Swinging London is a catch-all term applied to the fashion and cultural scene that flourished in London in the 1960s.
It was a youth-oriented phenomenon that emphasised the new and modern. It was a period of optimism and hedonism, and a cultural revolution. One catalyst was the recovery of the British economy after post-World War II austerity which lasted through much of the 1950s. Journalist Christopher Booker, a founder of the satirical magazine Private Eye, recalled the "bewitching" character of the swinging sixties: "There seemed to be no one standing outside the bubble, and observing just how odd and shallow and egocentric and even rather horrible it was."1
"Swinging London" was defined by Time magazine in its issue of 15 April 19662 and celebrated in the name of the pirate radio station, Swinging Radio England, that began shortly afterward. However, "swinging" in the sense of hip or fashionable had been used since the early 1960s, including by Norman Vaughan in his "swinging/dodgy" patter on Sunday Night at the London Palladium. In 1965, Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue magazine, said "London is the most swinging city in the world at the moment."3 Later that year, the American singer Roger Miller had a hit record with "England Swings", which presented a stereotypical picture of England, with lyrics such as "Bobbies on bicycles, two by two."
Already heralded by Colin MacInnes' 1959 novel Absolute Beginners, Swinging London was underway by the mid-1960s and included music by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who, The Small Faces, and other artists from what was known in the United States as the "British Invasion". Psychedelic rock from artists such as The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, and Pink Floyd grew significantly in popularity. This sort of music was heard in the United Kingdom over pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline, Wonderful Radio London, and Swinging Radio England.
The model Jean Shrimpton was another icon and one of the world's first supermodels.6 She was the world's highest paid7 and most photographed model8 during this time. Shrimpton was called "The Face of the '60s",9 in which she has been considered by many as "the symbol of Swinging London"7 and the "embodiment of the 1960s".10 Other popular models of the era included Veruschka, Peggy Moffitt, and Penelope Tree. The model Twiggy has been called "the face of 1966" and "the Queen of Mod," a label she shared with others, such as Cathy McGowan, who hosted the television rock show, Ready Steady Go! from 1964 to 1966.11
The British flag, the Union Jack, became a symbol, assisted by events such as England's home victory in the 1966 World Cup. The Mini-Cooper car (launched in 1959) was used by a fleet of mini-cab taxis highlighted by advertising that covered their paintwork.
The phenomenon was featured in films of the time, celebratory and mocking. These include: the Michelangelo Antonioni film Blowup (1966), Darling (1965), The Knack …and How to Get It (1965), Alfie (1966), Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966), Georgy Girl (1966), Modesty Blaise (1966), Casino Royale (1967), Smashing Time (1967), To Sir, with Love (1967), Bedazzled (1967), Up the Junction (1968), if.... (1968), The Magic Christian (1969), and Performance (1970)
One television series that reflected the spirit of Swinging London was The Avengers (1961-1969). The BBC Television show Take Three Girls (1969) is noted for Liza Goddard's first starring role, an evocative folk-rock theme song ("Light Flight" by Pentangle), and for scenes in which the heroines were shown dressing or undressing. In an episode of BBC's Adam Adamant Lives!, Adamant (Gerald Harper), an Edwardian adventurer suspended in time since 1902, was told, "This is London, 1966 – the swinging city."12 An episode of the detective series Man in a Suitcase opened with the announcement: "This is London... Swinging London".
- 1960s in fashion
- British invasion
- Cool Britannia, a Britain-wide phenomenon in the 1990s and 2000s.
- Pop art
- Youthquake (movement)
- Timeline of London 1940s-1990s
- Christopher Booker (1980) The Seventies
- most famous (if not the first) identification of Swinging London Gilbert, David (2006) "'The Youngest Legend in History': Cultures of Consumption and the Mythologies of Swinging London" The London Journal 31(1): pp. 1–14, page 3, doi:10.1179/174963206X113089
- Quoted by John Crosby, Weekend Telegraph, 16 April 1965; and in Pearson, Lynn (2007) "Roughcast textures with cosmic overtones: a survey of British murals, 1945–80" Decorative Arts Society Journal 31: pp. 116–37
- Barry Miles, 2009. The British Invasion: The Music, the Times, the Era Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2009
- Ros Horton, Sally Simmons, 2007. Women Who Changed the World
- Burgess, Anya (10 May 2004). "Small is still beautiful". Daily Post.
- "The Girl Behind The World's Most Beautiful Face". Family Weekly. 8 February 1967.
- Cloud, Barbara (11 June 1967). "Most Photographed Model Reticent About Her Role". The Pittsburg Press.
- Jean Shrimpton, the Famed Face of the '60s, Sits Before Her Svengali's Camera One More Time 07 (21). 30 May 1977.
- Patrick, Kate (21 May 2005). "New Model Army". Scotsman.com News.
- Fowler, David (2008) Youth Culture in Modern Britain, C.1920-c.1970: From Ivory Tower to Global Movement – A New History p.134. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008
- Episode, Beauty is an Ugly Word (1966)
- Salter, Tom (1970) Carnaby Street Margaret and Jack Hobbs, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England, ISBN 978-0-85138-009-4
- Nuttall, Jeff (1968). Bomb culture. MacGibbon & Kee. ISBN 978-0-261-62617-1.
- Levin, Bernard (1970). The Pendulum Years. Jonathan Cape. ISBN 978-0-224-61963-9.
- Melly, George (1970). Revolt into Style. Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0-7139-0166-5.
- Sandbrook, Dominic (2006). White heat: A history of Britain in the swinging sixties. Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-72452-4.
- Sandbrook, Dominic (2005). Never had it so good: A history of Britain from Suez to the Beatles. Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-86083-3.
- "1960s Fashion Feature, including biographies, interviews, clothing and resources". Victoria and Albert Museum.