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…
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.
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.
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:
Ken Scott Reborn
Remembering Woodstock – a slideshow
Where are they now?