The 60s was mainly characterised by the movement past traditional norms, upsets in long-held beliefs about race and gender, and people who just wanted to have a good time.
For men, that meant being a little experimental about their clothing and trying on whatever looked good instead of being told what to wear. Welcome to 60s menswear.
What did men wear in the 60s? Well, you can consider social change as one of the biggest driving factors behind fashion, and in the 1960s, there was a lot of social change. Because of that, 60s men's style was vastly different in early, mid, and late 60s:
Early 1960’s Men’s Fashion
Since the early 60's were still dusting off the strong conservative values of the 1950's, menswear at the beginning of the 60s leant towards business look. Think ‘Mad Men’: fitting suits, jackets and blazers. Hats were still very much in vogue, although the leading figures of the era ditched them soon after.
In fact, it’s fair to characterise the fashion of the early 60's suit as leaning towards smart casual: polo shirts, khaki chino pants, striped t-shirts, sweater vests, and cardigan sweaters were all the rage, something that you might actually still see as campus fashion in Ivy League colleges.
Mid 1960s Men’s Fashion
As the hippie culture and anti-establishment movement took root in the middle of the decade, the fashion sense moved towards an idyllic, relaxed style. Coined as ‘surf fashion’, men started relaxing the tough guy act of the 50's, softening it with floral accents.
Faded jeans, plaid shirts, board shorts, and aloha t-shirts were the choice of the ‘California Cool’ crowd.
Another strong influence in fashion at this time was the British, which manifested itself as Modernist (or mod fashion) that captured the look of the ‘urbanised gentleman’.
Some of the clothing that was considered classy in this period was still reminiscent of the early 60's, it’s more so the casual-wear that loosened up a bit.
Late 1960’s Men’s Fashion
Finally, the late 60's style was all about unisex outfits, a strong statement coming out of the hippie culture and the strong anti-authoritarian values that the youth believed in. As a result, the fashion blended both individuality and equality almost as a defiant response to the ongoing global tension and the strict conservative standards of the time.
Hemp waistcoats, bell bottoms, sheepskin vests, vintage shirts, sandals, and digger hats, were the result of this trend, with the latter part of the decade steadily moving towards classical influences. Things like Edwardian Fashion (as a counter movement to the Space Age culture) started to make a comeback and was the preferred wardrobe of choice by many musicians.
Is The 60's Still The Contemporary?
Some 60's fashion trends—especially the preference for bright and bold patterns—still look fantastic today! While the vast majority of the wardrobes in this era are maybe a touch too flamboyant for most people, there are still some pieces that look good when worn right.
Ivy league chic (anoraks, cardigan sweaters, and jeans) are still very much in use in many college campuses today. And of course, some of the best modern suits take their inspiration from the slim single-breasted suits earlier in the decade.
Surfer fashion has never really gone out of style in the coastal parts of the world, as it struck a timeless blend of both casual and stylish, while Polynesian influences like Hawaiian shirts are still popular tourist wear.
As fashion keeps moving forward, we might see some more classic pieces from 60's fashion menswear popping up here and there—and who knows, if you like 60's fashion, maybe you could be a trendsetter for a modern 60's fashion comeback!