The long history of eccentrically dressed British swing dancers
Italy might have Vincenzo & Isabella as modern Lindy Hop style icons. Argentina and Australia have Juan Villafañe and Sharon Davis. America has the Lindy Dandy and The Lindy Shopper to turn to for fashion advice and they also have Dax and Sarah arguing for both men and women to look more stylish and improve their dancing by wearing heels.
Here in the UK there’s no shortage of style inspiration, you could go for the traditional Blitz Party uniform, glam up Black Cotton Club style or try something more modern like The Correspondents eclectic style. However, I think it’s time we drew on our own dance history a little bit more and revived the Trad Jazz dance fashion styles of the late 50s and early 60s.* Take this classic photograph of two ravers** on the first London-Aldermaston march, London, April 1958.
This man is, if I’m not very much mistaken, committing that most British of sartorial crimes: wearing socks and sandals. Where else but in Britain could you find socks and sandals combined with a duffle coat and bowler hat? Ladies, what could be better at absorbing those unsightly sweat patches than a huge thick jumper rolled up at the sleeves?
Who’s with me in joining a “bring back the bowler hat” campaign?
** From The Seeds of Social Destruction by Charles Radcliffe published in Heatwave #1 (July 1966)
“The Raver movement took its ‘ideology’ from the stale-ale-and-spermatozoa humour of musician-Ravers and its dress, if loosely, from that of the Acker Bilk band – ‘music-hall-cum-riverboat-cum-contemporary-folk-art’ with Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament symbol decorated bowlers, umbrellas, striped trousers, elegant jackets. The chicks had long hair, wore ban-the-bomb type uniforms (duffle coats, polo-neck jerseys, very loose around the hips, and jeans)…
In their over-enthusiastic aping of Negro dances, over-indulgent drug taking, they actually outdo their mentors in self-destruction if not in jail-sentences.’ The Ravers were, on the whole, distrusted by other groups with whom they came into contact; the Beats used them term ‘Raver’ derogatorily and the nuclear disarmers treated Ravers’ ‘superficiality’ with superior amusement and occasional annoyance. (The fact that many of the serious kids are now regretting their aloofness is a reminder that we all change.) The Ravers, as such, died with the ‘traditional’ Jazz boom but the ‘Raver philosophy’ continues and there are once again groups calling themselves Ravers. “