POPISM: Style Transformation Through Warhol’s Sixties

During the pandemic, one of the several books I plowed through was POPISM: The Warhol Sixties by Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett. I generally gravitate to anything that involves the historical influence style had on the musicians, artists, and entertainers of this era. In terms of the “Silver Sixties” I had only read EDIE: An American Biography, which is through the eyes of many related or friends of the late superstar Edie Sedgwick. So, I picked up a few books at the local Half Priced Books including The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) in which Warhol forays his observations on life through beauty, art, love, work, and celebrity. POPISM is a timeline of happenings that occur from 1960 to 1969 within the bustling grids of Midtown, Manhattan.

1960-1963: Edwardian Men, Folk Singer Gals and fanning over Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra

Brooklyn was a bustling little Burrough of rock ‘n’ roll, emerging Motown, and art galleries. Little Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Ronettes and, many more would play at the Fox Theater, a renaissance-like film palace. Warhol was a commercial artist in comic strip production. He started screen printing in 1962 and his early work included the famous canvas of Coke bottles by the hundreds. The gents wore frilly romantic tunics, pointed “winklepicker” shoes, and cropped Italian jackets. Upon the release of Liz Taylor’s epic Cleopatra performance, city girls were sporting long, straight, shiny hair with angular bangs and Egyptian-inspired winged eyeliner. Warhol didn’t have a “style” yet… though the black cigarette jeans, white tee, and the pointy shoe is minimal enough to be in vogue. A frequent visitor of the galleries in the late 1950s and early 1960s; abstract expressionism was on its way out as pop was on the forefront.

It was a new age of classification

Warhol on youth culture

The mid-sixties introduced a wispy folk singer looks to go with the new music entering the decade. The Shangri-Las, The Kinks and Murray the K were always packing the Fox Theater. The crisp fifties youth loosened up by wearing shift dresses, strappy sandals, and burlap pieces. Though Liz Taylor’s sleek Cleopatra look influenced folk into a more polished style that meshed well into the geometric mod look that dominated NYC and Londoners alike.

1964: Big city teen exits, enter English mod, waif style, and The Beatles USA Tour

The next year ushered a spectrum of body dysmorphia to cater to waify tomboyish silhouettes. Kids of the baby boomer generation began rejecting their parent’s posh buttoned-up daily attire and fixated their gaze on the rising stars of the music and fashion industry. The hairstyles were on the opposites of extremes: either slick little pixies or larger-than-life teased beehives. With slim clothing and mini dresses on-trend, everyone went on diets. They shed the obsession with Marilyn Monroe’s vivacious curves and favored the twig look made popular by Brit’s Lesley “Twiggy” Lawson and Factory socialite Edie Sedgwick.

This was a time when street drug culture meshed seamlessly with the high society crowd. Amphetamine being the main component of diet pills, speed became a popular vice among vastly different socio-economic classes. Society women had everything at their fingertips. Pills were so readily available they would pass it to their children and husbands to work harder… and stay out of the house. Ha! Americans took on Beatlemania like fish to water; picking up horrible impressions of English accents to attract girls who became lustrous for the Brit Pop swagger. This was around the time of the Factory’s inception. Warhol’s open-door (literally) policy for visitors to swing by, hang out or create art became the pulse for NYC’s Underground/Punk ethos. It was daily life as interactive performance art.

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