Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1955 American beatnik
Subject: beatnik
Culture: Anglo-American
Setting: Beat Generation, America 1950s-1960s

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Young 2016 p43
"The beat generation was a group of young, postwar idealists who rejected consumerism and looked to a type of spiritualism as expressed through writing and being. It began in New York at the end of the Second World War, flourished in San Francisco and Venice Beach and then spread out to Paris, Mexico City and Tangier with enclaves of beats in dark clothing, smoking weed and carrying their notebooks filled with drawings and poetry.
    "The beat movement encompassed a bohemian, revolutionary existence involving hitchhiking, jazz, eastern philosophy and left-wing politics. Jack Kerouac spoke of his vision in the late 1940s, 'of a generation of crazy, illuminated hipsters suddenly rising and roaming America, serious, bumming and hitchhiking everywhere, ragged, beatific, beautiful in an ugly graceful new way.' It was a second lost generation of men demobilised from the army, and now drifting across America in their jeans and t-shirts, like Montgomery Clift on screen in 1950, hitching at the side of the road.
    "'As our hair grew longer, we were inventing a style,' beat poet Michael McClure said. 'I was poor -- everyone was poor. I'd climb into my old station wagon, the door tied shut with a piece of rope, and drive for forty minutes from San Francisco to the top of Mount Tamalpais.' They embraced world travel and respected nature, living the philosophy of Kerouac's generation-defining novel On the Road. 'The first hipsters were a far cry from the affected zombielike "cool" stance that came to predominate later,' said journalist Lester Bangs in /Rolling Stone."

* Croll 2014 p84
"[I]n the United States of the forties, another influential subculture was taking shape: the Beat Generation.  The Beats (supposedly coined by Jack Kerouac) first appeared in Greenwich Village, and flaunted a bohemian lifestyle steeped in edgy literature, poetry readings, marijuana, and jazz.  The Beats cultivated a look, too: long hair, turtlenecks, sandals, and a lot of the color black.  The media became obsessed with the Beats, however, and turned their look into a cliché that was rolled out at costume parties; in 1958 a newspaper reporter renamed them 'beatniks,' a pejorative nickname that Allan Ginsberg publically [sic] detested.  But the name stuck, and the look, stereotype or not, worked its way into fashion, including the collections of Yves Saint Laurent.
    "The Beats were the spiritual predecessors of the hippies."

* Dirix 2016 p141
"Beat was short for 'beatnik,' the postwar dropout generation of American writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, who questioned conventional society and materialism, promoted the use of mind-altering drugs, and whose ideas were closely aligned to French Left Bank existentialism.  Beats were cool, young, alternative, and most certainly not haute couture."


* Young 2016 p45-46
"North Beach attracted those who were first named 'beatniks' by the San Francisco Chronicle in 1958, and tourists flocked to the coffee houses and bookstores to watch them play bongo drums while sitting in hazy marijuana-filled basement bars. They were given the stereotypical image of a goatee, a beret, black polo necks and moccasins."

* Cumming/Cunnington/Cunnington 2010 p17
"Beatnik  (F & M)  Period: Late 1940s-1960s.  A movement founded on the Left Bank of Paris and San Francisco in America.  In France it was an intellectual, left-wing challenging of convention and included philosophers like Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, writers and film-makers and its most memorable fashion statements were made by the singer Juliette Gréco (b. 1927), whose sleek, dark hair, black polo neck sweater, black slacks or chic black evening dresses focused attention on her face, with its exaggerated eye make-up.  This pared-down style was hugely influential, and black was also the preferred colour of the clothing worn by the San Francisco-based beat generation, whose unconventional behaviour led to the term beatnik (ca. 1955).  The men wore black berets, black slacks, sandals and dark glasses, and the women adopted dancers' leotards worn with black skirts, black stockings, flat shoes and elaborate eye make-up to rival that of Gréco."

* Young 2016 p47
"In the 1960s, some beats would morph into hippies, while enclaves would continue in London and Paris, with students in duffel coats, long hair and black sunglasses. In London trad jazz fans emulated the beats and Paris existentialists with jumpers, duffel coats, scarves and paint-splattered jeans. The actress Jean Seberg, with her cropped hair and striped top, and Brigitte Bardot, in polo necks and jeans, would continue a chic beat style."