Upon hearing that The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine is marking its 50th anniversary by returning to the big screen in July, we’ve spent the last couple of weeks bopping around the office listening to the album. The sight and sounds of the sixties changed the world and there is good reason why they’ve become such a touchstone of popular culture from young children through to grandparents. This month’s question comes from 10 year old Jake from Surrey, who is doing a school project on the decades and asks:
PM.com: “How did The Beatles keep up with sixties fashion and were any of those outfits you had to wear ever uncomfortable?”
_Paul: “Thanks for your question, Jake. Well, we were slightly - you could call it arrogant or confident - in our own sense of fashion. We basically just knew what we liked. It all started in Liverpool with Rock ‘n’ Roll fashion. The hair dos all swept back into a quiff, all that kind of thing. The trousers got narrower – we called them drainpipes – you know, from the old school trousers. And then as time went on we went to places like Hamburg where we were influenced by friends of ours out there. And we found their style of dress was very interesting because we were still rockers and were sort of into leather jackets and things. We were trying to be like Gene Vincent, the American Rock ‘n’ Roll singer, who was one of our idols.
“So we came back from Hamburg and the next phase was that John and I had our hair cut when we were in Paris, by one of the guys. A guy called Jürgen [Vollmer], who was a photographer, had been part of this crowd. So now that was kind of the next stage in our ‘look’. We came down to London and spent a lot of time just looking in shop windows. You would go along the King’s Road and you’d see a great shirt, or a great jacket or something. By now we were starting to earn money, so you would buy those things and then you’d see guys in other groups who would be like, ‘Where did you get your shirt man? Cecil Gee? Ah right, OK!!’ You’d trade information. But the thing is, it wasn’t so much that we were following fashion, so much as being part of it. It wasn’t like we were following a trend; we were in the trend._
_“So that was kind of a good feeling, and then as things developed we started to actually set trends - not meaning to - but we would just do certain things or wear certain things. I’m not saying me personally, or even The Beatles personally, but our group of friends. It might be The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, and all those kind of people around at that time. So, it didn’t feel like we were having to ‘keep up’ – it felt like they were having to keep up with us!
“It was good fun! We just kind of wore what we liked and then as time went on we got into the psychedelic era and we met some people, a collective called ‘The Fool’. They designed clothes and would custom make them for you. And those were very much the sort of psychedelic brightly coloured things that still, to me today, when you look at those clothes - they look like clothes from the future! They don’t look like clothes from the past! Those pictures, if you look at 'Magical Mystery Tour’, something like ‘I Am the Walrus’. Those are basically made by those people. They were Dutch kids – students – but they made clothes. Again, we were part of the trend rather than following it._
“The whole Beatles thing was very fast, from A to Z. The amount that we packed in, it’s just about ten years. But the amount of music, fashion knowledge, writing, that happened in those ten years was phenomenal!”
PM.com: “Was fashion something you were always interested in?”
Paul: “I wouldn’t have thought of it as fashion. If I thought about fashion, I would have thought about Vogue Magazine and models, plenty of whom were on the scene and who we knew, like Twiggy and Celia Hammond. I didn’t feel like we were part of that. I felt like we were developing alongside that, on a kind of parallel track. And to some degree, I think we were setting the trend.”
Are you a fan of the sixties and its fashions? Let us know about your favourite music and fashion from the decade in the comments below…