Fads, Fashion & Music in the 1960s

Updated March 23, 2017

The 1960s was one of the most tumultuous times in U.S. history in terms of cultural changes. Styles, dance fads, music, fashion and political unrest defined the decade as a time of revolution and change. The country's youth made themselves heard and collectively rebelled against conservative viewpoints and styles of their parents' generation.

Cultural Changes in the '60s

During the late 1940s and the 1950s, young couples were settling down into marriage and family life, young men were going to college on the GI bill, and a positive sentiment about the country and the government prevailed. Being part of society and following the rules of conduct were very important. The '60s would turn that attitude upside down as Rock 'n' Roll ignited the passions of the youth culture, allowing them to indulge in dance and outward expressions of sexual energy like never before. The Vietnam War would spark discontent with President Johnson and disenchantment with the decision-making of the government. A large percentage of the population was teenage Baby Boomers.


The Baby Boom that occurred after World War II created 70 million teenagers in the U.S. in the 1960s, which meant that youth activities and toys drove the market for fads. Several '60s fads are still going strong today. For example, surfers in California took to skateboards during the off season, starting a fad that is still widely popular today. Barbie came out in 1959, initiating a huge fad in the '60s that is still going strong today. Never before had there been a doll that allowed girls to play and fantasise about being a young woman. Prior to Barbie, only baby dolls existed, and little girls had to play at being Mommy. GI Joe was also introduced in the '60s, as were troll dolls.


Fashion evolved in the '60s in three distinct phases. At the beginning of the decade, fashions were conservative and mimicked those of the '50s. In the middle of the decade, miniskirts and shift dresses had been introduced, along with go-go boots. This style of dress, called "mod," came out of England and was taking the States by storm. For guys, mod style meant turtlenecks, wide white belts and skinny trousers. By the end of the '60s, the beginnings of hippie fashion were making an appearance. Love beads, long, loose hair and jeans ruled casual day wear for both men and women.


Like fashion, music in the '60s was varied and evolving. In the early '60s, pop music still reigned supreme, and Motown began. Though Motown's artist's were nearly all black (Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes) the sound was geared toward white, pop-loving audiences. By the mid-'60s, the Beatles jump-started the British Invasion and ushered in a score of wannabe Beatles bands that mimicked their look and sound. Folk music was producing its own sound, however, in the mid-60s with artists like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. In the late '60s the Black Power movement gave rise to a rock/pop R&B sound exemplified by Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. In 1969, the music festival Woodstock showcased rock 'n' roll artists with an edge, reflecting the political unrest of the youth culture. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival all performed.

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