Britain in the 1960s

Routemaster bus

This is our guide to the swinging 60s: music, fashion, TV, interiors, cars, Mods, Rockers and Hippies. If you remember the 60s or are discovering the 60s for the first time, this page is what you need.

The 60s was the decade of great music - the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, the Who, Procol Harum - the list could go on and on. The 60s was also a time of great social change; old conventions were challenged and old attitudes faded with the decade. Fittingly the voting age was lowered to eighteen by the end of the 60s.

The 60s was also the era of rapid technological progress which culminated in man's first steps on the moon in 1969. Many people watched the event on television; a lucky few watched in colour.

In the early years of the 60s, the British Establishment was rocked to the core when John Profumo, Conservative Minister for War, lied to Parliament about his relationship with call girl, Christine Keeler.

The new pop music blared from every teenagers transistor radio. Music itself changed radically in the 60s. The Beatles went from smart suited mods in the early years, to hip guys about Swinging London in the middle sixties and to full blown hippies by 1967. They broke up in 1970.

Although television was popular in the fifties, the medium evolved in the 60s when satirical shows, such as That Was the Week that Was, poked fun at the Establishment at every turn. By the end of the decade, people had the first colour sets in their homes.

Youth fashion took on a new twist in the sixties. The mini-skirt became the most popular way to dress for young women. By the end of the decade, the trendier girls had abandoned it for long flowing hair and caftans.

60s furniture and interior

Stylistically the 60s borrowed from other periods: Victorian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco. To this mix, designers added a heady cocktail of psychedelic images inspired by the effects of hallucinogenic drugs. Alongside these new influences, modernism evolved and matured from its beginnings in the early years of the twentieth century. Town centres changed in the 60s and bomb damaged cities were replaced by modern visions of the future. They were not to everyones taste.

Red telephone box, a symbol of Swinging London

The 60s was the age of the car. New motorways were opening up all over the country and in the beginning, there were no speed limits. More people tasted the freedom of the car and they abandoned old-fashioned train travel in their thousands. Famously Dr Beeching (Chairman of the British Railways Board) responded by axing large parts of the railway network.

The 60s changed attitudes. Britain became a more liberal and less restricted society. People at all social levels had more money to spend and more time to enjoy it. The 60s ended on a note of optimism for a better, fairer and brighter future.

By Steven Braggs

Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

Mid Century ★ Facts & Figures ★ Collectibles

Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

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