Swinging London

Swinging London

"Swinging London", Carnaby Street, circa 1966

Swinging London is a catch-all term applied to the fashion and cultural scene that flourished in London in the 1960s. It consisted largely of music, discotheques, and mod fashion.


  • Background 1
  • Music 2
  • Fashion and symbols 3
  • Film 4
  • Television 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • External links 9


Swinging London was a youth-oriented phenomenon that emphasized 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. "Swinging London" was defined by Time magazine in its issue of 15 April 1966[1] 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."[2] Later that year, the American singer Roger Miller had a hit record with "England Swings", which steps around the progressive youth culture (both musically and lyrically). 1967 saw the release of Peter Whitehead's cult documentary film Tonite Lets All Make Love in London which accurately summed up both the culture of Swinging London through celebrity interviews, and the music with its accompanying soundtrack release featuring Pink Floyd.


The Kinks in 1967

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, Pink Floyd, and Traffic 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 because the BBC did not allow this on their radio station.

Fashion and symbols

Carnaby Street, circa 1968.

During the time of Swinging London, fashion and photography were featured in Queen magazine, which drew attention to fashion designer Mary Quant.[3][4]

The model Jean Shrimpton was another icon and one of the world's first supermodels.[5] She was the world's highest paid[6] and most photographed model[7] during this time. Shrimpton was called "The Face of the '60s",[8] in which she has been considered by many as "the symbol of Swinging London"[6] and the "embodiment of the 1960s".[9] 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.[10]

Mod-related fashions such as the miniskirt stimulated fashionable shopping areas such as Carnaby Street and King's Road, Chelsea. The fashion was a symbol of youth culture.

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 many films of the time. These include Up the Junction (1968), Joanna (1968), Otley (1968), The Magic Christian (1969), The Brain (1969), and Performance (1970).

The comedy films Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) resurrected the imagery, as did the 2009 film The Boat That Rocked.


  • One television series that reflected the spirit of Swinging London was The Avengers (1961-1969).[11]
  • In the episode "Beauty is an Ugly Word" (1966) 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."
  • "Jigsaw Man", a 1968 episode of the detective series Man in a Suitcase, opened with the announcement: "This is London... Swinging London".

See also


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ Barry Miles, 2009. The British Invasion: The Music, the Times, the Era Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2009
  4. ^ Ros Horton, Sally Simmons, 2007. Women Who Changed the World
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ "Patrick Macnee: five things you didn't know about Avengers star", The Week, 26 June 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2015.


  • Salter, Tom (1970) Carnaby Street Margaret and Jack Hobbs, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England, ISBN 978-0-85138-009-4
  • Beard, Chris (Joe) (2014) Taking the Purple - The Extraordinary Story of The Purple Gang - Granny Takes a Trip… and All That" – print ISBN 978-0-9928671-0-2 or online in Kindle format http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KLOEOIO ISBN 978-0-9928671-1-9

External links