Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Beatles Style Guide: Part One 1961 - 1962

Our new blog series by guest blogger, Harrison! This eight part series will explore The Beatles iconic looks from 1961 to 1970. You can also create your very own Beatles inspired look with this guide.

61’ - 62’
The Four Gene Vincents

The Beatles in 1961. Photo by Albert Marrion
The earliest known footage of the Beatles performing in 1961. 
In this soundless 8MM clip, they are wearing their leather suits.

“...We went back to Germany and we had a bit more money the second time, so we bought leather pants and looked like four Gene Vincents, only a bit younger."

- John Lennon, ‘The Mersey Sound’

The Beatles emulated the style of Teddy Boys, a subculture of rebellious young men that had sprung up in the 1950s. They were product of American rock n’ roll music, and their style was a take on the dandies during the Edwardian period.

Teds wore knee length drape jackets, high necked collared shirts, skinny ties, drainpipe trousers and brogues or crepe soled creepers. They styled their hair with pomade and piled it high into a quiff.  

By the early 1960s the look had evolved. Young men were now wearing leather jackets - perhaps a call back to Marlon Brando in ‘The Wild One’ - and long pointed toe Winklepicker Shoes were in fashion. A pair of snugly fit drainpipe trousers were still popular.  

In the spring of 1961 The Beatles returned to Hamburg for a second time. They were contracted for a four month residency at the Top Ten Club and were reunited with their old friend, Astrid Kirchherr, a photographer they’d met during their first trip to Germany. The young woman was also the girlfriend of Stuart Sutcliffe, the group’s bass player at the time.

When he wasn’t performing with the band, Stuart would spend his time with Astrid. He was greatly influenced by her unusual sense of style. She was part of the existentialist movement, shortened to 'Exis' by John Lennon. They dressed in all-black, unisex clothing and wore unisex hairstyles. Stuart would borrow her clothes and mirror her look. In particular, he was taken with her tight black leather suit, and Astrid had one tailor-made for Stuart to wear when he performed with the group.  

His bandmates were knocked out by the leather suit wanted their own to match, but they couldn’t afford the expensive prices the leather shop downtown charged. They went to a affordable tailor in the St. Pauli district of Hamburg and ordered black leather drainpipe pants and matching velvet shirts. They accessorised their hard edged look with cowboy boots and occasionally wore pink caps that sat on the back of their quiffs.  

The Beatles return to Liverpool caused a stir of excitement. Their new look and sound set them apart from other groups and gave them the edge on the Merseyside music scene. Pretty soon others on the Merseybeat scene were also emulating the Beatles 'Hamburg' style.

Get The Look:

Drainpipe Jeans

Drainpipe jeans, also known as 'Drainies', and more so nowadays as 'Skinny Jeans', became popular in the early 1950s. Madcap England's 'Cavern '59' Drainpipe jeans are some of the most snug fit available, narrow at the ankle for a form fitting look. No prizes for guessing the inspiration behind the style name! The skinny jeans look is as fashionable now as it was 55 years ago. A must have item for any Mod or enthusiast of Retro sixties and fifties style. 

In 2013, the leather trousers originally owned by Paul McCartney were 'found' in Bridlington, North Yorkshire (not far from Atom Retro HQ!) 
The owner of the trousers, Mike Hoggard says they were given to him by Beatles manager, Brian Epstein when he played the Cavern Club in the early 60s. Epstein had wanted to get the Beatles out of the leathers and into suits by that time. The trousers have 'Paul' written in marker on the inside lining.

Shop Mens Drainpipe Jeans

Winklepicker Shoes

The footwear of choice for these early 'savage young Beatles' was the Winklepicker, the more pointed the better! In the picture above all the boys wear Winklepickers - whether it's in a Chelsea Boot style or a shoe (George sports a monk strap shoe style with double buckle). 

The extremely pointed toe was nicknamed the winklepicker after the implement used to eat periwinkle snails or winkles at the seaside. Other countries had other humorous nicknames for the style too; in Norway and Sweden they were called myggjagere or myggjagare, literally 'Mosquito Chasers'. In some parts of the US they are still called 'roach stompers' too. The new 'Veer 27' Winklepicker Shoes are this seasons must have from Paolo Vandini. Black leather with three eyelet fasten these will look fab with your drainies! (Or check out our full range too). 
Shop Winklepicker Shoes

The Chelsea Boot

Maybe the most iconic style piece of the Beatles wardrobe; the Chelsea Boot. A footwear style which was so integral to the Beatles look and appeal that it is still referred to as the 'Beatle Boot' today. Chelsea boots have their origins as a walking and riding boot designed in 1851 for Queen Victoria, but it was the Beatles who really popularised the look and style in the sixties.
Custom made Agnello and Davide 'Beatle Boots' were to come later, but in the early Sixties, the boys still utilised the look. In the picture above, Paul wears a pair of black leather Chelsea boots with a quite high heel, and of course, the essential Winklepicker Toe. Reminiscent of this are Madcap England's Outlaw Chelsea Boots, with tall Cuban heel, gusset side and sharp Winklepicker toe, these Chelsea Boots are a must have.

Shop Chelsea Boots

The Jacket

The key to the Beatles look at this time was the black leather Bomber Jacket, and it's still this style of jacket which is inextricably linked with a rebellious, rock and roll look today. 

George Harrison's leather jacket - that very one! - Sold for more than £110K in 2012 (George originally paid around £10!) George had given the jacket to his older brother, Pete and then handed down to his son who'd worn it to school in the 1970s.
If leather's not your thing, we suggest substituting the leather bomber for a classic G9 Harrington from Baracuta. A piece of history in its own right, the Harrington in Jet Black is reminiscent of the bomber jacket, while being lighter, easier to wear and vegan friendly! 

The Baracuta G9 can be dressed up or down, and the retro Mod styling adds a layer of sophistication.

Shop Leather Jackets
Shop Baracuta Harringtons

The Layers

In your rock and roll jacket, leather or otherwise, you won't want to wear very many layers - especially when it's so hot on stage! The Beatles wore simple black T-Shirts or plain jumpers when it was colder, like the Madcap England 'McQueen' Navy Cotton Jumper. The cotton knit keeps it light and in solid navy, it's the perfect accent colour to subtly contrast and break up the black.

Alternatively, try a timeless black crew neck T-Shirt like this one from Lee Jeans. Available as a twin pack and perfect for finishing off this 'Savage Young Beatles' look!

Shop Jumpers
Shop Tees

Next Time: 
Beatles Style 1962 - 1963: Collarless Suits and the start of Beatlemania!