December 25th. The year? 1AD.
A fresh little baby Jesus, kicking back in his crib. Mother Mary is wiped, and after nine months preggers, she’s well up for an eggnog.
She tries in vain to catch her hubby’s eye, but not a chance. Why?
Three Wise Blokes, who just turned up to watch that baby get born, are showing off their gifts… a truly holy knitwear selection, which they are modelling for maximum effect.
Staff at Beyond Rero Brighton Modelling their Knitwear.
The first Shrewd Dude has a sparkly number, glittering under the night sky, a fabulous bright gold. The second Knowledgeable Guy is wearing a classic red and green, with ‘Talk To Frankincense’ emblazoned on the chest. The third and final Sensible Chap’s torso is entirely occupied by a woven picture of Olly Murs. With antlers.
Joseph doesn’t know who Olly Murs is yet (though by God he will), but he doesn’t mind. Cos these lads showing up has changed his festive wardrobe, and his life, forever. And also, he’s chuffed because his wife had a good baby.
Of course, we all know that story. The tale of how the Christmas jumper came to be. The weird thing is though, that no one wore them again till basically the 1950s. Which is mad, ‘cause they’re tremendous.
Some Randoms in the 1950s.
History of the Nordic Knit
Perhaps inspired by that tale - but more likely by the thick, geometrically-patterned, woven-hygge Scandi knits, worn from the 19th century onwards by everyone from ice-cold fishermen to Ingrid Bergman - decorated woolly jumpers found their way to the UK in the 1950s.
Woolly jumpers, hats and cardigans (and of course socks, the Christmas jumper’s evil little twin brothers), led a knitwear revolution that gradually started to replace dresses and suits as the winter gifts of choice.
The ‘Ugly Christmas Sweater’ itself, with festive designs such as snowmen, reindeer and X-Factor runners-up, found its way into popular culture over the next couple of decades, adorning such style icons as crooner Val Doonican, presenter Timmy Mallett, and w***er Gyles Brandreth*, very much the Three Wise Men of their time.
When Christmas Jumpers Went Downhill.
The rebirth of the Christmas Jumper
Then something very sad happened. Despite such trailblazing, youth-culture icons flying the festive flag for the Xmas weave, they started to be seen as basically a bit naff.
However, on 13th April 2001, nearly two millennia later, a saviour was born.
Colin ‘Sexy Lake Man’ Firth, playing the emotionally-constipated heartthrob Mark Darcy, showed up at Bridget Jones’s mum’s mate’s party, in cinemas across the world… wearing a massive woolly reindeer on his tummy. Hallelujah.
The Jumper in Question.
From then on, ‘Ugly’ Christmas jumpers rose again into the mainstream.
Not without a good helping of humour and more than a smidge of irony, of course, our favourite yuletide pullovers found their way onto the high street like never before, onto high-fashion catwalks, melting the hearts of designers such as Ralph Lauren, Burberry and both Dolce AND Gabbana.
They even prompted an alternative range produced by thrash metal veterans, Slayer.
Slayer's Christmas Jumpers.
Our Favourite Vintage Christmas Jumpers
Nowadays, the Christmas jumper is a must-have in the winter wardrobe.
Practical, adaptable and ugly-cute, they pair well with almost any personal style. Whether you’re going for the ice-cool-at-Christmas vibe, getting swept away by the Yuletide, or going full-out ho-ho-ho, a vintage knit is a versatile and fun feature piece.
Vintage Nordic Knitwear
One of the jolliest things about vintage knitwear is the perfect opportunity it offers to help support change, as the world moves towards sustainable fashion. Shockingly, in 2017, one in four high street-bought Christmas jumpers were discarded after the holiday period. What the Dickens?!
For a more sustainable option, cosy up in a retro Nordic knit from Christmasses Past, that still looks great Christmas Present, and will just get better for Christmasses Yet to Come.
They pair perfectly with a port red lipstick, ankle boots, and a 70s wide-leg trouser for timeless tidings. God bless us, every one!
Slogan Christmas Jumpers
In more recent trends, Christmas jumpers have opened up a world of possibilities in woven slogans, puns and pop culture references.
Avoid disposable fast fashion, and keep the North Pole very merry, by wearing upcycled sweaters just like our reworked LABEL ones.
These looks are perfect for a statement-heavy but a fashion-friendly approach to the wacky world of Winterval.
If it’s not too snowy, match with your favourite jeans and a pair of Converse for a 90s casual look.
Sure, if you want to go all out, get yourself a dancing, singing, turkey hat, a pair of elf leggings, St. Nick’s beard, and a 3D jumper with baubles, bells, a removable Rudolph, and all the trimmings.
But of course, the holiday period is a time of year for everyone! So, if you are too alternative for advents, and mince pies are a bit mainstream, a bold print on a black Christmas cardigan can look edgy when paired with Docs, cropped trousers, an oversized winter coat and a trawler.
The Royal Family in Theirs.
*Not being rude, it’s true. Gyles Brandreth is a writer.
After the hype around Bohemian Rhapsody it’s no surprise that an Elton John biopic has been announced. One of the most iconic figures in British music, Sir Elton John has inspired generations after him with both his music and his style. His stage outfits are instantly recognisable in the same way that his voice could not be confused for anyone but him.
So before we see Taron Egerton portray the living legend in Rocketman lets take a look at Elton John’s most iconic fashion moments.
Top 10 Elton John Looks
1973 - Winged Wonder
A truly iconic outfit, this all white, angelic get-up is an ethereal look. The oversized sunglasses are the perfect accessory to top it off - definitely inspiration from for the festival season.
1974 - Definitely Not Mellow Yellow
This in-your-face yellow stage outfit is exactly what you think of when you think of Elton; tight spandex, a plunging v-neck and massive white feather sleeves. YAS.
1975 - Home Run
This crystal covered costume made Elton’s performance at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles a memorable one. Harry Styles was even inspired to recreate this look for Halloween 2018, down to the tinted-lens square sunglasses.
1980 - Totally Quackers
Not one to shy away from wacky looks, Elton performed in Central Park, NYC in an inflatable Donald Duck outfit. Genius.
1984 - Shining Star
Elton John has always existed outside the realm of gender norms and in this bedazzled gown he makes a statement. The custom headpiece is also a show stealer.
1986- Shocking Pink
You would think the focus point of this outfit would be the bedazzled silver jacket, alas, it is the bright pink mohawk that our eyes are immediately drawn to.
1988 - Man Of Many Costumes
Dressed down in a simple black polo, Elton stands with a selection of his stage costumes showing the transformation that takes place in the dressing room.
1992 - Versace, Versace, Versace
At a Versace store opening in London in 1992, Elton poses with Donatella Versace in his iconic round sunglasses that became an integral part of his looks.
1997 - Never Outdone
For his 50th birthday party Elton John arrived dressed as an 18th century aristocrat. The bigger the hair, the closer to heaven, as they say; this hair is practically in the clouds.
His influence is boundless and of course the queen of outlandish stage costumes has taken a note or too from Elton John’s costume playbook.
Get The Look
Feeling inspired? We don't blame you. If you're read to upgrade your wardrobe and try something a little more flamboyant then look no further- here's our top Elton John inspired picks.
Gold Converse- £26.95
Red Patent Baker Boy- £18.00
Yellow Lens Round Sunglasses- £10.00
Long Sleeved Metallic Rainbow Shirt- £22.00
Floral Cropped Blazer- £25.00
Leather Platform Boots- £46.00
Diamante Resin Hoop Earrings- £10.00
If you can't get enough of the Elton John inspiration then head over to Pinterest. You can follow Beyond Retro and see our Rocketman inspired board where you can get inspired by his best looks and a curation of Elton-inspired vintage pieces from our website.
Words Eloise Gendry
Reliable, hard wearing and damn right stylish we all love a good pair of dungarees. Whether you rock the workwear revival or the 90s club kid, dungarees are a staple, but how much do we know about them? We give you a quick lesson in the humble dungaree as well as show you our favourite dungaree fashion moments.
When Were Dungarees Created?
The dungaree was first brought to light in 17th century India where the cloth used for making cheap, robust working clothes was called ‘Dungri,’ the Hindi name of the Indian village which produced this hardwearing fabric. By default when the English bought the cloth to make workwear trousers they took the name ‘Dungri’ and added a British twist naming the fabric, ‘dungaree. ‘
Fast forward to 1853, the bib and trousers came together to form the first overalls made out of ‘dungaree’ fabric. This was designed by Levi Strauss and his business partner Jacob Davis. (Which you can read more about in our History of Levis post.) This new form of clothing was ideal for hard labour and with the bib, it allowed the carrying of tools and eliminated the need for waist belts. They grew in such popularity across America that they soon became the standard clothing for the working man. They were even colour coded according to the profession of the wearer: hickory stripe for railroad workers, white for painters and different shades of blue for the rest of the working class.
The dungaree started to transcend the realms of manual labour when they were worn by Hollywood royalty, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and even Judy Garland, turning the overall into a desirable garment.
Our Top 6 Dungarees Looks
1. Princess Diana
Yup, that’s right dungarees are for Princesses too! Forget posing for your royal portraits in ermine and a crown when you could rock the 80s pastel look in light denim dungarees!
2. Ronnie Wood
Ronnie shows us how to rock in dungaree in classic 70s style. Grab a more fitted pair and team them with a vintage tee and trainers. Mullet optional.
3. Dexys Midnight Runners
It's impossible to mention great dungaree look without mentioning Dexys Midnight Runners. Taking inspiration from the working class of Ireland they described their style as an, ‘off the farm look.’ Layered with knitwear and belted at the waist, the ‘farm look’ can be pretty cool.
4. Elton John
It seems the popularity of the dungaree and Elton John have resurged at the same time however this isn’t the first time the two have intertwined. Elton John is actually no stranger to dungarees rocking them up until the early 90s in perfect glam rock style.
5. Whitney Houston
This image of Whitney Houston looks like it could have been taken yesterday. Straight off current street style trends, Whitney rocks the dungaree with a Champion sweatshirt and bum bag. Not only do dungarees never go out of style but Whitney shows that it doesn’t take long for fashion to come full circle.
6. TLC vs NSYNC
The 90s wouldn’t be the 90s without a band in dungarees. Pick a band and we guarantee there will be a time when they wore dungarees in joyful unison. Two of our favourites are TLC and NSYNC where it doesn’t matter what colour or size you wear dungarees will always work.
Dungarees have stood the test of time from a simple piece of 17th-century cloth to the utilitarian and ultra cool garment worn by everyone from royalty to railroad workers. If you don’t have at least one pair of these wardrobe staples then check out our range online and in store. We guarantee you won’t want to take them off.
Words Hugo Harris
The 1970s and denim go hand in hand together like Jimmy Hendrix and a guitar, or Bianca Jagger and a white horse at Studio 54. From flares and double denim to skirts long and short the decade shifted denim from a Counterculture statement to a fast fashion must have. We take a look at some of our favourite 1970s denim fashion moments to help you get the perfect look online and in store.
Flares in any shape and form are synonymous with the 70s, starting life off as Naval bell-bottoms bought by the youth as a distinctive sign of a Counterculture lifestyle. The demand for these recycled Navy uniform trousers outweighed supply and those who wanted the look started to get creative by cutting open the side seams of straight legged jeans and adding extra panels of contrasting fabric.
Manufactures and stores quickly caught on to the DIY flared jeans, and it wasn’t long before a flared jean could be seen in every High Street window. From Farrah Fawcett to the teenagers on the street, flared jeans were the staple of 1970s denim fashion.
The Wrangler Jacket
Denim jackets can be attached to many eras but for the 70s must have it was the Wrangler Blue Bell 11MJ. Made famous by John Lennon it is near impossible to find a photo of Lennon in the 70s without his favourite piece of Wrangler denim.
The Denim Skirt
The denim skirt was born in the 70s as a way to recycle damaged denim in the awakening of the environmentally conscious consumer. They came in all lengths from a take on the 60s mini to the longer bohemian cut with raw hems, centre front o-ring zips and the humble patchwork.
Originally the staple of Cowboys and Miners of Gold Rush California, double denim much like the flare became a popular 70s trend. One of the many advocates of the double denim look was Sonny and Cher. Sonny, in fact, was the first man on television to ever wear denim. Denim came to symbolise a fresh all – American sexuality so the more denim, the better!
With so many 70s pieces in store and online, it is so easy to recreate your own 1970s denim fashion moment or mix and match with your own style. Perhaps try your own bit of DIY on the unloved denim in the back of your wardrobe to create that patchwork look. If we can recommend one thing though is to try double denim, it may change your life!
Words Hugo Harris
How many pairs of jeans have you seen today? On the street, at work, or when you went to grab something to eat? It’s impossible to say. There are said to be the equivalent of 7 pairs of jeans per person in the world and the US produces up to 450 million of them alone every year. But when were the humble jeans born? Like all good spaghetti westerns, at the end of a dusty road that stretched between San Francisco and the Arizona border. Here is a brief history of the Levi's brand!
When was Levis Created?
The year is 1873. For the past 20 years the Levi Strauss company, founded by a German Jewish immigrant had been supplying the general stores of the West, where cowboys got their supplies. Levi’s Strauss was a wholesaler and sold everything from shovels, picks, lanterns, pots and pans, shoes, long johns, shirts and dungarees.
The dungarees were usually made out of blue canvas, denim. Strauss thought he would spend his life being a dry goods wholesalers until one day in 1872 Strauss received a letter from one of his clients, Mr Jacob Davis;
Dear Mr Strauss,
Today one of my female clients came in today to my shop complaining the area around the pockets on your dungarees are not sturdy enough. Dungarees that my client's husband keeps his gold digging tools in. At that precise moment I was attaching leather straps on a horse blanket using brass rivets and it gave me an idea......
Jacob Davis wanted to patent using brass rivets on canvas workwear but needed a business partner and in May 1873 together with Strauss, they got that patent.
With the pockets in canvas trousers now secure, the jean was born, or as they were known then, the XX. (extra, extra strong.) This was significantly important. Men who bought jeans were labourers and workmen who needed their clothes to last longer. It saved them money and it protected them.
Strauss then had another idea. Above the back pocket, they would sew a leather patch that all could see with a drawing of two horses trying to pull apart a pair of jeans. It was an innovative concept. Levi’s clients at the time were cowboys, farmers, and workers who were mostly illiterate so when they went to buy a pair of jeans all they had to do was ask for the pair with two horses.
The history of the ‘Nevada’ jeans
A lesser known part of the Levis history is the ‘Nevada’ jean. One of the earliest designs from Straus and Davis, (Levis Strauss & Co) this jean was nicknamed the ‘Nevada’ after a pair was discovered at the bottom of a mineshaft in 1998, dating from 1879.
In 2001 the ‘Nevada’ was put up for sale on eBay. Bidding was fierce and a rumour of one of the people trying to buy the jeans off eBay was Ralph Lauren. Levi’s wanted them for their archive and they won with the winning bid of $46,532 dollars. In 1879 the same pair were sold at 99 cents, they looked like any early Levi jean, waistband, crotch rivet, a cinch and suspender buttons.
The ‘Nevada’ also included a unique knife pocket on the rear outer of the left leg. As these jeans were created before the invention of the double stitch sewing machine, the distinctive arcuate (bow-shaped) stitching on the pockets will have been stitched twice using a hand-mechanised, single stitch machine, giving it a unique character.
In 2001 after the winning bid, Levis celebrated its return with a reproduction of the ‘Nevada,’ complete with the shopping and distressing of the original. With only the 501 created they have become a collector's item almost as much as the original.
These are the oldest pair of jeans in existence, If you look at them from the front they look like the perfectly fashioned jeans. No one would know that they are 139 years old. Yet if you were to wear general men’s clothing from 1879 people would say, where is the costume party?
What about the History of Black Levis Jeans?
When looking at the history of Levi’s jeans it's roots are buried deep in the realms of Indigo dye and the classic blue jean, however, it was Levi's that created the black jeans that are now present-day rivals to blue jeans.
In 1956 Elvis Presley Starred in the film, Jailhouse Rock. Featured in the movie was an experiment from Levis - black denim. Originally named, Levis 'Elvis Presley' jeans, they were aimed at the youth market. Ironically Elvis actually disliked jeans but this moment in Cinema holds huge significance in fashion and culture.
Firstly the birth of the black jean which has become a style icon in its own right. Secondly, Levis association with Elvis Presley and their endorsement with Jailhouse Rock made a significant contribution to jeans becoming a must-have item for the youth of the 1950s, helping Levis to compete against Lee who had the endorsement of James Dean who wore Lee 101s in Rebel without a cause.
What is the small pocket on the front of Levi's for?
The small pocket on the front of Levi’s can often be questioned for its functionality and purpose. Originally it was designed for cowboys and lumberjacks who kept their pocket watches in them. Then it came to the place to slip matches and lighters in. Today it is often defunct, the home of loose change or condoms. The pocket of safe sex! What do you keep in yours?
Words Hugo Harris
For something that came and went in the space of two years (and which some even claim never even happened at all), New Romantic's influence was decidedly far-reaching. It spawned some of the 80s most famous pop stars, from Boy George to Spandau Ballet, and launched some of the decade's most remembered trends; sharps suits, flamboyant makeup and power silhouettes. The original New Romantic movement though was ephemeral, difficult to define and the product of an amalgamation of influences, from decadent Wiemar Berlin to Bowie.
What is the New Romantic Look?
Burned by the commodification of punk, the next generation of subcultures strove to evolve fast, dropping trends as soon as they were identified.
"...nobody would ever call themselves a New Romantic. Not just that, but nobody even knew what to call it. Were they Blitz kids? Were they Bowie kids? Were they futurists? As soon as anyone was called a New Romantic in the press, they'd instantly do an interview to deny that they were New Romantic. As soon as frilly shirts were identified as being a part of the New Romantic kit, bands immediately stopped wearing them." - Journalist Dave Rimmer interviewed in Vice.
Nevertheless, there are still certain elements of '80s fashion that can be firmly established as New Romantic. The lavish materials of the subculture's period costume influences, the flamboyance of glam, androgyny and blending of the genders, dandyish smart suiting, 1940s broad shouldered shapes and the fetish and leather influences of punk.
New Romantic Cultural Moments
Bowie Nights at Billy's Club
The subculture began simmering in 1978 when Steve Strange and Rusty Egan began holding 'Bowie Nights' at Billy's Nightclub in Soho. In reaction to the prescriptive look that some perceived punk had become thanks to its mainstream appeal, teenagers and art school students began looking back to glam rock, and even further back to the dandies and ruffles of the Romantic era in order to find something with more glamour. This is where the scene incubated, a middle ground between punk and New Romantic.
By 1979, the night had moved to the Blitz Club in Covent Garden. The door policy demanded originality and attitude (rumour has it they once turned Mick Jagger away) influenced by Bowie's spirit of constant reinvention. A precursor to the club kids of the 1990s, Blitz kids strove to reinvent their dramatic looks every week - another reason why the trend is so hard to pin down. By Blitz, the subculture was fully formed. Nights at Blitz were frequented by the likes of Spandau Ballet, Boy George, Dylan Jones and Princess Julia.
David Bowie's Ashes to Ashes
Just as Bowie influenced the Blitz kids, the musician took influence back, paying Steve Strange and other Blitz kids £50 each to star in this decidedly New Romantic music video, styled in ecclesiastical robes.
Emerging directly out of the Blitz club, Spandau Ballet took New Romantic mainstream and are credited as being the band who once again 'made it hip to play pop'.
Boy George's First Appearance on TOTP
The Culture Club's first performance on British television with 'Do You Really Want to Hurt Me' in October 1982 looks fairly unremarkable by today's standards, but Boy George's androgynous appearance, though a hit with fans, caused a furore in the press.
The Naked Civil Servant
Airing in 1985 on ITV, the Quentin Crisp biopic fit right into the New Romantic movement thanks to John Hurt's dandyish portrayal of openly gay writer and raconteur Crisp, who wore makeup and nail polish day to day in the 1940s, when homosexuality was a criminal offence.
Leigh Bowery and Taboo
By the mid-80s the Blitz Club had given way to the far more subversive Taboo, run by performance artist Leigh Bowery. The polysexual, drag-influenced night marked the end of New Romanticism in club terms and paved the way for Club Kid nights like New York's Limelight and Disco 2000.
New Romantic Icons and Inspiration
The original Blitz kid, Strange's look spanned slick tailoring and Pierrot and pirate costumes.
No-one made New Romanticism's androgynous aspects as famous as Boy George, known in his Blitz days by his real name - George O'Dowd.
The fashion writer and muse to milliner Stephen Jones was rarely seen at the club without an elaborate hat.
British photographer Derek Ridgers has been documenting social scenes and subcultures since the early '70s from punk to Sink the Pink. New Romantic fashion inspiration can be found in his beautiful book 78/87 London Youth (if you can get your hands on it). Otherwise, try Pinterest.
From Club to Catwalk
Thanks to the many Saint Martins students frequenting Blitz, the movement influenced the collections of several hot young British designers, including...
The British milliner owes thanks to his nights spent dancing at Blitz Club for some of his first clients... including Boy George and John Galliano.
Created in 1982 by Stevie Stewart and David Holah, Bodymap was inspired directly by the club scene and designed both to stand out and to dance in. Blitz Kids and celebrities such as Boy George, Michael Clark, Leigh Bowery and Marilyn wore their designs down the New York runways.
Galliano was studying at St Martin's in the early '80s and came of age at clubs like Blitz and Taboo. You can see New Romantic's dandy influence in the designer's graduate collection - Les Incryoables - named after the original dandies of 18th Century France.
Although the designer was decidedly a punk, dressing the Sex Pistols and married to the band's manager Malcolm Maclaren, you can see the conversation between the two subcultures in Westwood's work. Her first collection, 'Pirates' in 1981, had an undeniable influence on ex-punk Adam Ant's look circa Kings of the Wild Frontier, released the same year.
How to Wear the 1980s Trend Today
The 1980s are back with a bang on the A/W 18 runways. Here's how to update the New Romantic style influences for the party season ahead with some well selected vintage items.
Look out for opulent textures - lace, velvet, brocade, leather, anything that will catch the flash of an Instagram snap.
Girls in suits, boys in lace, lashings of eyeliner and big-shouldered blazers for everyone. Shop both sections of the store so you don't miss out on that statement piece.
Nipped in waists, tapered jeans, frilly high-necked blouses, big, big shoulders and an incredible hat to top it off. Tailoring is also an important element of this 80s revival. Suits, preferably checked, are ideal, along with waistcoats layered under jackets and partially undone neckties.
Ready to hunt down some eighties pieces of your own? Shop our New Arrivals.
Get some inspo for re-creating Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes look with our blog on Religious Iconography in Fashion.
From heavy Victorian bathing bloomers to 90’s minimal bikinis (we all remember that Chanel number!) swimwear has become firmly rooted as a summer staple. Fast forward a few decades and we have an eclectic mix of trends and eras to choose from.
Summer 2018 has seen a resurgence in a trend that was previously brushed aside and saved for school swimming trips - The One Piece!
Here’s a breakdown of this summer’s go-to one piece trends:
This daring trend is not for the faint-hearted! High cut swimsuits were all the range in the 80s and when Baywatch debuted, the red swimsuit we all know became an icon itself.
There may be few trends from the 80s that we’re wanting to revive, but the high cut swimsuit has made a comeback, and we’re totally ready to embrace it. Think bright colours, a lot of leg and one or two slow-motion runs across the beach.
Welcome to Club Tropicana - the drinks may not be free but you’ll be festival-ready in an 80s floral number. The print is bright, floral and perfect for spotting your lost pal in a crowd. Pair perfectly with vintage denim shorts and Dr Martens to prepare yourself for festival weather come rain or shine!
90s Colour Blocking
In contrast, this 90s minimal trend consists of clean cuts, basic shapes, no frills and calming pastel shades of block colour and bright white. Nice and simple for a relaxing day at the seaside! This look pairs perfectly with vintage inspired statement sunglasses.
Racerbacks, ab worthy cut-outs and geometric blocks of bright colour. This look steps into Sporty Spice territory and we love it! Wear as a bodysuit with your trusty Mom jeans for the perfect day festival look.
A sultry spin on a kitsch swimwear print, wear leopard to complete the classic Hollywood look. Match with some gold statement earrings and a straw hat and look absolutely faaaaaabulous darling!
Don’t forget to accessorise your swimming costume with this summer's go-to staple pieces. Try a Jane Birkin inspired straw bag and finish off with a pair of with vintage statement sunnies.
Feeling inspired? Ditch the bikini and shop our huge range of swimwear, perfect for your summer getaways!
Sure, you love Levi’s as much as we do. But have you ever bothered to read up on this most iconic of denim brands? Or any of the other favourites in the perpetual running for Best Vintage Blue Jeans Ever?
Allow us to walk you through the history of what Yves Saint Laurent once called “the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant” item of clothing ever invented, the brands that have so shaped its enduring legacy, and the key vintage denim pieces we can never get enough of.
Early Origins of Denim Jeans
Yep, it’s true: all the best things come from France. Sort of. Though the term “denim” is often referred to as a conflation of the French term “serge de Nîmes” in reference to a textile produced in southern France, there is conflicting thought on the geographic origins of Denim. However, the term “jean” is rightly attributed to Genoa, Italy, a town known in French as “Gêne” and the original source of a cotton, linen and wool blend known as jean that would be imported and later produced in England, before making its way to American shores and mills by the late 18th century.
Still with us? Good. For two centuries, the terms denim and jean referred to two different fabrics, but the two have become one today and the popularity of vintage denim jeans continues to soar. So without further ado.
Levi’s, The Denim King
The story of Levi’s may very well be the first (well-documented) American dream. Bavarian immigrant lands in New York City in 1848; learns retail at the sides of his dry-goods selling half-brothers; sets off for Gold Rush-era San Francisco. By 1873, Loeb Strauss had changed his name to Levi, grown a bustling business selling common dry goods and workwear, and developed a process for riveted clothing that he patented in partnership with a Nevada-based tailor named Jacob Davis.
Originally referred to as “waist overalls,” this early denim jean design was later assigned the lot number “501” around 1890, and remains arguably the most highly sought-after, imitated and iconic garment in the denim genre and even the greater fashion lexicon today.
Shop vintage Levis of all cuts, washes and colours here for a timeless look that represents the roots of denim culture.
Like Levi Strauss & Co., Lee also started out as a more general business, first wholesaling groceries at its inception in 1889 before adding flour mills and eventually dry goods such as workwear. Frustrated with the quality of such clothing from suppliers, the company began producing its own workwear, achieving notoriety for the “Union-All” work jumpsuit which launched in 1913.
By the 1920s, Lee was producing sturdy denim pants for cowboys in addition to its workwear and notably introduced the zippered fly. (Early Levi’s like the 501 did and still do feature a button fly). Come the 1940s, Lee was America’s #1 manufacturer of work clothes, moving on to develop casualwear from the 1950s onwards. Vintage Lee jeans remain a strong emblem of U.S. manufacturing and an essential item for denim aficionados today.
Did you know that Wrangler jeans weren’t always called by that name? Everyone’s favourite rodeo brand started as Hudson Overalls in 1904 before becoming the Blue Bell Overall Company in 1919. In turn, Blue Bell acquired the rights to the Wrangler name in 1943 and the brand relaunched in 1947 with a pair of rodeo-ready jeans designed by “celebrity tailor Rodeo Ben.”
The brand would go on to be endorsed by rodeo stars and cowboys and symbolises durability and quality to this day. Vintage Wrangler Jeans are an iconic expression of this rough and rugged legacy, a whimsical mix of authenticity and sex appeal for the denim fans of today.
Calvin Klein Denim
Nothing gets between us and a good pair of vintage Calvin Klein jeans. If Levi’s paved the way for denim’s place in fashion history, it’s Calvin Klein who fortified this legacy with the launch of his eponymous denim line in 1978. His infamous - and incendiary - 1980 ad campaign featured a then-15-year-old Brooke Shields teasingly asking, “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing,” coining perhaps the most iconic turn of phrase in 20th-century advertising.
Klein himself proclaimed that “Jeans are sex” and it’s this unbridled appeal that keeps vintage Calvin Klein jeans, jackets, shorts and more at the top of denim wishlists today.
The Denim Jacket
Yep, you could have guessed it: like jeans, the denim jacket started with Levi’s. Launched in 1880 and originally referred to as a three-pleat “working blouse”, the history of the denim trucker jacket’s trajectory from workwear essential to cool-kid uniform basically goes something like this: first worn by cowboys in the wild wild American west, then by actors imitating cowboys onscreen in the 1950s, by the latter half of the 20th century the vintage denim jacket became a general symbol of good ol’ fashioned, against-the-grain rebellion for misfits of all stripes: rock stars, writers, and angsty, cool creatives. From the streets to the runways and back, vintage denim jackets are a crucial closet essential today.
The Denim Skirt
Thank the hippies. Denim skirts arguably started out as converted jeans, the inseams split open and inserted with triangular godets as the Summer of Love encouraged a grassroots, DIY approach to fashion amongst the wild-child kids of 60s counterculture. Then it became a 70s staple, and iterations of the denim skirt have resurfaced ever since in all lengths, silhouettes, and washes. Vintage denim skirts remain an essential item today in every style to suit your taste.
The Denim Shorts
It started with Daisy Duke. The sexpot character played by Catherine Bach wore ultra-short denim cutoffs in every episode of 70s-era American television show Dukes of Hazzard, and the rest is literally history. Denim shorts - whether cutoffs or cuffed - have become a summer staple for both men and women since. It’s that simple.
Festival Style Denim
Didja read the bit about denim skirts above? The notion of festival denim began with 60s counterculture, as the youthquake and hippy movements led to an embrace of casual clothing as a means of rebellion and crafting an identity separate to one’s suit-wearing parents.
Denim flares, denim skirts, denim shorts and denim jackets all featured prominently on the youth at Woodstock, all surefire staples by the time Glastonbury launched in 1970.
Want to find out more about the history of denim? Check out our blog on the History of Levi's jeans and discover much more on our blog!
Words Kelly Miller
Take a look at any Instagram influencer or fashion brand’s mood board and you’re likely to find endless amounts of 90s pop culture icons, whether it be a grunge-inspired Nirvana flannel situation or a strong sports style inspired Britpop bands such as Oasis and Blur. With trends like tie-dye and DIY cut off shorts making heavy appearances, it’s no wonder that these throwback looks have become the ultimate Summer staple.
The Resurgence Of 90s Trends
Since late 2013, aspects of 90s culture have filtered their way back into the mainstream. Gone were the low rise jeans of the early 2000s, the bravest trendsetters were digging out their mom jeans, some being worn for the second time around. Accessories such as bucket hats and tattoo chokers came back in full force and people began stomping around in old-school Converse and Doc Martens again. Fast forward to 2018 and it’s become quite obvious that the nineties is here to stay. Check out some 90s summer pop culture fashion inspiration below!
Our 5 Favourite Understated 90s TV Style Pop Culture Icons
Ally McBeal, Ally McBeal
There’s no doubt that Ally McBeal had the workwear wardrobe of our dreams. In clean 90s shapes in simple block colours, it was both aspirational and totally wearable, with accessories and shoes to truly make it pop.
Xander, Buffy The Vampire Slayer
When you think of Buffy, sometimes Xander gets left in the shadow of Angel and Spike (do vampires have shadows or do they just not have reflections?), but one of our favourite members of the Scooby Gang has some truly great normcore looks.
Chandler Bing, Friends
Chandler’s casual clothing was always something to be desired, though we just didn’t know it at the time. From plain tees layered under shirts, plaid patterns to single block colour jumpers: this dude also had the normcore look down.
Miranda, Sex And The City
If you were to ask anyone about their favourite Sex And The City character, 9 times out of 10 they’d say, Samantha. However, Miranda had some fab 90s dresses as well as great tailored pieces, and always accessorised exactly right.
The Banks’, The Fresh Prince
Although Will was undoubtedly the king of this show, The Banks’ had some pretty suave style themselves. From Carlton’s chino shorts to Ashley’s entire teenage look, this wealthy Bel Air family certainly had some cash to splash on their wardrobes.
How To Wear The Looks
Bright colours were signature in the 80s through to the 90s, with bold citrus colours and gaudy patterns making many appearances. Think old school bowling alleys and leisure centre decor and you’re pretty much there, inspired by Saved By The Bell and The Fresh Prince.
Because maybe, sportswear is gonna be the one that saves me. And after all, there’s no need for a football. Get the 90s Britpop look with vintage brands such as Fila, Adidas, Nike and more.
Inspired by Carlton Banks, Ally McBeal, and Miranda: these 90s summer clothing looks are both versatile and stylish. Think sharp tailoring in comfy fabrics. Men need to invest in some vintage chinos and branded shirts, with the ladies opting for co-ord suits with a casual top and dresses.
Here’s one for the Chandler Bings. Think solid block colours in natural and nude tones, no obvious patterns or branding, with loose fitting shapes and styles. It’s effortless, inoffensive and timeless.
Guys, if you’re feeling adventurous throw on a simple Hawaiian shirt for the ultimate dad look, and don’t forget those sandals! Check out our Guide to Hawaiian Shirts for some classic 90s pop culture inspiration.
Although every high street chain imaginable has hopped onto the 90s resurgence, there’s nothing better than shopping the originals from your favourite vintage stores. Take a look below and peep some fabulous ‘fits that you can easily recreate yourself using bits from Beyond Retro and the contents of your wardrobe.
WonderBras, corsets, push-ups and girdles; styles and fashions in women's lingerie have reflected not only the changing trends in women's fashion but also changes in societal attitudes to beauty, the body and politics.
Check out our break down of the history of lingerie and the changing trends and styles from the Mid 19th century lingerie to the 1990s.
1850 - 1900
Crinolines and corsets were standard elements of a fashionable ladies dress in the mid - 19th century. During this century skirts were voluminous and bell-shaped, the desired effect was first achieved by layering a large number of petticoats together.
In 1856 they were replaced by the cage crinoline - a hooped petticoat made from flexible steel. Skirt s continued to expand and they reached their maximum proportions around 1860. Skirts were so enormous two ladies could not sit together on the same sofa!
'Camille' by Monet 1866 - shows the vast hooped skirt that was fashionable at the time
A crinoline, courtesy of the V & A
1900 - 1910s
During the Edwardian period, fashion as always reflected the mood of the age. It was a decade defined by everything that was larger than life-size (for those who could afford it) in an age of excess and extravagance.
In fashion busts too became bigger, the effect was emphasised by the so-called 'health' corsets which were designed to relieve pressure on the abdomen, made the body firmly straight in front, by throwing back the hips and throwing forward the bust. This formed the body into an S-shaped stance so distinctive of the period.
During the 1920's skirts became shorter and waistlines dropped, this sleek and slinky silhouette was unforgiving to any form of bulky lingerie. An androgynous silhouette was the fashionable shape of choice throughout the roaring jazz-fuelled 20's - the bust was entirely boyish and women even took to wearing flatteners and lightweight slips in newly invented fabrics to achieve the desired effect.
The 1930's is renowned as the Golden Age of Hollywood and of glitz and glamour. Fashion looked to burgeoning Hollywood starlets for style inspiration. There was an emphasis on backless dresses bared to the waist, many of the dresses of the period looked as if they had been designed to be seen from the rear.
With developments in fibre technology, fabrics, colours, patterns and innovations with adjustable straps, padded bras and cup sizing, bras became more sophisticated than ever before and allowed for a more versatile approach to dress especially when it came to backless dresses. Wasp waists were also back in fashion coming into the 40's. In the summer of 1939, Vogue's reporter noted 'you must have a tiny waist, held in if necessary by super-light-weight boned and laced corsets'.
Tony Frissel for Vogue, 1938
Fabric shortages throughout the war impacted trends and styles in fashion, the waist remained nipped with skirts coming to just below the knee. The 'make-do and mend' campaign encouraged women to re-make and update their wardrobe by hand. Military terminology crept into everyday product marketing with the conical 'bullet bra' increasing in popularity, offering support and protection.
Dior's revolutionary 'New Look' in the late 40's waists were heavily corseted, hips were padded and shoulders softened with an emphasis on the bust. This hourglass silhouette was achieved with the help of a strong girdle, with attached suspenders to hold up stockings.
Pointed brassieres or bullet bras remained popular into the 1950's, helping to achieve the ultra-feminine look that was favoured throughout this decade.
Despite the sexual and feminist revolution of the 1960s many trend-led young women often looked like children, dressed in baby doll dresses, puffed sleeves, pinafores, gymslips and the Knickerbockers.
Lingerie reflected these styles with cute nighties, frilly knickers and unstructured brassieres becoming popular throughout the decade.
The cutesy styles of the previous decade were set aside in favour of a more sophisticated and sexy look. Lingerie became daring and luxurious with the use of silks, satins and sequins utilized to create the underwear for the decade of disco.
The lingerie of the 80's projected a bold, youthful and overtly sexual image. This was the decade that brought us thongs and G-strings with lingerie designers drawing inspiration from fetishistic corsetry and lacing.
The 90's saw the trend for underwear as outerwear fronted by the chameleon queen of pop, Madonna and also infamously known for her conical bra. This was also the decade of the WonderBra worn by supermodel Eva Herzigova.
Eva Herzigova in Wonderbra's 90's billboard campaign
Shop our selection of vintage lingerie here or for some more fashion history read our history of Levis jeans here.
"And for every Fitzgerald Flapper of the twenties, there were countless fatigued and undernourished textile mill operators and migratory fruit pickers and mining town and ghetto housewives who never knew the life of Zelda Fitzgerald." - Burl Noggle, "Into the Twenties"
We've all been glued to the TV to watch the glamour that is Downtown Abby and with the hotly-anticipated arrival of the new The Great Gatsby, one could be forgiven for thinking the Golden Decade of the 1920s as just fast cars, drop hem frocks, glamorous parties and Bright Young Things.
"Great Gasby" 2013 dir. Baz Luhrmann
"The Great Gatsby" 1974 dir. Jack Clayton
While life must have seemed positively prosperous compared to the war years, the reality was that Britain was still a land stricken with poverty. Interwar unemployment and poverty was the dominant issue of the day. Even in America only a very small minority were privileged enough to live the American Dream and ascend from poverty to wealth. The unfortunate silent majority living in suburbs of the big cities or on poor farmlands spent the 1920's merely trying to survive. Even before the great depression of the 1930's life for most was a million miles away from the glamour of Downton Abbey and The Great Gatsby.
1920s Factory Workers
Clothing was simple and functional. 1920s dresses were designed for freedom of movement which was fortunate with so many women now in the workforce.
The twenties work dresses were decorated simply with pin-tucks and simple embroidery, or sailor collars. The extravagant ornate beading of the 1920s flapper dresses, vampish stoles and twinkling feathered headbands which we know and love (oh yes we do) was for the very privileged.
So when you're on the hunt for some fabulous glitzy 1920's style numbers to update your wardrobe this season, spare a thought for those who never knew the life of Zelda Fitzgerald or Lady Mary Crawley!