Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Magazines 2: Vince and the 1950s/60s fashion ads

Male fashion in the 1950s and 1960s owes a huge debt to the rise of those new fashion boutiques, particularly in and around Carnaby Street in Central London, mainly due to the enterprise and vision of two men: John Stephen who became 'Mr Canaby Street' and Bill Green with his Vince Man's Shop just around the corner in Fouberts Place, off Regent Street. These guys certainly knew their market, as young men had more money to spend and did not have to dress like their fathers any more. Their sisters had also realised this and were heading off to Kings Road in Chelsea where Mary Quant was setting up business. Change was in the air as the new generation got their new look as well as new music and places to go. Suddenly it was great to be a teenager ..... this went on through the late Fifties and then took off as the Sixties dawned. But back to Vince ...

He covers the waterfront ....
I first noticed his advertisements in "Films & Filming" magazine circa 1962 when I was 16, eye-catching ads for new style clothes: jeans, briefs, swimwear, leisure shirts and the like. The bold and the fashion conscious and that new generation of gays would all be the ideal target market - there was also a mail order catalogue .... The ads got bolder too, leaving little to the imagination (the guy left looks like a hustler from one of those U.S. physique magazines) and in those repressed days, looking almost like the male porn of the time (like the American Model Guild publications smuggled into the UK). Here is a selection from the 1950s issues of "Films & Filming". 

Carnaby Street - the beacon of Swinging Sixties later - was a run-down sidestreet in the mid-50s when John Stephen moved in with his first shop of male fashion including hipster trousers, multi-coloured denim, striped and tab-collar shirts, daring (for the era) beachwear. The Vince shop continued this trend, the young Sean Connery being one of the models.  The new 'Mods' became clients as did pop stars like Cliff and Billy Fury, The clothes were not too expensive either, so working class boys could also aspire to owing these new look garments. 
Vince (real name Bill Green) concentrated initially on his mail-order business so trendy young guys and gays out in the provinces could also save up and send away for a swish 'Capri' shirt or pair of hipsters or 'Continental style swim briefs'. He opened his first 'Vince Man's Shop' in 1954, the same year "Films & Filming" began, and soon his ads were in the magazine every month. His shop became a place of pilgrimage for out-of-towners in the city. Carnaby Street was the ideal location -  near Oxford and Regent Street and was the mecca for the gay and bohemian groups who frequented the wild west end, as I myself did in 1964 onwards. 
British rock author and journalist Nik Cohn was to write "Every time you walked past a John Stephen window there was something new and loud in it, and when you counted out your money, you found you could afford it". English jazz singer, writer and critic George Melly commented "It didn't matter how quickly everything fell to bits. The clothes weren't meant to last, but to dazzle. Their shops, blaring pop music and the vying with each other for the campest window and decor, spread the length of Carnaby Street and its environs".  The window displays were provocative for the time, often featuring mannequins wearing outrageous fashions including briefs and pink hipster-style slacks, must have been  very exotic at the time.

By the Swinging Sixties of course this had all gone mainstream with everyone wearing the clothes - including me! with hair styles to match. Vince was certainly one of the catalysts in the major changes that were to take place in the fashions appealing to young males in the Sixties. As the decade progressed, and 'boutiques' started providing a progressively fast-moving outlet for cheaper fashion clothing, Vince's came under increasing financial pressure and the establishment was forced to move to a less expensive location in North London, as 'Vince' became the manager of a Soho Restaurant. Swinging Times! 
Click on Fashion 2 label for another perfect fashion moment ...

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