Reflection on the documentary: British Style Genius- The Street Look

British street style has been in existence for over fifty years. Constantly evolving, the essence of street style has always been about looking like a million bucks without spending that much. Unlike designers who shell out millions of pounds on advertising, the trends here are designed on the street and by the street.

It is a platform that allows the wearer to strut their labels with pride. Till the origins of street style clothing never became such an important aspect for the working class.

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The Teddy boys

The street style that we see today is nothing like what it was generations ago. British street style started around 1954 in the era of post war in Britain. A Style Revolution came into being. The teddy boys way of dressing up. They belonged to poor working class families who desired to be different. The Teddy boy’s style of dressing up would typically include a long jacket, high collars and sleek style. On some of the jackets, velvet would be stitched on the cuffs, collars and pocket. The Teddy girls would wear a scarf around their neck, elastic belts on their pants and don a bouffant hair style.

The style was influenced by the Edwardian trend which originated in the early 19th C. Started by a few, it soon spread to the streets. It was a class revolution that defied the upper strata. With nothing more than poverty in their hands, dressing up smart was all they desired.

As time progressed with better economic conditions, fashion soon started becoming more elaborate with accessories like pocket watches. The overall look screamed richness and sexiness. Rebels of society, they wanted to diminish class differences through their looks.


Mod fashion of the 1960s

In the 1960s, Mod fashion came into influencing the British street style. Unlike the teddy boys they were not aggressive and show-offs. They had a subtle way of communicating the same. The underlining essence of Mods were aspirations. The iconic album cover of Miles Davis was admired and adulated by many. As mentioned in the documentary, an ideal mod would be a perfect combination of French cinematic elan, American jazz cool topped with the freshness of Italian design. The Mods were inspired from the Italian way of pea cocking their clothes. Of course they would improvise and reflect their style individually.


Miles Davis

It was always about being exclusive. Mod suits were single-breasted, would have 3-4 buttons made of cloth and the lapels were ideal- not too wide or skinny. The trousers would be low fitting with slanted frog mouth pockets. They looked clean and closely fitted. Similar to the Saville Row tailoring, it was about attention to detail. During that decade, the famous magazine for men- TOWN featured some of the Mods to display their subculture lifestyles. People were fascinated with the way they dressed and the Mods too kept it very secretive. Around that time, there were only four shops where one could shop for Mod clothing. Soon the Mod culture way of life paved into pop-culture like music, movies.

A famous tennis-player and coach, Fred Perry started designing for tennis sportswear. Mods loved his clothes and the lightness of the fabric. They would wear his outfits in the clubs to avoid sweating. This was one of the earliest influence of sportswear with fashion. It involved attention to fabrication and most importantly the silhouette.


Fred Perry

The button-down shirt also came into existence during this era. It was influenced by the American way of dressing. British designer Ben Sherman soon started designing candy-striped button-down shirts. It became a rage all across Britain.

Ben Sherman

A Ben Sherman striped shirt.

In stark contrast to the Mods, the Skinhead subculture came into being. They belonged to the higher classes and disliked the fact that the lower classes became equally fashionable. Tensions would arise between the Mods and the Skinheads. The uniform of a skinhead was inspired by the American aspirations. They would wear Levis jeans, braces and shinning boots. They were made for wealthy gents. The girls would wear a jacket usually paired with a short skirt.


Skinhead fashion.

In the 1970s, sportswear inspired designs trickled into fashion. Raf Simons, the famous sportswear designer had collaborated with Fred Perry. There were several pop-culture icons such as David Bowie who influenced fashion at that time. Men were soon spotted wearing low waist jeans, sneakers as their new street style. This kick started the Casual revolution in the late 1970s. Footballers and various other sport figures from Liverpool were making the concept of casual clothing even more popular. For the participants of the casual revolution, sports venues became the hub for fashion. Casual soon became catchy and unavoidable. Football clubs played a major role promoting and influencing this trend and this remains strong even today. The casuals would wear high end label as a sign of rebellion against the upper classes. Among the elite brands present then, Burberry was one of the most desired. This however led to the mass manufacturing of fake labels due to the desires of the working class.


Pop-culture icon, David Bowie

For more than five decades, British street style has always captured the emotion and rebellion within through clothing. However with widespread consumerism and abundance of brands, the concept of street style is a bit blurred. No matter what label an individual might wear there will always be a personal touch in cooperated in the overall look.

Watch the documentary here:

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