Prior to the British Invasion, fashions for both men and women were driven by the needs of the middle aged for the most part. The onslaught of the British acts changed American fashion, and the change affected both sexes. Clothing became brighter in color and patterns, and different materials emerged for clothes. Beatle boots became popular among young men, and go-go boots enjoyed popularity with women. Fashion models became thinner and thinner until one, Lesley Lawson, emerged from London so emaciated in appearance she was known by her nickname – Twiggy. Twiggy popularized the androgynous appearance on both sides of the Atlantic.
Mary Quant introduced the miniskirt, as well as the patterned tights often worn with it in the sixties, in London, with an eye on the youthful girls in the King’s Road in what was being called Swinging London, where the triumphant bands often retired for rest and recreation after another successful foray in the United States. The miniskirt was instantly both popular and controversial in America. Men and women found the skirt to be too revealing. Critics called it obscene. The miniskirt took on the image of rebellious youth, and the bright colors of many, as well as other clothing items, meant young women were no longer limited to dressing like their mothers.
Eyeglasses and sunglasses began to change, mimicking those worn by some of the British artists onstage and in television appearances. Sunglasses lenses became round or oval, with wire frames rather than the traditional horn rims. Another style popularized during the invasion were tiny rectangular lenses, with the lenses themselves purple or blue in color, designed for style rather than function. Belts became wider and buckles larger, as they were in England. The ubiquitous American cardigan sweater, worn by TV dads everywhere, lost popularity to the sleeveless sweater vests and turtleneck sweaters favored by the London crowd.
Where once young American men wore blue jeans and tee shirts, they were replaced with brightly colored shirts with extravagant collars and multi-buttoned cuffs, and trousers which were often widely striped. Zippered half boots replaced loafers. The fashions of London, particularly Carnaby Street, replaced Paris and Milan as the leaders of the industry. Stripes, checks, polka dots, and wavy lines on shirts, blouses, pants, and dresses replaced solid colors, and the bolder the color the better was the rule of the day, for both men and women. Where the look of men’s fashion had tended to present an image dignified and successful, during the British Invasion it shifted to youthful and daring.
The fashion of the British Invasion and Swinging London didn’t last much longer than the invasion itself, with trends in fashion changing at the same time the mood in America changed. The mostly joyous British Invasion with American youth rapidly came up against the realities of the draft and the Vietnam War. The age of the protesters and the hippies emerged, and the Carnaby look vanished. The artists themselves changed appearances as well, the bands of the British Invasion took on more individual appearances, with varying lengths of hair and beard, and many began to adopt American fashions, such as blue jeans and tee shirts.