Peacock Revolution / Carnaby Street
“His clothes are loud, but never square.
It will make or break him, so he's got to buy the best,
'Cause he's a dedicated follower of fashion…”
The Kinks’ “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” was the teenage anthem for a new breed of flamboyant fashion prisoners. Slaves to style, the 60's mods evolved from the understated chic of mohair suits and parkas to the psychedelic styles of the swinging 60’s.
The sexual revolution was not just for girls and feminism. Boys got into the action and learned how to preen. As the peacock displays his exhibitionist fan of foliage, showing off his shiny iridescent colors, such was the fate for the boys. The mortality rate was in decline, and for the first time in the century, there were more boys than there were girls. So it was now the boys’ responsibility to attract and display themselves like girls had done throughout time.
And so came the Peacock Revolution, a term coined by Esquire columnist George Frazier. He witnessed the flamboyant fashions parading along London’s Carnaby Street, where boys were more ostentatious than the girls were. They wore dapper suits in stripes and checks, with bold patterned shirts and ties, and pointy-toed boots with Chelsea heels. Velvet Edwardian suits with ruffly jabots competed with sleek Nehru jackets in psychedelic colors and patterns. Hair was long and exquisitely styled, and the preferred body style was lean and lanky, completing the effeminate look.
Mod rockers like the Rolling Stones and the Who strutted their stuff in hip hugger pants and bold psychedelic prints, exposing their chests with opened silk shirts or vests. Even the clean-cut Beatles traded in the simple suits for paisley scarves, flowered shirts and striped bellbottomed pants.
The King of Carnaby Street, designer/tailor John Stephen, made body-conscious, sexy clothes for the Peacock Revolution. He dressed the Beatles and the Stones, and created the unisex dandy look. Boys were finally allowed to express their own sexuality, and they looked to these rock icons for inspiration. Their clothes were flamboyant, garish, and designed to attract attention.
Greater equality between the sexes meant more unisex styles, and it didn’t mean just masculine fashions for the girls. Instead, the boys took to feminine frills and glamorous looks. Men were colorful and bright, and carefully tended their style. The most flamboyant of the mods found salvation in the new glam movement that was evolving from the psychedelic 60’s. By the 70’s, the gender lines were smudged, and boys made the transition from lacey shirts to feather boas and makeup.