This was Thursday: 1969 Wild, Wet and Woolly

beautiful people

A look copied and loved by thousands today

When the first rumblings about the music festival of the century hit our neighbourhood many went into “long and hard planning in secret” mode. Everyone fantasized how they would get there, who they wanted to go with and what they would tell their parents they were doing when they were actually heading on down the highway with a t-shirt and change of underwear to what was arguably one of the most popular concerts of the decade. Woodstock – four days of music in the fields of a dairy farm outside Bethel, New York where standing in line for water and toilets wasn’t a big deal and clothing was optional.

Couture had already picked up on the exotic nature of the hippie lifestyle – Woodstock would provide them with enough material for a few more seasons-worth of collections, it was the real thing. In Europe, designers like Ken Scott and Zandra Rhodes took the best elements of bohemian colour, texture and design and translated it into eminently wearable, statement-making clothing.  The appeal of the counterculture refined hit the high street in a splash of vibrant prints and previously unused fabrics that changed the way we all looked at fashion – if the hippies and the hoi polloi could wear it, well, so could everyone else…

Hippie Couture - Dress by Ken Scott photographed by David Bailey for Vogue Italia, 1969

Dress by Ken Scott photographed by David Bailey for Vogue Italia, 1969

In our own time there is a huge resurgence among the under 30s in the terrible oxymoron that is hippie couture. The market with all the disposable cash that now asks their grandfathers if perhaps a vintage Levis jean jacket is tucked away or if that carpet-bag Grandma was holding in that faded black and white is still around are the ones being targeted by everyone from t-shirt and denim manufacturers to perfume panderers.  It is not much of a stretch to guess that someone is making wads of cash on the replication of an era that eschewed most things related to capitalism.

juicy couture perfume ad

Living the fantasy with a bottle of perfume the price of a 1969 Volkwagen…

45 years after half a million trudged through the mud, got stoned, listened to some of the best musicians of the decade, made love and planned how they were going to change the world, their descendants want “it” also.  They want to buy the idea of 1969 – the cool factor of the beads and feathers hinting at an irresponsibility and freedom that just looks so good it has to be documented and shared, now: it is rebellion of the commercial sort neatly packaged by one of their favourite brands. Today’s petty-bourgeoisie has been agitated into a credit-driven fervour not by the ideals and aspirations of past generations but by what those who made history at Woodstock were wearing – hippie chic. Perhaps an unconscious  longing for a new beginning underlies the obsession with these latest fads but that too seems questionable without an understanding of the original.

gal-woodstock-2-jpg

Grandpa Woodstock shows a peace sign as he walks with his wife Queen Estar. The couple were attendees of the original 1969 music festival. Photo courtesy of NY Daily News

The reality of it all is somewhat less glamorous. Time plods on or flies by depending on your state of mind and whether we sold out, became the man, kept our ideals and stayed on the commune or managed to find a nice balance between doing the right thing and still making a living, we’ve come a long way, baby…

Read more on:

Woodstock
Ken Scott Reborn
David Bailey
Remembering Woodstock – a slideshow
Where are they now?
1969

6 thoughts on “This was Thursday: 1969 Wild, Wet and Woolly

  1. Oh my, back to a time … your statement “asks their GRANDFATHERS if perhaps a vintage Levis jean jacket is tucked away…” that was a bit harsh ;) … took me out of my bellbottoms and plopped me down in front of the mirror to see gray hairs and a crepe-y neck. I wasn’t a Woodstock but I am of that generation .

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    • There is a really fine line – while I was just a bit too young to go, my husband was old enough to be there as well – my own Miss Z’s peers’ parents are a full few generations after me (most not even born when Woodstock happened and young enough in some cases to be my own children)… Some of us got alot of living under our belts before we settled down and now it seems to have left us in a weird limbo of unbelonging…

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  2. I wasn’t anywhere near this part of society, and have no regrets. I admire creativity, but I’m not at all sure I understand why/how some things “catch on and become hip/cool/neat”–and others are shunned. There seems no logic to it (which may be my problem…)–and it almost seems that, as soon as the “establishment” accepts something, it immediately becomes “uncool”. Am I, like, OLD (square, forever uncool)??

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    • There seems to be a bit of “self-perpetuation” in the greater myth of what becomes “in” and trickles down to popular cultural – what is started by the few is picked up by the few and made available only to the few until everyone else clues in and starts copying it and spreading it around. What happens now is that the turn-around time to get “stuff” to the market is much shorter than it was even 10 years ago, so no one can really stay on top of the next best thing and everyone can have it, so it is no longer exclusive. I don’t think you have to be in the thick of it to appreciate value, artistic or otherwise, and it is often those who are observers, who stand apart who do the best work – Remember that line from the Loving Care commercial in the 70s that we should remind ourselves from time to time – You’re not getting older, you’re getting better…

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