Tribe trends: Fashion legacies from British youth culture
London’s been a fashion capital since well-dressed dandies strutted their stuff in the 1790s.
But the styles which have proven most sustainable emerged from music-obsessed teenage cliques from the 1950s onwards – from Teddy Boys right through to Junglist Soldiers. For fashion fans who might not realise that their favourite looks are informed by cultural history, here’s a snapshot of tribe trends – British youth culture fashions with a lasting legacy.
When Jamaicans arrived en masse in the 1950s, they enriched Britain’s music scene immeasurably with the ska sounds which would evolve into reggae, dancehall and drum and bass – influencing countless artists. But they also brought uncompromising Kingstonian style and swagger to the streets of London with items like the iconic fedora hat. You can shop similar looks on sites like Village Hats and still look on-trend to this day.
Scooter-borne mods were obsessed by bands like The Who and Small Faces – and underneath their preferred parka coats, they often wore neat three-piece pinstripe suits, subverting contemporary establishment styles. As the movement progressed, neat sportswear became a crucial addition to the Mod wardrobe and the Fred Perry polo shirt became popular. There’s every chance you already own one of these casual classics — but if not, they’re available in high street stores like Debenhams.
By the time Jamaican ska music became popular across cultural groups in the mid-1960s, it spawned the Skinheads – shaven-haired youths who took the styles and sounds of the Rudeboys and added their own unique fashion twists. Grab a pair of Doc Martens from Shoes International to tap into the vibe from this subculture, tuck your drainpipe denims into the top and match with a bottle green bomber jacket. If you want to go the whole hog and get a close-cropped haircut, the choice is yours.
From the mid to late 1970s, the fast-burning yet seminal Punk movement blew the lid off London’s simmering cultural melting pot. The DIY ethic and uncompromising attitude of bands like The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned inspired millions of bedroom rockers to pick up guitars and start gigging with friends, while the outrageous fashion designs of Vivienne Westwood shocked the establishment. Apart from thousands of three-minute masterpiece records, punk also made it cool to wear ripped jeans, which we’re still thankful for.
Readers of a certain vintage might claim that Acid House was the first genuine counterculture in Britain since the Hippie movement. And strange as it seems now, the thought of thousands of late 1980s ravers congregating in fields to dance the night away genuinely had the powers that be worried that something revolutionary was afoot. If you love throwing shapes to songs like Voodoo Ray by A Guy Called Gerald, slip on a pair of baggy jeans and buy a smiley face t-shirt from Future Past to resurrect the spirit of 1988.
Hopefully, some of these tribe trends float your fashion boat. Let us know your favourites in the comments section.
The editorial unit