So, it’s the Summer of Love, and you are fresh down from the sticks in Swinging London. But where to start on your mission to become the hippest hipster in town? Thankfully, there’s help at hand with Atlas Publishing’s Gear Guide 1967, the Hip-pocket Guide to Britain’s Swinging Fashion Scene.
This 74-page volume tells the reader who’s who in Carnaby Street and Kings Road, and beyond – though not very far beyond, truth be told. The first half of the book is an introduction to the new shops, designers and trends (the mini skirt, Vince Green’s skin-tight denim), as well as providing handy maps of the two main locations. The second half of the book gives us a shop-by-shop breakdown of the happening places on the two locations. Descriptions of the shops (“this boutique has a beautifully cool interior in weird purply shades” – that’s Topper of Carnaby Street), what they sell and current prices. The latter might make you weep – a made-to-measure suit from Carnaby Hall for Eighteen Guineas, which is about nineteen pounds in real money. The Guide also handily tells you which members of the “with-it” crowd you might bump into in these shops – Cathy McGowan and Francoise Hardy were fond of Foale and Tuffin, apparently.
In 1967, it was probably still too outrageous to point out that Vince’s was a legendary gay cruising shop, allegedly the influence for cracking softcore short Trouser Bar. There are, in retrospect at least, hints. We’re told that Bill ‘Vince’ Green was a photographer who specialised in body builders and began his move into fashion design when frustrated that existing men’s briefs weren’t brief enough. We’re also told that “the clientele is distinguished – keep your eyes open”.
Many of these boutiques are long gone – a shame for anyone wanting to check out I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet or Granny takes a Trip. But that doesn’t make this book, with it’s kitschy drawings and photos of Gear kids in all their glory, any less entertaining. Quite the opposite, in fact. Which might acount for the facsimilie reprint that appeared in 2013, and which can still be snapped up for a bargain price.