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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Far Out Fads, Fashions and Just Plain Fun

Far-out fads included black lights, lava lamps, day-glo, and tie dye which visually portrayed psychedelic experience; lapel pins and bumper stickers expressed political views; while tarot, ouiji and astrology helped access the mysteries of the unseen world. Skateboarding becomes a craze 1965, started by surfers when the waves were not pumping.

Pop art was the rage of the decade, forever mangling the distinction between high and low art. Warhol’s "Campbell Soup Can" and "Green Coke Bottles" made art out of ordinary objects. Peter Max's distinctive playful style that combined bright colors with whimsical cartoonlike figures was a hallmark of the times. Max did the art for The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, which contributed to his immense popularity. Eccentric artists like Warhol, Rauchenberg, Oldenburg, and Jim Dine also staged “happenings” which Rielly (2003) describes:

Typically (although no happening was truly typical of anything), a happening occurred in a specially created environment that might include theatrical sets, psychedelic colors, musicians, a radio or television blaring, a wind machine blowing confetti—anything that contributed to the mood of randomness and spontaneity.  Participants improvised responses.  The total experience shared more with the collage or assemblage approach to art than with theater, for little was plotted ahead of time.  Dine’s Car Crash and Oldenburg’s Store Day were among the most famous happenings of the decade, the former intended to simulate the sensory experience of a real automobile crash, the latter was held in a shop that Oldenburg rented in Manhattan and filled with plastic replicas of items sold in actual shops.  (pp. 239-240)

Which brings us back to bricolage, a term that came into being in the 1960s with Lévi-Strauss’s The Savage Mind in 1962, which was translated to English in 1966,  Lévi-Strauss’s notion of bricolage was inspired by the collage paintings of Max Ernst.  Derrida promptly used bricolage when he set about deconstructing Structuralism in 1966 at John’s Hopkins University in the debut of deconstruction with his paper “Structure, Sign and Play.”   Lévi-Strauss argued that myths were bricolage—which used a fixed set of elements and combined them in different ways.  Lévi-Strauss's premiere example of bricolage was a kaleidoscope, as was previously discussed. 

Kaleidoscope imagery was everywhere in the 1960s: from Lévi-Strauss, to The Beatle’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” to Disney’s Wonderful World of Color which showed kaleidoscopic imagery at the beginning of the show.  Grof (personal communication January 29, 2005) notes that kaleidoscopic imagery is often seen during LSD experiences and he believes that what people were experiencing were fractal dimensions, but at that time, there was no terminology that would allow them to express this.  While Lévi-Strauss was hard at work with his four volume Mythologiques series, Joseph Campbell was also in the midst of publishing his Masks of the Gods series. As de Marrais (2003, unpublished manuscript) notes, the works of both authors include many kaleidoscopic references.

During the 1960s President Kennedy launched his Council on Physical Fitness and in 1966, the Surgeon General first alerted the public that “smoking may be hazardous to your health.”  Jim Ryun, a high school student, ran the mile in under four minutes.  Speaking of fast, Hardee’s char-broiled burgers and Arby’s roast beef joined the fast food pantheon in 1961 and 1964, respectively, while microwave ovens became an available appliance.  The suburbs, second cars, and shopping malls continued to be popular.  Barbie dolls, introduced in the late 1950s were joined by GI Joe, who was in 10 million homes by 1966.  James Bond dolls, troll dolls, superballs, and Etch-a-Sketch were also introduced in the 1960s.  Ford had a better idea when they introduced the Mustang in 1964. 

On the fashion front, the British Invasion in music led to a fascination with London fashions and even JC Penny brought London fashions to America in 1968.  Twiggy was “the face of 1966” and her waiflike appearance has had a lasting impact on fashion ever since.  British designer Mary Quant revolutionized the runway, using rock music in her shows and original materials from PVC to synthetic crepes and off-retro colors.  Quant also popularized miniskirts and pant suits.  Day-glo colors and tye-dye were also popular fashions, due to the drug influence.

At the beginning of the decade, the ever-fashionable Jackie Kennedy popularized the pillbox hat and the Chanel suit, and at the end of the decade she became Jackie O, marrying Greek shipping tycoon, Aristotle Onnasis.   As African-Americans took pride in their African heritage, Afros became popular.  Third- World cultures were celebrated and their fashions were mimicked—Johnny Carson started a fashion craze when he wore a Nehru jacket on the Tonight Show. Retro dressing was all the rage as well.  According to Maltby (1989), “although pastiche and the rifling of history for decorative and fashion motifs was part of fashion since the 1800s, the scale of borrowing intensified in the aesthetics of “retro-chic”" (p. 163).   All of these styles became very “hip” in 1960s, along with the widespread wearing of blue jeans, which appeared in many different shapes and sizes from bell bottoms to hip huggers, and the more torn and tattered the better.  The hippy look, which combined many of the above styles along with flowing sleeves and “granny” looks was widely copied, even influencing haute couture:

But “hippy” dressing was a critique of the very fashion system it both plundered and influenced.  The counter culture of late 60s, also loved second hand clothes.  Quite apart from cheapness, recycling clothes was part of a tactic of bricolage and of self-sufficient living on the margins of capitalism, which demonstrated their opposition to wastefulness of consumer society.  (Maltby, 1989, p. 162)

The 1960s was about nothing if not about change, and perhaps in reflection of this, hemlines went from the below the knee styles of the 1950s up to mini and even micro-mini levels and then descended down to floorsweeping maxi and eventually everything in-between, as “fashion became knowingly self-conscious," designers seemed to acknowledge more openly that fashion is all about novelty and change for the sake of change” (Maltby, 1989, p. 163).  And while we are on the subject of change, let us change our focus and proceed, at long last, to explore our main topic, Disney's 1960s masterpiece Mary Poppins.


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