Teeny and the Bikini She Wore for the Not So First Time Today.
Written to update Wikipedia’s 1960’s Fashion History, below is a brief explanation for why surf fashion and its subsequent retail industry sticks and lands in the 1960s with teenyboppers across gender.
A child of The Fifties, a decade of conformity and Capitalist virtue, The Sixties much like its teens reject the norms of its parents and the values handed down to them. Proper and matured Capitalist virtues and family values were lost to a decade defined by its liberal youth and their personal pleasures, instant gratifications, and sexual explorations. The Sixties exist as a cultural contrast where Capitalist raised youth split society with its Post Industrial, “primitive” values like sex and leisure. Teens effortlessly inherited the prosperity their parents worked with discipline for, allowing youth to value leisure over structured ethics (Bell). Rebellious shifts from discipline delayed gratification, and modesty to all things hedonic gave way for Surfing fads, beach obsessions, and propelled the acceptance of the risqué bikini. Teens’ attraction and acclimation to primitive values fertilized a climate for the Bikini, which failed to root in fashion decades previously. Media’s appreciation and fascination for the primitive, apparent in 1963’s Beach Party, 1966’s One Million Years BC, and the Beach Boys craze normalized the Bikini from taboo to iconic.
Beach Party documented and propagated a hedonic, perverse teen culture, characterized by beach and leisure activities, symbolically marked by fashions worn, like the bikini. The decade’s film focused on visually describing pop culture through striking, new fashion symbols like the bikini, which became instrumental in visually marking the era’s shift towards normalizing taboos. Conservative personalities of the 1950’s stressed concern towards the 1960’s sensualist culture and Beach Party consistently voices this theme with character interactions that provoke fashionable controversy (Chidester 18). The plot focuses on anthropologist Professor Sutwell analyzing the “wild mating habits” of surfing teenagers. “The point is that the intelligence of you young people has fallen to an abnormal preoccupation with sex… find more useful endeavors than studying each other’s anatomy (Asher, 1963, film).” Observing teens on the beach as an “anthropological study” and their beach activities as “mating habits” makes teens out to be a feral species, or at best primitive humans. The film insinuates youth degenerated as far back as ancient civilizations, which connotatively references the bikini as savage. Ironically enough, the bikini itself is an ancient design that originated from Ancient Greek bathhouses. The leisurely, liberal spirit of the Sixties youth re-inspired ancient women’s swimwear however, the design was far from primitive as Ancient Grecians were quite advanced and democratic in its attitude towards women for its time. Similarly, the Sixties were advancing democratic liberties for women of its time with fashion. Beach Party does not reject the bikini or its attraction but normalizes its taboo into mainstream desire. Cult films like Beach Party fanned the bikini’s popularity from subculture to popular culture (Craik 115). Additionally, the film named Annette Funicello’s bikini appearance as a sex symbol and icon of the era. Audiences associated her image with the film’s promiscuity and the bikini’s sexual attraction. Surfing and its fashion, therefore, encouraged the era’s sexual revolution. Contemporary, vintage-inspired, ads of the first birth control impose Annette as an endorser of the birth control pill. Her iconic bikini style and the reputation her bikini image created still sell sex. These fake ads still authentically reference the 1960’s because the bikini legitimately normalized sex and women’s sexual liberation. Beach Party and its fashion styling proliferated sex in mass culture with her bombshell bikini appearance, solidifying the bikini’s symbolic prestige of the era.
The bikini pioneered Raquel Welch’s acting career with her 1966 appearance in One Million Years, despite a meek 3-line part. In this sense, the bikini performed louder than her, or any scripted part of the film (Gayomali, 2011). Her doeskin, Subligarian, loincloth bikini designed a new mold of 1960’s celebrity sex symbol. The ancient historical fashion references date back centuries. Her bikini is styled aesthetically primitive and its viral, mainstream success validates a culture fancying leisure and the primeval. Welch’s featured bikini-style visually chronicles historically how long the bikini has been available. Centuries passed for the bikini to rediscover a fashion era once again receptive to ancient ideas. Welch’s bikini featured film poster sold out, and saturated media outlets. When this image of Raquel’s bikini shot becomes a pop culture icon, it signifies the bikini, and more generally surf fashion’s acceptance into 1960’s fashion.
The Beach Boys’ musical nomenclature documents the era’s beach fashion best, lyrically, and chronicles surfing’s perverse fashion existence with youth’s everyday experience. Before rebranding the band like the Beach Boys the band identified themselves as the Pendletones, an homage to the surf uniform, the woolen Pendleton shirt (“Before they were the Beach Boys”). Their nomenclature shows a conscious awareness of how fashion informed and attributed identity to the surfer statue. Tweaking Pendleton to Pendletone pronounces how fashion inspired music of the era. They wore surf before they sang about it. They titled their music after their fashion and they were self-proclaimed the fashion of the Sixties before they were the music of the Sixties.
Ironically enough, the aggressively cool leather-loving Greaser softened up a bit, trading in his racing bomber for a woolen surf jacket. The car-obsessed American Greaser renewed his membership to car clubs as an American Surfer. What’s most interesting about the iconic Pendleton Jacket’s ancestor being the Rebel Without a Cause uniform, is both jackets are aesthetically polar tones and associations, yet carry similar connotations. Both jackets represent a masculine youth who just can’t seem to join society productively. While Greasers wore their racing jackets to sport their car clubs and drive their hot rods, Surfers wore their jackets car camping in the rides carrying their hot rods. If the two met each other, a Greaser and a Surfer, one can easily assume they would clash, but the ideas behind their style would match.
Roxy reminisces Pendleton’s vintage Sixties look in 2015 collaborations. Pendleton patterns match high-waisted and brassiere revival to historically reference Sixties fashion. Roxy pulled inspiration from Pendleton today the same way the Beach Boys had in the 1960s. In this sense its arguable Pendleton patterns that the Beach Boys popularized iconize the era’s aesthetic and style. The Pendleton patterns themselves reference tribal designs of ancient times encapsulating the era’s fascination with simpler, seemingly sublime times. The Beach Boys’ and Roxy’s historic continuity fossilize Sixties fashion and its continued relevance in the current history of fashion.
 Roxy X Pendleton SS15 Look Book (Maybe You Like, 2015).
Since The Beach Boys' inception as the Pendletones, the band intentionally used fashion to define culture and place their music into it. Their lyrics commonly referenced primal values, like in “Fun Fun Fun”, to promote and celebrate hedonism. Media, in exchange, only further proliferated surf fashions like the Bikini and surf jacket to embrace island time styles (Chidester 35). “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times”, also describes a youth depressed by and rejective of modern discipline and expectation. Their songs tell stories of self-indulging, nostalgic beach excursions. Songs like “Girls on the Beach” typify their formulaic 1960’s bikini maiden to describe everyday experiences. Anti-Capitalist values like leisure and suggestive, open, sexual relations were promoted in The Beach Boys’ cultish lyrical chronicles of the 1960s. “Kokomo”, a song about a fictitious island following island hopping from Aruba, Jamaica, and Bermuda, again normalize island life and native leisure. Leisure, a main focal theme in their music, normalized beach culture and consequently inspired its fashion to be taken more casually. It was the costume for beach frolicking, when teens too young, too promiscuous, met intimately. Songs like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” highlight lyrics wishing to be older to speed up sexual desires. Such taboo and feral zeitgeist inspires the bikini’s sexual fantasy and realizes its attraction into normalcy. Sixties youth no longer cover up the instinctual human desires their parents concealed as taboo. The bikini’s sexual reveal rooted well in an era where teens familiarized themselves with primal human attractions, like sex without delay or shame.
Mass, popular media created cultural case studies in cult films and records that help process “why the 1960’s for the bikini?”. Youths controlled pop culture of the decade and their contrasting value systems signified a climate receptive to the bikini, the surf jacket, and more generally the invention of a surf retail industry. Sixties Surf Fashion advanced and realized what attempts were made in previous decades to conceive such fashion novelty. Material culture produced during this decade normalized the demands and market for surf and beach fashion by familiarizing its promiscuity as a new norm to be met. As counter culture expressed itself through historically referencing primeval customs, their leisurely fascination made the bikini an iconic fashion symbol of the era.