How the Beat Generation Created the Uniform for Disaffected Youth

“William Burroughs once said that On the Road ‘sold a trillion Levi’s.’ The iconic denim brand is just one of the fashion companies to benefit from the disaffected, worn-out look popularized by the Beat Generation. The group of writers—including Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso—were staunch anti-capitalists who railed against American materialism, but that didn’t stop them from setting the tone for style in the 20th century. Blue jeans, white t-shirts, workwear jackets and battered canvas holdalls were practical essentials for a life on the road, and they soon came to define the uniform for a generation of post-war youth disenchanted with traditional values. Along with counterculture icons like James Dean and Bob Dylan, the Beat writers spearheaded a look that became associated with alienation and rebellion. The movement—a reaction to mid-century, mainstream American society, which valued conformity and consumerism above individuality and freedom of expression—expressed their anti-establishment values through the way they dressed. … Their wardrobes also featured purposeful nods to bookish academia and the modern jazz artists who sound-tracked the movement, such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk. The thrown-together style they championed continues to echo through college hallways today. The women of the Beat Generation are often undercredited, but writers like Diane di Prima, Joyce Johnson, and Hettie Jones also pioneered the counterculture wardrobe. Their look was the antithesis to Christian Dior’s New Look, which reintroduced opulence and ultra-femininity to womenswear in the post-war period. … Similarly, in Jean-Luc Godard’s stylish 1960 new wave classic Breathless, Jean Seberg plays an American in Paris, dressed in tight black pants, ballet pumps and a white t-shirt. In July 1959, Playboy magazine featured a ‘Beat Playmate’, actress and pin-up model Yvette Vickers, who told readers she liked ‘driving her Jag through the desert for kicks.’ …”

Lucien Carr, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Burroughs, Counterculture, Feminist, Happenings, Jack Kerouac, Jazz and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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