Classic Chic vs. Levi Jeans: The Cross-Cultural Fashion of the 1960’s


Elvis Presley                                     Audrey Hepburn

Casual rock and roll lifestyle                   Fashion icon and classic actress

Legacy includes mansion that got turned into meuseum    Legacy includes humanitarian work in Africa

Notorious for jeans and tee shirt             Wouldn’t be caught dead without a dress and pearls

In the years prior to the 1960’s, culture was very classical, uniform, and predictable. The youth culture of the 1960’s was one of the largest, seeing as it was the decade where the products of the baby-boomers were coming to the age of adolescents. Widespread cultural phenomenon such as the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, The Peace Corps being introduced, and others was taking what was a uniform society, and turning it into a society of varied interests and perspectives.

The youth in this decade were tired of being prim and proper with such madness going on in the world around them, so they took it into their hands to change the culture around them. Levi’s blue jeans, which were once considered to be the uniform of the poor working class, was made to be “stylish” by the youth of the 1960’s, and not only that, but adolescents would destroy their jeans to make even more of a statement of how worn the jeans were. Others invested in the pill hat, a signature of Jackie-O, to show how chic they were. The flower children invested in bell-bottom jeans and Birkenstock sandals to show the liberty and free range of motion they wanted in their clothes.

Regardless of what clothing they chose to wear, their clothing sent a message on how they wished to be perceived. You wouldn’t find an Audrey Hepburn wannabe at Woodstock wearing a flower crown, that wouldn’t fit the order of what her fashion statement was making. In Turner’s book Popcultured he references clothing as a form of communication saying, “On another level we need clothes that communicate messages because we use clothes to let people know how we feel about ourselves, what we aspire to, what we believe in and, ultimately how we feel about the world around us and our status in it”(114).

Having many different styles of fashion across the youth in this decade makes a statement on the condition of society. There were elitists, hippies, activists, and people who just wanted to live a simple life, and that was all reflected in their fashion statements. Youth in this decade were all about living the life they wanted instead of what was expected of them. Like Turner talked about, their fashion statements communicated what they wanted their life to look like and where they wanted to fit into society. To the youth of the 1960’s, the world could be whatever oyster they wanted, and they would let the entire world know what they wanted that oyster to look like.

Ministerially, I think we need to be aware that the youth and culture of the 1960’s is very similar to the youth of today. While decades like the 80’s had very set styles and trends, today and the 1960’s are decades with a wide range of trends, because of all the chaos in the world. Just as the youth in the 1960’s recreated society through their fashion statements because of their discontentment, we need to watch out to see youth students who maybe are changing their fashion statements. Just as the youth of the 60’s were making these choices out of discontentment or to make a statement to what is expected of them, we need to understand that this is still something youth do today. I’m not saying we need to attempt to control the way youth dress, but use their style as social queues to see what kind of statements they are attempting to make to the world.


Natalie Broman