A Week in the USA
Although the USA's influence on British fashion isn't as obvious as those from Eastern culture, the US has made a huge impact on the attitude and way we dress and style ourselves today. We take a look at the people who have shaped America's influence on 20th century fashion starting in the 1950's!
The 50's was the decade that defined the ages between childhood and adulthood and created the teenager. Young girls and boys were starting to get sick of essentially wearing what their mothers and fathers wore and started to look to America for inspiration. As the war had ended and their parents no longer needed help they began to take part-time jobs in order to spend on non-essential goods such as clothes.
America had a huge impact on European youngsters who looked to pop culture, music and film for style references. Teenagers were influenced by rockabilly music and stars like Elvis whose pompadour hair, oversized blazers, leather jackets and Hawaiian shirts were copied by men around the globe. Marlon Brando and James Dean also influenced men's fashion with their basic - and timeless - uniform of T-shirt and jeans.
The main looks for teenagers in the 50's were Greasers, Preppies and Dudes. Preppies were personified by their neatness, tidiness and grooming. Teen girls wore full dirndl or circular skirts with scoop neck blouses, back to front cardigans and a scarf knotted cowboy style at the side of their necks. Dudes wore clean white socks, five buttoned jackets and trousers with top waist pleats and turn-ups. Little Richard was a fan of this look often adding coloured beads and prints for a more exaggerated version of the style. Greasers took on a standard uniform of black leather and denim jeans and raced about town on their motorcycles.
These teen clothing fashions that originated in America eventually made their way into British wardrobes. For example the popular Greaser look filtered down into our culture in the form of the Teddy Boy. These young men, much like their American counterparts, rejected the shabby, but functional clothes worn by their fathers and began to carve out their own style.
During the 1950's London's East End was populated by these Teddy Boys who wore Edwardian style, velvet trimmed skirted coats, smart shirts and slim ties. They would slick their hair back with Brilliantine into a wavy Quiff with long side burns which was brushed back to meet in the middle. Because of the way the hair was finished to the back of the head, the style was brushed back to meet in the middle with the finishing touch of a comb run down the centre back ,thus giving the look of a DA (ducks arse). The most common Hair cut was called a Tony Curtis taken from the way he wore his hair.
The 60's was the decade that truly belonged to Britain. London became the epicentre of the world with cutting edge fashion and music at the heart of the cities scene. However, it was Jackie Kennedy, America's first lady, who also ruled the roost during this time. Soon after John F. Kennedy was elected president in November 1960, she began strategizing her Inauguration Day outfits and wardrobe as the nation's new First Lady.
While Jackie loved French designers like Christian Dior, Balenciaga and Givenchy, she mostly wore Cassini's American-made couture, which shaped the "Jackie Look" that American women lapped up and emulated in droves. Jacqueline's effortless and modern style of A-line dresses, boxy jackets and pillar box hats were easy for the aspiring young girls to copy at more affordable prices. You could be relatively poor and still have a Jackie-esque dress. At the time you could also get a Pillar box hat for a mere $3.95.
Check out this picture of two young women imitating Jackie's' style.
In the 70's Debbie Harry was the epitome of 'Cool'. She rocked platinum hair, killer cheekbones and a sexy rock' n' roll attitude. Her band Blondie emerged from the downtown New York punk scene, along with The Ramones and Talking Heads but it wasn't until a breakthrough tour in Britain in 1977 with her album Parallel Lines that Debbie became a superstar and style icon. The British public loved her edgy look and she was crowned the Marilyn Monroe of punk. She was known for her black mini dresses, distressed jeans and statements tees. All styles we wear today!
The 80's went back to a kind of 50's teenage mentality. Adults are a snooze fest! Women who pioneered this young rebellious attitude were starlets such as Madonna and Molly Ringwald.
Madonna burst onto the scene in the 80's and instantly became a teenage icon. When she starred in hit 80's film Desperately Seeking Susan her style was copied all over the world. Madge became the ultimate poster girl for bad ass attitude. She was the kind of girl your mum didn't want you to be friends with at school!
Accessories were hugely important to the 80's Madonna look and lace fingerless gloves became a staple in many girl's wardrobes. Madge's 80's ensembles included scraps of material tied around her wrist, bows in her hair, ripped jeans, blazers and an unruly perm. (Straight hair was so not cool!) She also pioneered the underwear as outerwear look wearing bustiers under mesh tops and finishing the style off with studded boots and brightly coloured lipstick. Shocking!
Back in the 80's the best teenage films were made by John Hughes and they were a mecca of style inspiration. (If you've never seen The Breakfast Club - watch it!) The flame haired Molly Ringwald starred in three of his films however her style was mostly copied in Pretty in Pink. The film tells the story of Andi, portrayed by teen queen Molly Ringwald, who is a young girl from the poor side of town who has to balance school, her job, and taking care of her alcoholic father.
Andi didn't have a lot of money to invest in her wardrobe - but that didn't stop her from having a bold sense of style! Andi was a fan of floral print, polka dots, brooches, and hats. She was an originator of the "grandma chic" teen girl aesthetic and shopped vintage way before high-end thrift stores were even a thing! She even makes her own prom dress at the end of the film.
One of America's most influential styles that we wear today came from the grunge movement in the 90's. Grunge music pioneered by bands such as Nirvana brought a more laid-back, edgy aesthetic to the forefront of the decade. The style that had begun on the streets of Seattle eventually hit New York and also headed across the Atlantic. The supposedly thoughtless, uncoordinated look was meant to be anti-fashion however it quickly caught on. Grace Coddington even did an eight page article and layout in 1992 for American Vougue called Grunge for Glory. Grunge was officially mainstream.
Iconic items for men and women were ripped and faded jeans, flannel shirts or wool Pendletons layered over dirty T-shirts with outdated logos, and black combat-style boots such as Dr. Martens. Women also took to wearing vintage dresses or baby doll styles with an oversized, holey cardigan.
America pushed youth culture during the 20th century and was at the forefront of teenage style from the 50's all the way up to the millennium. It's easy to see USA's influence on fashion and subculture and the effect it has had on our clothing choices throughout the century.
Whether you want to emulate Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan or James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause we've got your iconic American styles covered. For a Nirvana inspired look we have a wide range of 90's check shirts, slip dresses and denim. If you fancy yourself a first lady then check out our stunning 60's dresses and jackets. Whatever decade you pick make sure you channel that original rebellious 50's attitude!