When we consider the iconic menswear styles and looks of today that have graced the pages of GQ, Esquire and Vogue Hommes to name but a few, a lot of the most enduring labels that have remained iconic originated in the 1960s. This hedonistic decade enabled many designers to break through into the fashion world, creating bold new statement pieces that have endured to this day. Mini skirts, plaid and bouffant dresses were the go-to styles for women whereas men embraced a decade of Don Draper-esque suits, beatnik and mod attire.
The 1960s was a time of revolution politically and culturally. Woodstock festivals were the centre of all things hippyish, underground and edgy. This sense of revolution was internalised within the fashion industry to create some of the most inspiring menswear labels that are still adorning hipsters, hippies, industrialists and the most distinguished gentlemen to this day. Take a look at these labels that saw their brands emerge in the mid-century only to reach global domination fifty years later.
Ralph Lauren : 1967
Mr. Lauren was not your typical fashion guru. The son of Jewish immigrants, he worked as a lowly salesperson, but always had a flair for the more creative. Setting up his own label in 1967, Ralph Lauren began selling bespoke neckties to the businessmen that craved something a little more edgy than the Savile Row staple. Soon, Ralph Lauren was designing the elegant and classic shirts that we see today available from outlets such as The Iconic.
Remaining affordable to the masses, Ralph Lauren rejected the ridiculously high-end retail prices to become a more accessible designer brand for men all over the world.
Kiton : 1968
A less well-known brand than the likes of Ralph Lauren is Kiton. These off the peg suits are made from the most luxurious and expensive fabrics. In the late 1960s men could adorn themselves in velvet, tweed or gabardine that fitted as if they were created on Savile Row. Nowadays each suit, although ready to wear from high-end department stores all over the world, is handmade and crafted using artisan techniques. This probably goes some way to explaining why a Kiton suit will set you back upwards of $5000 today.
Comme Des Garcons : 1969
Rei Kawakubo, the mind behind the label of Comme des Garcons has had something of an epiphany over the near fifty years of its incarnation. When the label first began, menswear wasn’t even on the radar, and all female collections were the order of the day. Fast forward ten years and Kawakubo was creating eccentric men’s tweed suits with neckties pre-sewn into the fabric. She remains hugely secretive of her designs, never leaking samples to the press before launch days. Her quiet confidence with pattern, colour and texture have led to her label becoming a mainstay of menswear all over the globe.
Tommy Nutter : 1969
Whereas classic crisp lines, well-fitted tailoring and uniformity with a mere touch of individuality was the style of the 1960s, Tommy Nutter decided to set his label on a different course. When he set up his tailoring business on Savile Row at the end of the 1960s, he wanted to introduce a more bold, crazy and manic ideal onto the fashion world and he succeeded. While the 1980s woman had oversized shoulder pads and garishly gold detailing, Nutter’s 1960s man had giant lapels, eye-watering patterns and large bow ties. What could have come across as clownish was harnessed to create a favoured brand of 1960s British rock stars.
Calvin Klein : 1967
While not exclusively a menswear designer, Calvin Klein used the 1960s to bring forward a more provocative approach to fashion. Even now, there are social media campaigns and TV adverts showing nothing but a well-sculpted guy in a pair of Calvin Klein boxer shorts frolicking on a catamaran with a beautiful woman. Calvin Klein designed pieces that encouraged men to believe wearing them would make them achingly cool. Like Ralph Lauren, the prices for his pieces, while not cheap, aren’t out of reach of the common man, making designer fashion affordable and viable for all. Calvin Klein revolutionised the fashion world, having his fingers in many well-coiffed pies from womenswear to menswear and from bags to perfumes.
The 1960s is remembered as a pivotal decade in world history where revolt and revolution were embraced like never before. The counterculture movement was given space to flourish as was the emergence of a new breed of fashion houses across the world. Those that have endured to the present day still produce some of the most iconic menswear ever to grace the catwalk.