Fashion and music have always had a strong connection - think of Prince in his purple suits, the Spice Girls sporting distinctive character costumes, even the titular David Bowie song “Fashion.” Arguably the world’s most recognizable band, The Beatles cunningly used fashion throughout their career to communicate their onstage personas. Their transformation from teddy boys to beatniks, mod rockers to spiritual hippies culminated in the 1967 launch of a Beatles-owned clothing boutique in London. The FIDM Museum recently acquired a man’s brocade suit from the Apple Boutique, and it is a perfect encapsulation of the Peacock Revolution in 1960s menswear, a movement that encouraged men to dress liberally and use clothing as a form of self-expression.
Before they were England’s mod-suited Fab Four, The Beatles were playing sessions in Liverpool’s cramped Cavern Club wearing jeans and leather jackets. Unlike the clean-cut image they presented when they toured America, the original Beatles look was actually quite scruffy. It was their manager Brian Epstein who suggested the band wear matching tailored suits to project a cohesive image. Yet the men still managed to adapt the suits to their own unique style: their pants were tailored into narrow drainpipes, and they famously donned fashion-forward collarless suit jackets (perhaps inspired by Pierre Cardin) made by London tailor Dougie Millings.
The next iteration of Beatles style was evident on the cover of their 1967 album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The men wore neon satin military jackets, long hair, and mustaches. The Beatles’ new look signaled a change in the direction of the band, one that was fueled by counterculture ideals, eastern spirituality, and the use of LSD. Their signature style had also become popular on London’s Kings Road, where a proliferation of small boutiques sold the latest dandy fashions – a mix of Edwardian, Regency, ethnic, and psychedelic styles. The Beatles were spotted shopping at these outlandishly named stores, including Hung On You, Dandie Fashions, Mr. Fish, Granny Takes a Trip, and I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet. The boutiques signaled a high point in the Peacock Revolution, providing a hip and casual shopping experience for London’s youth, and conceivably introduced the band to the possibilities of retail. Many of London’s boutique owners were high society members who opened their shops on a lark, with no real concern for the financial outcome.