Re: clothing in the 1960s

Julia Stein (
Wed, 26 Jun 1996 08:35:33 -0400

A while back Ted Morgan asked for examples of ads that trivilize the '60s.
Last week on cable TV I saw a short clip on "The history of the T-shirt"
showing Clark Gable in a 1930s film taking off his shirt & (gasp!) he isn't
wearing his undershirt or T-shirt. Then, a shot of a WWII troop ship full
of GI's in GI issue t-shirts which the announcer said were worn as
undershirts. Then, a shot of Marlon Brando in his t-shirt and jeans in The
Wild One. Then, a shot of a huge anti-war march where the announcer said
t-shirts were popularized during the 1960s, and then shots of t-shirts now
such as tie-die t-shirts and message t-shirts. The message seems to be the
main importance of the anti-war movement was in the evolution of the

And now, for blue jeans. I work with college students in a group that tries
to support garment workers organizing into unions. I said that blue jeans
were first worn by the '49ers and were clothing worn by miners which was
news to all the college students. I guess they thought blue jeans started
with designer jeans. One woman asked me, "Can you show me a picture of
miners in blue jeans?" I said, "Yes." As two women posted a while back,
there was much creativity during the 1960s in sewing clothing, original
street clothing, and many of us knew how to sew (I did and yes I learned
how in home ec class). The counterculture girls (and some boys) produced
denim art! And, yes, I think it was an important art form of the 1960s.

Ron Jacobs said,
Once the moneygrubbers realize there is money to be made, >they will
figure out a way to make that money for themselves.
His examples were movies such as Easy Rider and rock music which put out
commercialized forms of '60s street art. A very good point--lots of money
were made by movies like Easy Rider and corporate rock. And, I might add,
blue jeans. Actually, it was the French designer Yves St. Laurent who make
knock-off copies of the blue jean in a tight "European" fit. Also, St.
Laruent decided that he just wouldn't make couture clothes for the rich but
also ready-to-wear where he could sell his pricey blue jeans. Then,
American designers such as Calvin Klein did knock-offs of French designer

Jacobs says, "Part of this dynamic, unfortunately, was that the message
became muddled and, in some cases, depoliticized."

Was there a message in '60s clothing as t-shirts and blue jeans? Yes! One
fashion book I read said that in '40s and '50s clothing you could tell the
different between the farm workers and non-farm workers. Pre-60s fashions
carefully coded class differences in terms of clothing worn. But in '60s
fashions one couldn't tell the difference between farm workers and the
supporters of the farm workers since they all dressed the same. And this
message was depoliticized in designer jeans. Down with designer jeans!