Little booklet Gear Guide – “who’s who in Carnaby Street & Kings Road” – was originally published in 1967 to chronicle the explosion of hip clothes shops in the early Sixties which had catapulted the capital from drag post-war greyness into an all-swinging shopping heaven by the middle of the decade.
London shops of the Sixties are a particularly favourite topic of mine, and this little guide book didn’t disappoint in supplying lots of interesting facts and a small glimpse into the world of fashion retail back then.
Gear Guide starts out by telling the story of London ‘gear’, from legendary shop Vince, which sold tight, colourful clothing to a largely gay but increasingly mod clientele in the Fifties, to John Stephen’s empire of boutiques, Mary Quant’s international brand success and the mid-Sixties love for all things Victorian.
It then details every shop on Kings Road and Carnaby Street, describing its stock (about Trecamp: “PVC macs, trouser suits, slacks and hanbags”), commenting on customer service (about Bazaar: “No one presses you to buy here but the service when you want it, is patient and prompt”) and decor (about Topper: “This boutique has a beautifully cool interior in weird purply shades.”)
Lastly, it offer some rather funny predictions of future fashion “It’s quite likely that soon you’ll be able to get a couple of mini-dresses and a pair of shoes, all in paper.” Well, not quite.
Packed full of maps, illustrations and black and white photographs, this is a fantastic insight into a really interesting point in style when mod fashion had been taken over by psychedelia and American hippiedom, and Swinging London’s peak had already passed.
An absolute must for anyone interested in Sixties fashion.
Gear Guide is currently £4.99 on Amazon.