Words by Sophie Soar
There is no style that epitomises the counterculture movement of the late sixties and early seventies quite like that of Jimi Hendrix. He may have died young, but the legendary guitarist influenced an entire generation with his psychedelic sounds, political stance and legendary look.
Since 1970, Glastonbury Festival has been the highlight of hundreds of thousands of festival goers, often the summer event to attend with tickets selling out in minutes every year. Originally starting with a crowd of only 1000 and attendance costing the princely sum of £1 (including a complementary glass of milk), its following has exploded. The festival celebrates music, arts and culture, boasting five days of performances, stalls and activities. Although it has moved from its original date of September 19th to the heart of the calendrical year (in the small chance of a dry British summer), Glastonbury’s birth followed in the wake of the untimely death of musical great and style icon, Jimi Hendrix.
Before Hendrix became one of the world’s greatest guitarists, he was a high school drop-out and former army paratrooper called John Allen Hendrix. Born in Seattle in 1942 to Lucille and James “Al” Hendrix, the musician started playing guitar from the age of 15 following his father’s encouragement and support of his musical talents. Subsequent to medical discharge from the army in 1960 for a broken ankle, Jimi began his musical career as a session guitarist. He became so skilled that by his early twenties he was on the road supporting acts such as Slim Harpo and Jackie Wilson. Soon however the shadows of the stage proved too constricting for the guitarist and lead seemed inevitable after clashing with ‘Little Richard’ who accused Hendrix of upstaging him.
In search of fame and fortune, gaining inspiration from his British musical icons, 24-year-old Hendrix moved to London in 1966. He was onstage, performing with one of his heroes Eric Clapton, within 48 hours of landing in the UK. It was in England that Hendrix adopted the name “Jimi Hendrix”, instigating the birth of the musical legend and style icon we know and love today. His band Jimi Hendrix Experience, constituting of Hendrix as lead singer and guitarist alongside drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding, grew immensely popular around London in their first year, with ‘Hey Joe’ cementing their celebrity, spending ten weeks in the UK charts.
Following their increased popularity, Jimi Hendrix Experience performed together for three years, whilst their frontman experimented and moulded his performances with an array of famous stage stunts, including smashing his guitars, plucking the strings with his teeth or behind his back, even playing his guitar upside down to accommodate for being left handed. Sadly, the intense hours touring and studio work demanded of Jimi Hendrix Experience instigated the band’s dissolution.
A New Religion
In amongst his musical legacy, Hendrix also coined a new religious orientation known as the ‘electric church’ following the demise of Jimi Hendrix Experience. His spellbinding and wholly immersive performances demonstrate his absorption in the creation of music, however the musical freedom he envisioned was arguably restricted by the constant touring. His status as one of the greatest guitarists in history further supports this.
Hendrix continued as a solo artist and collaborated with several other bands following Jimi Hendrix Experience’s disbandment, including a performance at Woodstock Festival in 1969. This performance was perhaps the pinnacle of Hendrix’s explicit political statements. The musician publically presented his stance on the Vietnamese war, protesting against the US Army’s presence in Vietnam. Despite his manager’s protestations, Hendrix ironically performed the American national anthem ‘Star Spangled Banner’, totally unfazed by the frenzy it caused amongst the crowd of 180,000 as he stood in defiance of the war.
Music Legend turns Style Icon
The incredible talent and daring stage performances undeniably made Jimi Hendrix the legend he is today. However despite this irrefutable gift for singing, song writing and guitar playing, Hendrix knew that skill wasn’t enough. He understood that to be a true rock god he had to have a distinctive image.
The Stage Experience
From the iconic military jacket, to the Technicolor dream coats and staple flared pants, his look can only be described as a sartorial acid trip. He had a knack for combining outrageous prints and patterns, which were picked up during his travels through America and England (one of his favourite boutiques was Granny Takes A Trip on Carnaby Street). A slew of incredible accessories always accompanied his look from medallions and nonchalantly-worn scarves to a flipped collar, all of which channelled his free-spirited attitude and hedonistic approach. What else would you expect from a man who played guitar with his teeth?
At Rokit, we love to celebrate unique taste and unparalleled talent – two fundamental features of Hendrix’s legacy. Despite his career lasting only 4 years, the musician passed away in 1970 having already steered seventies fashion towards the style era we remember today. So as we prepare for all that Glasto has to offer, we also look back to the stylish musical legend whose death preceded the first Worthy Farm-based festival by just twenty four hours. Hendrix’s outfits completed the overall experience of his shows; from the military jackets, silk bandanas and flared trousers, audience members waited with baited breath to see his next wonderfully crafted look, stirring anticipation equal to that expected of his inevitably entrancing performance.