What defines the 1960s for you?
What defines the 1960s for you?

What defines the 1960s for you?


| 7 min read

The 1960s was a decade of enormous historical importance in Britain... the post-war clean-up had pretty much finished by the end of the 1950s and the country had become optimistic about the future.

As a result of this new-found optimism, youth counterculture movements quickly grew up as large groups deviated wildly from the conservative social norms their parents followed to establish their own limits in many different areas. 

But with so many changes in the 60s, what defined the decade for you? Was it the fashion, the television or the music?


Fashion in the 1960s happily broke the trends of previous decades. While during the early part of the 60s fashion remained similar to that of the 50s, the later years changed that dramatically.

Clothing was geared towards adult women, as teenagers used to dress like their parents, however during such a powerful time of social changes, where young people created their own cultures separate from their parents, it shifted so that it was geared towards the youth market.

British designer Mary Quant invented the mini-skirt which changed the fashion world forever. It was the second wave of the women’s liberation movement that made the mini-skirt so popular, in addition to celebrities like Twiggy and Goldie Hawn showcasing it at prominent events and on television.

The flared, hip-hugging bell-bottom jeans which are so stereotypical of the hippie period appeared in 1964 and were an alternative to capri pants. The jeans were typically worn in combination with chiffon floral blouses, polo necks, and tie-die or midriff tops, however they didn’t become universally popular until later in the decade.

As for hairstyles, men and women actually wore styles that resembled the opposite sex. Women went for a range of different hairstyles from very short similar to that of Twiggy, to long straight hair popularised by the hippies in the late 60s. Men, on the other hand, allowed their hair to grow which evolved into lots of different unkempt hippie styles.

Here’s how a few ‘60s children’ remember it…

“In 1969 I was a hippy and drove my parents mad because I refused to wear shoes at all. Hippy, floppy hat with a long chiffon scarf tied to it, bell-bottoms and see-through blouses, mini-skirts so short you had to bend at the knees rather than bend over.” Kay

“During this decade, as a young man, I knew something different was going on. Girls wearing short skirts, boys wearing long hair.” John Fletcher

> Twiggy and Mary Quant's super-famous mini-skirt


The 1950s was all about people acquiring television sets, with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 ensuring that they became a much more common addition to a family's home, but by the 1960s television, like many things in the decade, went through a lot of changes, big changes.

The 'Swinging Sixties' was very much about cultural revolution, and television helped push the boundaries of the era, with programming reflecting the alternative attitudes and tastes of the period.

The first episode of Coronation Street appeared in late 1960 on the ITV network, while popular science fiction show Doctor Who aired on the BBC in 1963. Not unlike the present day, people became committed devotees to 'their' programmes, but there simply wasn't anything like the same amount of choice that people enjoy today.

The BBC Television Service eventually expanded to two channels with the launch of BBC2 in 1964, and the move from black and white to partial colour programming followed in 1967, with the Wimbledon's women's singles final the first full colour transmission.

The glorious green grass at SW19 wouldn't have been clear for all to see however, as they would have needed a set capable of displaying it! For many, films at the cinema remained their only access to colour programming.

News coverage also developed massively in the 1960s, with many eager to learn about the assassination of United States President John F Kennedy in 1963. And with the luxury of a second channel by then, the BBC even dedicated 27 hours of exclusive coverage over a 10-day period leading up to NASA’s Apollo 11 mission which famously culminated with man’s first landing on the moon in 1969.

Here’s how a few ‘60s children’ remember it…

"Television was revolutionised in the 60s. Starting with old black and white sets that faded to a white dot, and we later progressed to colour. We always rented our TVs, they were too expensive to buy." Iain Sankey

"Certainly one of my most vivid memories from the Sixties, when I was a small girl, is of hiding behind my mother's chair because I was so scared of the Daleks on Dr Who." Vicki Woolf

"Not many months after we had our first TV set (black & white) I recall seeing reports of the Kennedy assassination and later on, England winning the World Cup and the first moon landings. All this with a musical backdrop provided by the Beatles and the Stones.” Paul Savage

> The Daleks helped Doctor Who become a huge science-fiction success story


In British cities Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London bands emerged out of the skiffle music scene and began to form beat groups, which drew on American influences like soul and rhythm and blues while also fusing original rock compositions. 

The inspirational new musical combinations eventually spawned the ‘Brit Invasion’ with bands such as The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five, The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks at the forefront of the movement.

The Beatles’ success in Britain in the early 60s led to the phenomenon of Beatlemania which not only helped encourage the rapid development of British pop and rock bands, but also allowed them to become incredibly popular in the United States.


After radio airplay had created an unprecedented demand, I Want to Hold Your Hand provided the band with their first US number 1, staying at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for a staggering seven weeks. Incredibly, the song that eventually knocked them off the top spot was their own! She Loves You.

Indeed, millions of people in Britain were so desperate to access the new exciting music of the decade that they listened to pirate radio stations which had to be anchored in the sea to avoid government restrictions on them at the time.

The stations became so influential that their broadcasts eventually changed how the entire country listened to music on the radio. Their popularity forced a complete restructure of BBC radio services, with the launch of stations Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4 in 1967, with Radio 1 concentrating specifically on pop and rock music to meet the immense domestic demand.

Here’s how a few ‘60s children’ remember it…

“In 1963 my first real notice of 'pop' music came with the Beatles phenomenon.” Anne Wilson

“I remember someone used to rush out to buy the latest Beatles LP. We'd spend hours listening until we knew the words of each track.” John Collier

"Most of my teen years were in the 60s. When I think of the early 60s I think of getting a transistor radio and listening to Radio Luxembourg. Trying to get in to Top of the Pops when it was taped in an old church in Manchester. The Mersey Sound. Denim skirts and striped sailor tops." Jane George-John

> The Fab Four's success kicked off the Brit Invasion

What about us?

There was just so much that happened during that decade that it's almost impossible to pin-point something that defined the era, but for us, it HAS to be the amazing music, which is why we’re going to be celebrating it with 60s music talent…