Somewhere around 1965, London style had an explosion of colour, and the classic opposition of mods and rockers was soon displaced by an outrageous dandified fashion revolution coming out of Carnaby Street in the West End. If you’ve seen any of the Austin Powers movies, you can probably picture the vintage I mean: velvet jackets, ascots, circus striped trousers, impossibly short minidresses, pageboy haircuts on men and women alike, PVC outfits and accessories, false eyelashes, crazy hats. In other words, this sort of thing:
(The soundtrack to this little movie, by the way, is provided by another amazing London band, The Zombies; “She’s Not There” was a hit from 1964.)
London became super-stylish and quite daring in its tastes sometime around 1965, shattering the stereotype that the British were a reserved, understated, stiff-upper-lip sort of nation. In the US, Time Magazine described London as “swinging” and the tag stuck for the next few years — in fact, “Swinging London” developed quite an international reputation, not just in America but also in trendy centres like Paris and Rome, a reputation made all the more glamorous by the London fashion industry, by pop stars like the Beatles and the Stones, and by a string of James Bond movies. (Austin Powers would come later…)
The Kinks, however, were never known to follow a trend, and they began making fun of the new-minted fashionistas almost as soon as they sprang into being, releasing “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” in February 1966.
This is apparently an original promo video for the song, probably filmed for TV in 1967 or so (?), and the video quality is pretty terrible. Sorry. There are a few worthwhile shots, though. (I’m especially impressed by the Bob Dylan dress.)
The satire in Ray Davies’ lyrics about this member of the “Carnebetian Army” is brutal: “He thinks he is a flower to be looked at, / And when he feels his frilly nylon panties pulled up tight / He feels a dedicated follower of fashion.” And so it seems that not everyone in London was swept up into this wave of technicolor brushed velvet and lace — there was a backlash that saw it not just as superficial, but in particular, as anti-British. Over the next few years (and five albums), the Kinks would come to explore the complicated question of British national identity as it weathered the “threat” posed by the counterculture of the late 1960s. Fascinating stuff, and some truly outstanding songs — we’ll have to listen to a few more in days to come.