17 Fads of the 60s as Remembered
Joan Baez and Bob Dylan
The Early and Mid-1960s
The early and mid-1960s were a special time in my life. I was young, idealistic, and enthusiastic. There was nothing my country or I couldn't do if we put our minds to it. In reflecting on those glory years of my life, there were several fads that I experienced and defined my youth. In this article, I share with my readers 17 significant fads of the first half of the 1960s decade as I remember them.
Movement Away From Conservatism of the 1950s
When the decade of the 1960s began, I was starting the latter half of my sophomore year of high school. There was optimism in the country because it was an election year, and the Democratic Party candidate that year was a fairly young senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy. Kennedy had ideas for re-energizing the United States and taking it to new heights.
From 1960 through 1962 I finished high school, graduating in June of 1962, and then went off to college in the fall. American culture was starting to change. There were new expressions in music, dance, movies, toys, and lifestyles. The movement away from the conservatism of the 1950s had already begun. Some of the popular fads that I vividly remember from the first three years of the 60s are as follows:
President Kennedy's 1961 Inaugural Address
Some Popular Fads During the Period 1960-1962
1. Doo-Wop Music
According to Wikipedia, doo-wop music was a vocal-based rhythm and blues which began in the Afro-American community in the 1940s. After developing in the 1950s, this pop-oriented music with vocal harmony reached mainstream popularity in the early 1960s. How can I forget the 1961 hit "Blue Moon" by the Marcels! The Coasters, Drifters, Platters, and Miracles were other well-known groups during the doo-wop era.
2. Surf Music
The surf music of the early 1960s was another new kind of music which grew on me. This music reflected the surfing culture of Southern California, and it was expressed in the surfing ballads and pop music of the Beach Boys. I just loved listening to "Surfer Girl" and "Surfin U.S.A." Jan and Dean was another group popular for its surf music. My college friends and I loved dancing to all of the surfing music during my first semester at college.
3. Motown Music
Motown music was significant in the 1960s because it brought about the racial integration of pop music. According to Wikipedia, it began when Motown Records was founded on April 14, 1960, in Detroit. Known for its "soul music," Motown Records achieved its first success with the 1961 release of "Please Mr. Postman" by the Marvelettes. Diana Ross and the Supremes were undoubtedly one of the greatest Motown artists. When I went to college I bought many of the Supremes early albums, and I also enjoyed hits by the Four Tops, Temptations, Miracles, and Martha and the Vandellas.
4. The Limbo Rock
I will always remember doing this dance at my senior class banquet right before graduation. The Limbo was a form of dance that originated on the island of Trinidad. In the U.S. it became popular in early 1962 with the release of "Limbo Rock" by Chubby Checker. When doing this dance, you had to go under a stick in a single file by bending your knees and back, and by moving under as it was slowly lowered by two people. I doubt I could dance that now, but when I did it back in 1962, the limbo stick was two and one-half feet off the ground.
5. The Twist
The Twist originated from the 1962 hit song, "Let's Do The Twist," by Chubby Checker. It was one of the first dances in the 1960s in which partners danced separated facing each other. Some people compared the movements in this dance to stamping out a cigarette butt on the ground while shaking your hips.
6. Barbie Dolls
Sales of Barbie dolls were launched in 1959. By the early 1960s, every little girl, including my sisters, had a Barbie in their home. I recently found my second oldest sister's Barbie dolls in her old bedroom on a trip back home in June of 2016.
7. Spring Break
Spring break for college students in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was inspired by the 1960 film, "Where The Boys Are." Although I never had the money to take this Easter vacation while in college, many of my classmates did. They all came back with stories about partying and meeting coeds on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale.
Blue Moon by the Marcels
Surfin USA by the Beach Boys
Popular Fads During 1963-1964
During 1963 and 1964 I made good progress towards my degree at college. Changes in culture were more evident in music, clothing, movies, and other things young people were doing. Some of the fads reflecting these changes were:
8. Spy Movies And Musicals
James Bond "007" espionage thrillers were starting to become very popular. One afternoon when I had no classes, I can remember watching a matinee at the Orpheum Theater just off the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison. Sean Connery was starring as James Bond in "Dr. No" and "From Russia With Love." Musicals such as "My Fair Lady," "South Pacific," "Oklahoma," and "West Side Story" were also in vogue. I took a pretty coed to see "The Sound of Music" in 1964, and we had a great time.
9. Beatlemania and the "British Invasion"
Trends in music were also changing. The Beatles made their first trip to America in February of 1964 and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. I fell in love with the Beatles music that evening after I watched them sing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You." Numerous other British groups such as The Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, Kinks, and The Zombies also introduced their music to Americans in the ensuing months. The sound of the "British Invasion" music was much different from the Motown, surf music, and doo-wop of the early 1960s.
10. Folk Music Revival
Folk music experienced a revival during the period 1963-1965 with the music of Bob Dylan, John Baez, and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Much of the folk music had themes of social injustice and anti-war sentiments. My friends and I especially liked Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing" and "Blowing in The Wind" by Peter, Paul, and Mary.
11. Phone Phreaking
In the winter of 1964 students on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison were able to make illegal long-distance calls one weekend. This occurred because a phone phreak, much like a computer hacker today, had used various audio frequencies to manipulate the university's phone system. I can't recall who or how the phreaker exactly did this. All I remember is that on one Friday evening a guy on my dorm floor said it was possible to make free long-distance calls using the two public phones which were on both ends of the hall. One freshman said he called the White House, got through, and then hung up when he heard some strange noises. Many guys were successfully placing calls to friends in other states. I made a call to my parents but later had to pay for it after the phone company traced the call from me.
According to Wikipedia, the miniskirt was introduced by designer Mary Quant in 1964. I recall, however, that some coeds were wearing YaYa skirts similar to miniskirts in the spring of 1963. The miniskirt was a welcome change for guys because they could now admire girls' legs.
According to Wikipedia, in 1955 Fred Morrison started marketing a plastic flying disc which he called the "Pluto Platter." After he sold the design to Wham-O in 1957, the product was called Frisbee. By the spring of 1963, a lot of students and I were tossing frisbees around the grassy areas between our dorms and Lake Mendota. Many used the frisbee as a football, and even dogs got involved in our games.
James Bond - 007
The Early Beatles
Popular Fads During 1965-1966
By 1965 and 1966 hairstyles, clothing, and dances were increasingly changing. There was a definite shift in views toward sexual morality. The Civil Rights Movement and the escalation in the Vietnam War also brought on new fads among protesters. Some of these fads as I remember were:
14. Mop-Top Hairstyles
Mop-top hairstyles became popular in the States after the appearance of the Beatles and other British groups. It was quite a change from the conservative crew cut for men which had been in fashion since the end of World War II.
15. Go-Go, Topless, and Other Dances
New dances were continuing to evolve. According to Wikipedia, go-go dancing originated in the early 60s when a lady one night at the Peppermint Lounge in New York City got up on a table and danced the twist. Two years later in June of 1964, Carol Doda began topless go-go dancing on Broadway and Columbus in the North Beach area of San Francisco. In February of 1966, a fraternity brother who was visiting in San Francisco saw a topless show and sent back a postcard that simply exclaimed, "Topless! Yahoo!" It took another year before topless go-go dancing reached the more conservative Midwest. By the mid-1960s there were other dances where partners faced each other and danced apart. These dances included the Monkey, Jerk, Hanky Panky, and Do The Freddie.
Sit-ins were very popular by 1965. In this type of activity one or more people nonviolently occupy an area for protests to promote political or social change. Afro-Americans had used this tactic at lunch counters and other public places as civil disobedience which led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Students were also using sit-ins to protest the Vietnam War draft.
Teach-ins were gatherings of students, professors, and other speakers on college campuses which began as seminars, but later turned into forums of taking action against a university or government agency. According to Wikipedia, a teach-in at the University of Michigan in May of 1965 began by discussing the Vietnam War draft, and later evolved into the planning of the logistics for taking over the university. Teach-ins of this type were very popular throughout the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War.
The 60s were an extremely interesting, turbulent, and exciting time in my life. There were many new fads, and in this hub, I only list the ones which had an impression on me. Many of the other fads which I did not list certainly cannot be overlooked.
Go Go Dancers
Fads of the 1960s
Which fad of the 60s do you remember the most?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn