Fashion

The Second Coming Of The Hippie: How '60s Counterculture Crept Back Into Menswear

They're back and they're here to save fashion.
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In January, under slate-gray Parisian skies, the flower children emerged. They loped through a light drizzle in patchwork trousers and sandals. In cowhide, crochet, corduroy, and cardigans. There wore neck scarves, tunics, and beaded jewelry, gardening gloves and jelly shoes, outfits seemingly cobbled together from the cast-offs of generations that went before.

This was the second menswear collection of the US designer Emily Adams Bode (pronounced “Bo-dee”). The wider themes at the Autumn/Winter 2020 men’s collections included histrionic leather, slick tailoring, and shaggy shearling-wool, but at Bode, the vibe was proudly, elegantly… far out. “I don’t mood-board too much,” she explains over the phone from New York, her voice slow, but assured. “I usually start the collection with a raft of inspiration fabrics, techniques, vintage, you know, whatever…”

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Shortlisted for the prestigious LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers last year, Bode has risen to prominence through her use of vintage cloth and American ephemera: around 40 percent of the stock is made from antique fabrics. They have a “true female history that’s intrinsic,” she says. “Usually, it’s cloth made by women for the home—quilting, mending, appliqué—a lot of historical techniques that otherwise aren’t used so much in clothing, especially not in menswear.”

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People feel a strange comfort when they wear the brand, Bode explains. Customers have contacted her to say they fall asleep in the jackets. There is a hazy nostalgia to Bode’s garments. Unlike streetwear and sportswear and tailoring and ugly trainers and everything else everyone is buying into right now, they would not have looked look out of place at Woodstock, or Glastonbury (before it was “Glasto!”). But Bode is not alone; her brand sits atop a new totem pole of designers that are mining the colors, cultures, and ethics of the '60s and '70s counterculture.

Based in Brighton, Story mfg has a written manifesto, as well as a collection of ethically produced, groovily vibed clothing. “Our products are designed to benefit the Earth, our customers and the people we work with,” it states. “We believe fashion can be a form of social activism and that Story mfg. can help create a more positive future.”

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A chore jacket, hand-printed and embroidered with mushrooms and peace symbols and hemp leaves—reminiscent of Gram Parsons’ famous Nudie suit—is cut from organic cotton and “sun-bleached with earth salts”. The Polite Pullover, in a corduroy naturally tie-dyed with madder and babul tree bark, is adorned with hand-crocheted detailing.

Elsewhere, Online Ceramics from Los Angeles can take a large chunk of the credit for the boom in tie-dye. Among other things, they hand-make limited-run tie-dyed tees with kooky graphics and trip-fuelled, non-sequitur slogans that have proven wildly popular with streetwear kids and their various deities, such as actor Jonah Hill and Quavo of the rap trio Migos. Online Ceramics has made official merchandise for Dead & Company—the band made up of surviving Grateful Dead members and John Mayer—but you can also buy weird T-shirts and sweats with no musical affiliation.

This trend for psychedelic shades and '60s shapes has crossed over into mainstream fashion. Etro’s SS ’20 collection features Aztec ponchos, paisley field jackets, and even dreamcatcher necklaces: very Crosby, Stills & Nash. For Loewe, creative director Jonathan Anderson sent models down the catwalk in cultish tunics and moccasins, and with flowers in their hair.6

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Etro A/W’20 and Loewe Spring S/S’20

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But the return of the hippy is not heralded by clobber alone. “I think the big difference between then [the '60s] and now is that it feels about a return to things artisanal, special, nostalgic and one-of-a-kind,” says Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman, the New York City luxury department store. “Not necessarily emblematic of a movement, per se, as it was during The Summer of Love, but a heightened appreciation of a nostalgic style, and an added focus on sustainability.”

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And it’s prescient, too. Unnecessary consumption has a bad rep these days, and Bode et al are here to serve free-thinking fashionistas. “I think we’ve really seen a change,” Bode says. “I think our brand allows people to look at materials differently and understand what it means to preserve something, or what it means to know the history of a garment, or of a textile and to see that as valuable.”

This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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Charlie Teasdale
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