Top 5 British Subcultures for Women's Style

British subcultures in the 1960s-1990s have dominated today’s idea of Britishness & vintage styling. Key style elements of British Mods, Northern Soul’ers, Punks, and Ravers are still present in women’s fashion today as the new era of nostalgic vintage style comes into force.

The post-war Youth subcultures helped to establish a style free from the confines of societal pressures. This was especially important for women. Different vintage women’s clothing styles discussed here gave women a way to challenge society’s oppressive expectations of gender. Come with us & explore women’s style in the top 5 British subcultures.

Black and white portrait photograph of two women in vintage mini skirts standing on an urban road with their backs to the camera.
60s British women, credit:

1. Mods and their Mini-skirts

Emerging in the early 1960s, Mods were one youth subculture that embraced modernism and fashion-forward clothing. Their looks were tied up in the music they listened to and the developing nightlife culture. 

For women, mini-skirts became a staple in the Mod wardrobe, with Mary Quant being the go-to designer for these short skirts. Their fashion was often influenced by the Italian and French fashion scenes, with a particular interest in the Mod look worn by Parisian young adults. Their style helped to signal the message of sexual freedom and female liberation. The vintage clothing style of short skirts and bodycon silhouettes of the female Mods are now iconic and filled with nostalgia.

Black and white photograph of a single woman dancing in a dance hall. She has cropped dark hair and wears a light t-shirt and a-line skirt. People in the backgroun also dancing.

Northern Soul'er, credit: pinterest

Shop our collection of Vintage Skirts

2. The Northern Soul

Just like the Mods, the Northern Soul subculture was defined by its music, dancing and nightlife. The scene  emerged in the North of England in the 70s and was heavily influenced by Black American soul music. 

A big part of forming their style was shopping for and being inspired by vintage clothing. In the early days, Northern Soul women’s fashion continued on from Mods, with 1960s fashion trends like mini-skirts and platform shoes. Later, the northern soul style adapted to a more dance-centred dress code. Wide reaching circle skirts similar to 1950s circle skirts were popular and hair became shorter. The boyish look with the space enhancing skirts marked the place for women that was equal to men in the dance halls. 

A collage of two black and white photos. Left image of two young white woman with dark spiked up hair and wearing studded leather jackets and fishnet tights. Right image of two young white women standing against a wall, both with one foot up against it. They wear matching white jeans, polo collared shirts and have shaved hair.

Left: British punks, Right: 60s British skinheads in Brighton c.1980,

3. Punks & Skinheads

The late 1970s and early 1980s saw the emergence of the punk and skinhead subcultures. Both subcultures were anti-establishment and rebelled against societal norms through their fashion.

There were many ways punks expressed themselves through style. 70s and 80s British punks could be recognised with ripped clothing, vintage leather, industrial jewellery like safety pins, wearing dr Martens, and finished off with gelled or spiked up hair. The iconic mohawk was a popular choice. Men and women’s punk style mimicked each other which helped to create a unity within the subculture.

Skinheads, on the other hand, had a more traditional and working-class style, with button-down shirts, suspenders, and dr Martens being a staple. Like punks, skinhead men and women styled themselves in the same masculine attire. 

Both Punks & Skinheads paved the way for new masculine styles for women. 


Collage of two images. Left image is a black and white portrait photograph of a white woman wearing a victorian inspired dress and head dress both in dark colour. Right image is a coloured photograph of two gender neutral people dressed New Romantic style dress.
Left: c. 1980s credit: pinterest Right: c.1985, credit: pinterest

4. New Romantics

The early 1980s saw the emergence of the New Romantics subculture. Taking influence from the gender-bending of the 70s Glam Rock era, the New Romantics women fashion movement  embraced a more flamboyant and extravagant style. Women were indistinguishable from men and wore bold prints, frilly shirts, chunky jewellery, vintage tailoring, and heavy makeup. Women hair-sprayed their hair in an outwards motion and many dyed it crazy colours.

The New Romantics were inspired by historical women’s fashion, with Victorian and Edwardian clothing being a significant influence. Overall, their style was all about subverting gender and making a statement.


Photograph of two white women dancing in a 90s rave, wearing cropped tees and 90s baggy trousers.
90s ravers, credit: summerof94.tumblr

5. 90s Ravers

The 1990s saw the growth of rave culture and the associated subculture of 90s Ravers. Generally, the British 90s rave scene was defined by individuality and a carefree lifestyle, and ravers’ style followed suit with baggy clothing (baggy cargo pants & oversized t-shirts), neon elements, and shell jackets. For women, there was a level of androgyny in 90s raver style that allowed for freedom from hyper-feminine fashion styles as seen in mainstream fashion.

Subcultures & Women’s Style 

British subcultural style for women gave way to a freedom of fashion & style. Many of the vintage styles continue to inspire new trends to this day like 90s vintage cargo pants, 60s mini-skirts, and gender bending fashion more generally. 

As London’s heritage secondhand retailer based in London, ROKIT has seen first hand the emergence & reemergence of British style subcultures. What better way to embrace the iconic looks of women’s vintage clothing styles in true vintage clothing? With our range of women’s vintage clothing from each era, you can own a piece of women’s fashion history.



Top 8 British Youth Subcultures, UAL

The Northern Soul & Club Fashion, London Runway

Dazed Guide to British Subculture, Dazed 

How Northern Soul Sparked a Fashion Revolution, Dazed Digital

Previous Post Next Post