the American flag in patches and clothing patterns was seen as a way of protesting the American involvement in the war, and men's growing their hair long was seen as a way to protest enforced military enlistment.