Sunday, 13 March 2016

The Beatles Style Guide: Part Two 1962 - 1963

Part two of our eight part series exploring The Beatle’s style from 1961 to 1970, by our guest blogger, Harrison. In this instalment we see the Beatles out of leather and into their first suits. You can also create your very own Beatles inspired look with this guide.
'62 - '63
Suited and Booted

The Beatles wearing their Beno Dorn Suits. Photo by Harry Whatmough, 1962

The Beatles first recorded performance with Ringo Starr on drums, 
wearing their suits without the blazers.

“I don’t think John particularly liked wearing a suit - nor did I - but we wanted more work, and we realised that’s what we had to do.” 
- George Harrison

In January of 1962, The Beatles signed a contract with Brian Epstein to manage them. Epstein was only a few years older than the lads and had no prior experience managing a band, although he had successfully run NEMS, his family’s record shop on Whitechapel, Liverpool. What he lacked in experience he made up for in his determination to ensure the groups music career flourished.

One of the first moves Epstein made was to encouraged the Beatles to clean up their image. He coaxed them into wearing jeans and jumpers with their leather jackets instead of their full leather suits. This was a compromise the lads were willing to make, however, when Epstein then suggested that they wear tailored suits on stage, he was met with resistance, especially from John Lennon and Pete Best. Both young men preferred to wear their leathers, thinking it was a more 'rock and roll' image, but they also acknowledged that if they wanted to advance their careers, they needed to change their appearance.

The Beatles moved into the next phase of their careers, transitioning from rough-around-the-edges rock 'n' rollers to polished pop stars. They performed in the leather suits for the final time at the Cavern Club in the Spring of 1962.

In 2012, George Harrison’s leather jacket went up for sale at Bonham’s. Harrison bought the jacket in 1960 for £10 ($14) and it fetched £110,450 ($177,400) at auction. His Chelsea 'Beatle' boots, which were also part of the memorabilia sale went for £61,250 ($98,000). A pair of leather trousers that allegedly belonged to Paul McCartney also surfaced in 2013.

Mike Hoggard often performed at the same venues as The Beatles in the early 60s and he claims to be in possession of McCartney’s leather trousers. He states that Brian Epstein gifted the clothing item to him after a gig at the Cavern Club. Hoggard’s claim hasn’t been substantiated and the trousers with the name ‘Paul’ written inside remain in his possession.

To further smartened up the band’s look, Epstein took the lads to a local tailor, Beno Dorn where they were fitted for their first mohair stage suits. The blazers were three-button, single breasted with slim lapels, broad shouldered and narrow at the waist. The matching suit trousers were similar to the drainpipe trousers the Beatles wore and at their insistence, were cut to fit snugly through the legs and were tapered quite narrow at the ankle. The lads returned the trousers twice to the tailors to have them narrowed further! Essentially, this was a slim lapelled, 3 button Mod Suit with a slight 1950s hangover in the short, more boxy fit of the jacket.

However, even away from the band, not everyone was pleased with the Beatles new look. For some of the fans it signalled the bands start to move away from Liverpool, and Cavern Club DJ, Bob Wooler remarked that the mohair suits were impractical. "They went on stage and really sweated and all their suits began to rot, they began to come apart at the seams... But that was the start of the new image. They learned how to adjust."

The dress shirts worn with the suits had rounded penny collars and were pin spread (bar collars) finished with inch wide skinny ties. The Portofino french cuffs of the dress shirt peeked out from their blazer sleeves and were accented with cuff-links.

The Beatles wearing their Douglas Millings collarless suits. Photo by Dezo Hoffman, 1963
The Beatles performing in 1963.

Arguably, the Beatles most iconic look from the early 1960s is their collarless suits. When the lads met London tailor, Douglas Millings in the Autumn of 1962 they requested “something different”. The design of this suit bares a striking resemblance to the collarless suits first designed by Pierre Cardin in 1960, however, the Beatles wearing the suits is what made the collarless jacket look quite popular in the early 1960s.

Pierre Cardin Suits, 1960
Millings became “the Beatles tailor” and the lads affectionately referred to him as “Dad”. He appeared alongside the group in the film, A Hard Day’s Night as a frustrated tailor trying to measure the Beatles. Douglas, along with his son Gordon were responsible for making hundreds of garments for the group over the years until the later half of the 60s.

The Beatles collarless suit edges were outlined in piping. The three-button suit jacket had slit pockets that were angled at the hips. The sleeves were shortened and buttonholes added to them. The back of the jackets had two small vertical vents that made it easier for the Beatles to perform in these suits. The look was quite mod and considered very fashion forward for a pop act.

John Lennon's Collarless Jacket
Another important component to the Beatles look was the famous mop top hair. Stuart Sutcliffe was the first Beatle to wear his hair stylishly combed forward. His girlfriend, Astrid Kirchherr had cut his hair into this unisex style. It was a popular look with many of the young men at the college she attended.

The Beatles poked fun at Sutcliffe’s newly styled hair and continued to wear theirs in 50s style greasy quiffs. A little later, George asked Astrid to cut his hair like Stuart’s, but after debuting his new look at a Hamburg club and being met with funny looks, Harrison quickly changed his hair back to the Teddy Boy look.

It wasn’t until the Autumn of 1961 when John and Paul ran into Jurgen Vollmer in Paris. He was an old friend from Hamburg and the “Exis” with the mod hair cut. They asked for what became known as the “Beatle cut”. 

The label inside John's Jacket
Returning from Paris with their new hairstyles, Epstein took them to a barber to have their mop-tops properly cut and styled. The sideboards were shortened and the fringe combed over the forehead, and they were clean shaven, perfecting what became perhaps the Beatles most iconic and well known image.

Get the Look:

The Suit:

The Madcap England Mohair Tonic 3 Button Suit Jacket in bright blue is similar to the Beno Dorn jackets the Beatles wore in 1962. Both are 3 button, single breasted and narrow at the waist. However, the slim fit of this jacket fits to the body and isn’t boxy, like the Beno Dorn Jackets. The retro skinny lapels, right side ticket pocket and left side and right side breast pocket add the essential mod twist.

The matching mohair tonic Suit Trousers in bright blue are straight leg, slim cut. They aren’t quite as narrow at the ankles as the Beno Dorn trousers the Beatles wore, which were 14" bottoms, but very nearly! The slim cut of these retro sixties trousers make a bold and colourful statement.

Shop Mod Suits & Tailoring

The Bar Collar Shirt

Bar collar shirts are hard to come by these days, especially with a Penny Collar akin to the Beatles shirt of choice. This Gabicci Vintage Bar Collar Shirt in white is similar to the dress shirts the Beatles wore with their Beno Dorn suits, with penny collar and pin bar collar to spruce up this mod 1960s dress shirt, and to give it a retro 1920s look.

Shop Bar Collar Shirts

The Skinny Tie:

No mod suit is complete without a proper skinny tie! The Merc 'Dam' Skinny Tie in black is 100% silk and a fantastic retro accessory for any dress shirt. The skinny tie pairs well with a narrow lapel blazer. It’s classic 1960s mens accessory styling at it’s finest.
(Nb. At the time of publication, the Dam tie has just sold out again! Dam! But fear not, intrepid mod shoppers, it will be restocked shortly!)

Shop Mens Ties

The Boots:

Henry waxy leather ankle boots by Base London in tan can be dressed down in a pair of retro jeans or dressed up in a mod suit. The low heel gives the shoe style and comfort. The retro look is similar to the winklepickers the Beatles wore in the 1950s and 60s. However, the design of the shoe gives it an updated feel.

Shop Boots
Shop Chelsea Boots

Next Time: 
Beatles Style 1963 - 1964: It's Been A Hard Days Night!