Author writes about The Sixties and breaking taboos

The swinging sixties was a colourful decade of change and activism, which saw a push for equal rights and the beginnings of the peace movement.

Richard Graves with his book, 'NIcky Samuel: My Life and Loves'.
Richard Graves with his book, 'NIcky Samuel: My Life and Loves'.

The swinging sixties was a colourful decade of change and activism, which saw a push for equal rights and the beginnings of the peace movement.

From civil rights to gay liberation to calls to the ‘second wave’ of feminism – the establishment of the day was firmly challenged.

And free love, rock n roll and the mini skirt rocked respectability of bygone eras.

Richard Graves with his book, 'NIcky Samuel: My Life and Loves'.
Richard Graves with his book, ‘Nicky Samuel: My Life and Loves’.

Author Richard Graves, who has written on the era and created a website to mark the people and events of the time, said: “It was a time of great change and it felt as if anything was possible. The old society was swept away and liberation rushed in.”

Slow coming change

Richard Graves at Oxford in 1967.

But Richard, who was studying at the University of Oxford at the time, believes “The Sixties’” did actually not begin for most people outside London until 1968.

He added that not all change was positive and it was also a period of great loss.

Richard, who is financial director of the digital marketing agency GWS Media in  Bristol, which specialises in multilingual sites, said: “Change had its downsides too.

“Sometimes the very thing which brought positive change had a negative and perhaps unexpected effect as well.”

Free love

Sexual revolution is synonymous with the sixties. But it was Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president in the US, who advocated for people to have the right to love whom they pleased back in the 1870s.

The Sixties and introduction of the contraceptive pill may have helped liberate some women and breakdown taboos. But it also put pressure on others to always be willing.

Richard said: “This era saw the start of modern feminism, where women had the freedom to be themselves. But it was also a time when some unscrupulous men could take advantage of women under the guise of ‘free love’.”

Author Virginia Ironside described the ‘flip side’ of the revolution and how pregnancy was no longer a reason to say ‘no’, which was often exploited. ‘Free love’ also did not end violence against women or inequality.

The mini skirt

Shortening hemlines marked shifting attitudes, as the Sixties gave way to a more casual way of dressing.

Designer Mary Quant popularised the mini-skirt and helped bring mass production of affordable fashion to the public.

Richard, who has written about Sixties’ heiress and fashion model Nicky Samuel, said: “Suddenly there was a sea of mini skirts on campus. It took us by surprise and made quite an impact.”

The boutique scene shot up and people flocked to new stores in London’s Kings Road and Carnaby Street.

Granny Takes a Trip, founded by Nigel Waymouth, his girlfriend Sheila Cohen and John Pearse, was one such place young people would shop.

As the Sixties site explains, the name explained its style of clothing – it sold antique pieces and also fitted the LSD-heavy counterculture of the time.

Richard writes in his book, ‘Nicky Samuel: My Life and Loves,’ how the ‘It girl’ of the time met with Waymouth and described him as ‘the most fashionable hippy in the King’s Road’.

The shop was also, unusually for the time, totally unisex. Many of its customers were also what would now be termed LGBTQ+.

Movements and music

The Sixties saw the beginnings of the peace movement and LGBT rights, alongside the birth of the Beatles and the Vietnam War.

The 1969 Stonewall Riots marked a historic turning point for gay rights and became a symbol of resistance.

While British music saw the introduction of rock and roll and ‘Beatlemania’, as well as festivals which would go down in history.

Richard said: “People questioned the establishment, calling for equality and demanding change – rock music was the soundtrack to this counterculture movement.”

Family values

Traditional hierarchies began to dissolve and family values evolved. Richard, a father-of-three and grandfather of three, said: “I think we had been living in a very hierarchal society.

“I was brought up not to have my hands in my pocket while speaking to someone of a higher social rank. Change brought some freedom, but some might say also a loss of discipline.

“Traditional values ebbed away and divorce was no longer the stigma it was once. Children of divorced parents had been bullied and ostracised but fortunately this changed.”

Richard, an author of  21 published books, wants to recognise the social and cultural significance of the Sixties.

Richard Graves with his book, 'NIcky Samuel: My Life and Loves'.
Richard Graves with his book, ‘NIcky Samuel: My Life and Loves’.

He said: “I don’t think we should view the era with rose-tinted glasses – some of the change was slow coming and not all of it was positive.

“But it was a time when many social freedoms were fought for and won, for which we should be grateful.”

About Angela Belassie 68 Articles
Angela Belassie runs PR The Write Way to help small to medium sized organisations get coverage and raise their profile.