1960s Culture and Society in Britian

In a hilarious departure for me I’m going to write about the 1960s youth culture and the social reform that went hand in hand with it in Britain.

In the 1960s the baby boomer generation that were born in the immediate aftermath of World War II came into their teenage and young adult years. This comes together nicely with the social and cultural revolution that persisted through the decade.

The music and fashion of the 1960s is often cited as some of the very best. Bands like the Beetles along with others like Twiggy not only provided popular music but also heavily influenced fashion trends, with their hair and styles of clothing being copied by a legion of adoring fans.

There had been fashion trends before however, perhaps most notably in the 1920s so what is it that made 60s culture so special? Well the white heat of technology really did enable pop culture to take over the world in brand new ways. The availability of television allowed shows like Top of the Pops and the Ed Sullivan show to show the world the music being played and what the artists were wearing in a way that just wasn’t possible in any previous era. The existence of a disposable income for young people for the first time was also a contributor to the success of these fashion and music trends.

The prevailing youth culture can be argued to be intimately tied to the social change in Britain around this period. This social reforming wasn’t exclusive to Britain but it’s what I’m going to focus on. Incoming UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson was fairly media savvy and couldn’t miss out on a chance to appear on television with the Beatles, showing his alignment with youth culture and to some extent signifying his government’s willingness to enact social reforms.

Throughout the later part of the decade Home Secretary Roy Jenkins allowed for the introduction of the contraceptive pill, which had the added bonus of giving women more sexual freedom and control over their own bodies. The decriminalisation of homosexuality and abortion paved the way for a more tolerant and free society. A society where all the rules and norms of the past were done away with in the name of a better future. These values also represent the very best of youth counterculture in the 1960.

Looking back on the decade the youth culture seems oddly cohesive, in a way that – due to constantly improving technology – it never can be again. Everyone loved the same fashion and music and it wasn’t all subdivided as it is now. The political legacy of the decade however is altogether more clear, every protest movement and protest echoes the Vietnam war protests in the 60s. The following decades notably didn’t really continue with this optimistic and youthful culture. This is probably because the optimistic bright future didn’t really lead anywhere. In the UK at least it led to the three-day week and the continuing troubles with Ireland and a the music and fashion changed to again to reflect that.

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