Civil Rights and Fashion in the 60's

Out of all the generations that continue to influence today’s culture there is only one decade revolutionary enough to be known as the 60’s.  Best known for being the time of civil rights and serious political activity the 60’s wasn’t just responsible for changing the country’s political and cultural background, it also strongly influenced the way we as African Americans dress today.  Sit back and relax because we’re going back, way back. 

Early in the 60’s you could catch an African American male sporting one of these; this is a conk.  The conk was a hairstyle made popular among African American men.  Coming into the 60’s the conk was popular because blacks were still in them mindset of whites being superior so they would have their hair chemically straightened to resemble the hair of a white man.  The style later fell out of popularity with the emergence of the black power movement and one of its trademarks, the afro. 

Becoming popular in the 60’s the afro quickly became a symbol of African American pride.  The afro was much more than just big hair.  It gave African Americans the chance to embrace their ethnicity and to not feel socially forced to copy white hair.  And before you knew it, they were copying us.  Another classic made popular in the 60’s were blue jeans.  Jeans were previously not worn much in the African American community for much other than yard work.  But in the 60’s denim jeans became more than just pants.  They became a symbol of protest against the establishment.  Maybe designs on the jean represented a message from the wearer such as ‘make love, not war’ or ‘black power’. 

This is when fashion truly became a means of visual communication.  By 1965 miniskirts were just busting onto the scene.  By 1967 virtually every young woman in America was showing off her legs in her miniskirt.  Miniskirts were worn back then as a sign of rebellion.  Women were tired of being sheltered and covered up in unattractive, old-fashioned clothing.  It was time to let it all hang out.  Feelings of racial pride and ethnic consciousness increased in African Americans during the mid 60’s.  This was due mostly to the Civil Rights Movement.  Although the Civil Rights Movement was revolved around social and political issues effects of the movement could be seen in African Americans during the latter part of the decade.  An explosion of culture within the African American community during the late 60’s caused some African Americans to begin rocking dashikis, made of the African American textile known as kente cloth. 

Dashikis and other types of African American clothing were made with this kente cloth.  The afro, blue jeans, the miniskirt and the dashiki are just a few of the fads that defined one of the greatest eras of all time; the era where the revolution began.  Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone, it’s not warm when she’s away, ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone, and she’s always gone too long anytime she goes away.