A while back I found this book called Sixties People at a flea market and I’ve just gotten around to reading it. It was written in 1990 by Jane and Michael Stern , who specialize in books about travel and pop culture. You can find it online from Powell’s Books for a mere $4.95! In a most hilarious, entertaining and informative way the Sterns cover several different subcultures of the 60s, my favorite being what they call the "young vulgarians".
In case you’ve never heard of these individuals, they were, according to the Sterns, "the street smart teenagers from hardscrabble neighborhoods such as south Philadelphia and the Bronx." You see, the 60s wasn’t just about Gidget, Twiggy, Mary Tyler Moore and peace loving hippies. These tough city kids were personally responsible for the rise in popularity of teased bouffant hairstyles, particularly the beehive, thick black eyeliner a la Elvira, and makeup that looked like it was applied with a trowel. For the guys, Brylcreem was king. The greasier and higher the pompadour, the better. And when Dick Clark put these tawdry teens on American Bandstand , it created a new ultra cool urban street style that resonated with youth across America. No doubt thoroughly horrifying many parents. But then, isn’t that a teenager’s job?
A quote from the book describes the style brilliantly. "The look was hoodlum baroque, combining a city tough attitude with formal hairdos as ornate as the chandeliers at the local catering hall. This was a look that was bigger than fashion. It expressed a turgid universe of teenage passion and despair."
No kidding. If I had to fix my hair like that everyday and pack on that much make up I’d be in depair too!
Supposedly there were all kinds of rumors about girls who had rodents and insects populating these towering masses of unwashed tresses. They also provided great hiding places for switchblades, blackjacks, brass knuckles and small flasks. Heck, who needs one of those cumbersome designer handbags when you can stash everything right in your hairdo?
But if, like me, you were just a bit too young to adopt this style the first time around, here are some tips I garnered from the book, in case you feel the urge to go out looking like the Temptress of Trashiness anytime soon. Maybe next Halloween for example!
1.Don’t wash your hair for several days. Set with jumbo pink rollers. Generous use of Aqua Net hairspray is very important, as is excessive teasing, backcombing then shaping, until the matted tangle resembles a halo of spun sugar. Finish with more hairspray. Sleep sitting up.
2. With a sponge, apply several thick layers of makeup, preferably using Max Factor Pancake Number 2. Erase any evidence of lips by first covering with concealer, then apply a coat of dead-white lipstick. Shave off eyebrows. Then draw in a brow about an inch higher than natural brow with black eyebrow pencil. Use chalk white shadow on eyelids to match the lips. Black liquid liner applied along lash line and black eyebrow pencil along inner rim of bottom lid completes this ghoulishly sexy look. Oh yeah, don’t forget the white pearlescent polish on the nails.
3. Don a sheer white nylon "pussycat" blouse over a black bullet bra. Tuck it into a tight black pencil skirt cinched at the waist with a wide black belt. Dress the legs with black nylon stockings, preferably with a run in them, and wear pointy toed cuban heeled shoes. Don’t forget to wear an ankle bracelet, under the stockings of course!
4. Other essential pieces of jewelry are necklaces with crosses or lockets with pictures of singers such as Dion or Fabian, boyfriends ID bracelets and dime store bangle bracelets.
5. Top the whole ensemble with a fuzzy mohair cardigan in peach or turquoise blue. Carry a large leatherette bag filled with extra cans of hairspray, an emergency makeup kit, 45 records to trade with your friends, latest copies of Tiger Beat magazine, dozen pieces of Bazooka bubble gum, tube of Clearasil, and a lucky rabbit’s foot.
6. Last, but not least, the ultimate symbol of coolness is to display a hickey on your neck to show the world just what a desirable vulgarian babe your really are!
These tough, streetwise chicks loved the music of the Shirelles, Shangri-las, Chiffons and Ronettes. Their dramatic songs about unrequited love and eternal tragedy struck a cord deep in their hardcore little hearts.
Their idol was, Jackie the K, wife of famed disc jockey Murray the K . With her jet black teased hair and eyeliner to match, she was the ultimate tough girl role model.
In another post I’ll cover style tips for vulgarian tough guys!