BEGINNING OF THE RAINBOW
I've had this picture of Michael Fish for quite some time, looking every inch the quintessential sixties dandy―as indeed he was! This particular photograph was scanned from a 1960s source book but it's always good to know where the original came from, along with the finer details of course! It's an outtake from a Daily Telegraph Magazine fashion editorial published in April 1968, which was about the use of colour finally making its way back into British menswear after an extremely long absence. The article was the second in a series by the magazine on the changes taking place in British men's wardrobes, you can view the first one featuring Terence Stamp in one of my previous posts here. It's also interesting to note that it was written by Geoffrey Aquilina-Ross, the author of The Day of the Peacock - Style for Men 1963-1973 which was published in 2011.
After a century under suspicion, colour in men's clothes has lost it's bohemian connotations and men are moving back into women's rainbow world.
Colour is coming back into men's fashion. Gone is the foreigner's idea, held for a hundred years, that all British men look like yards of tweed surrounded by thick fog. Of course in the 18th and early 19th centuries men were often dressed in such dazzling displays of colour that their women were put in the shade. Viscount Malborn, for instance, must have caused a sensation when he attended the King's Birthday Drawing Room of 1794 in "a purple stripe and green spot spring velvet coat and breeches and white silk waistcoat curiously embroidered in coloured silk and festoons and the vest embroidered as the coat in mosaic all over the body". Naturally this was pure fancy dress; others of the same era believed that true elegance was somewhat quieter.
However, a little later, in Victorian times, sober colours suitable to the humourless responsibilities of the Empire returned in force. The only dashes of levity allowed were the touches of velvet and magnificence of the military uniform, unmatched today by most dress uniform or by the standard Khaki, navy or air-force blues, no matter how much gold braid is added. It is no wonder that Victorian uniforms found their way into second hand shops and were worn by the more adventurous last summer.
The military trend of 1967 courtesy of I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet.
Men in general, in Britain in particular, continued to dress in a restrained and sober fashion until the late fifties. There were perennial pinstripes, black-greys and browns, and a bit of tweedy camouflage in the country. The only true colours to be seen were garish ties, fluorescent overalls on building sites, and a touch of devilish colour in a cummerbund with a dinner jacket. But today the puritans are running. Even if you do not want to look like a rainbow from head to toe, you can still add excitement with a sari silk handkerchief or vivid shirt.
Some hippy clothes are certainly beautiful, but the uncontrolled mix of brocades, velvets and flowers usually look like gilded fancy dress costumes. There have always been minority groups-perhaps poets, actors, and writers-who have appeared in peacock fashion, but they were always regarded as rather shocking. The reason was that, until recently, flamboyance usually had homosexual connections. Now all good designers are using colour, and all the leading shops and stores are stocking the clothes. Here are some, not particularly flamboyant, but certainly colourful. This is not a suggestion for a total transformation to wild colours, just a change to a new way of approaching elegance
Michael Fish is the director and designer of his shop Mr Fish. On the stairs of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, away from the crush of the crush of the bar, he wears a purple silk cord tunic jacket lavishly embroidered with black, slim and tight-fitting, 75gns. Purple poplin roll-neck shirt, 7gns. All from Mr Fish, 17 Clifford Street, London W1.
Simon Dee, taking a break from his television show. Above, he wears a rubberised raincoat, shaped like a pared-down riding mac, £9 10s, from Hawkes of Saville Row. Wide-brimmed velour hat, 6 gns, from Herbert Johnson, Bond Street, W1.
Corin Redgrave is in The Charge of the Light Brigade, and later this year will be seen with Monica Vitti in Girl with a Pistol and with Michael Caine and Anthony Quinn in The Magus. At home with his wife, Deirdre, and children, Luke and Jemima, he wears co-ordinated green: a shetland sweater, crew-necked and tighter-fitting than usual, £4 15s, and cord trousers cut like straight-leg jeans, £7 10s. Both in many colours at Just Men, 9 Tryon Street, SW3. The Liberty print shirt is from their shirt shop, Just Men 116 King's Road SW3.
All images scanned by Sweet Jane from The Sixties Source Book A Visual Reference To The Style Of A Decade by Nigel Cawthorne - images (1) & (2), and (3, 4, 5) from The Daily Telegraph Magazine, April 10th, 1968, original editorial by Geoffrey Aquilina-Ross, all photographs by David Franklin.