The Kinks’ 1966 single ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ is a strange little ditty. Although the band mock the exuberant fashion culture of the mid-Sixties, this was a song performed by a band who are now retro style icons. More recently, even the fashion industry has embraced this musical attack on fashion – so what do we make of The Kinks’ attack on the fashionable man from Carnaby Street? George Walker takes a look at the style of The Kinks and their complex relationship with the fashion world.

Sadly we now live in an age where even rock bands are told what to wear by a team of stylists. No hair is left out of place, no drummer is left sitting at the back with his shirt off and some sagging jeans. Although style has always been important for a band’s image, now it seems photo shopped editorial shots in magazines sell as many records as the music. The Kinks must be livid.

‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ is one of the Kinks’ best known tracks, based around a fictional character who is obsessed by having – and being part of – Sixties fashion trends. He’s a man who “does his little rounds/ Round the boutiques of London town, Eagerly pursuing all the latest fads and trends.” The song begins:

They seek him here, they seek him there,

His clothes are loud, but never square,

It will make or break him so he’s going to buy the best,

‘Cause he’s a dedicated follower of fashion.

Bored and annoyed at the superficiality of the Carnaby Street fashion scene in London, The Kinks wrote a song that cut through the cult of cool with catchy lyrics and a playful satiric wit.

Ray Davies won an Ivor Novello Award for writing the song and it hit the top 5 in the British pop charts. So – perhaps The Kinks weren’t the only ones a little sick of gentlemanly preening and colour coordinating.

But I, for one, remain unconvinced. Part of the whole notion of ‘cool’ is about being different – mocking cool becomes cool in itself and it’s a tactic that British bands such as The Artic Monkeys and Oasis have done in more recent years, while remaining very much in the inner sanctum of cool. An besides, The Kinks were rather stylish guys themselves, with enough natty blazers and knitted ties to take on even the most cool of crowds on Carnaby Street.

Sixties style was all about re-invention; a new style of shirt collar, an extra button on a jacket or the introduction of an epaulet or two could cause waves among a generation that was trying to keep up with a new pace of fashion. It was an exciting time to be young and to be buying. And if it so happened that the next cool thing was to distance yourself from such superficialities by buying a satirical musical tune, so be it.

And if my declarations of love are just a bit too much for The Kinks, well I’m sorry, but Sixties style – you really got me.

Style Tip No.1: A Carnaby Classic

“One week he’s in polka dots, the next week he’s in stripes” sing The Kinks on their record – but who are they to scorn a gent who enjoys a spotty shirt or two? This polka dot shirt comes from Ben Sherman, one of the most iconic Carnaby Street shops that fictional The Dedicated Follower of Fashion would have waltzed around, picking up the latest in mod fashions.

Navy polka dot shirt, available from eBay. Bidding ends 19 June.

Style Tip No.2: The Double-breasted Jacket

The Kinks were big fans of Sixties double-breasted suits, wearing them in many of their TV appearances.

This original Sixties blazer is slim-fitting (as was the mod-ish style), plus the gold buttons make this a bit more of a formal jacket, ideal for a night on the town.

Vintage jacket, available from eBay. Buy it now for £55.

Style Tip No.3: The Rounded Collar

The Kinks often sported a round collar on their shirts. (Perhaps they weren’t so above fashion trends after all…)

This pristine white shirt gives an authentic Sixties look when worn with a smart cut-off tie and double-breasted blazer. It’s a good staple to have in when you fancy dressing up for a night out, and as The Kinks say in ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’, “His world is built around discotheques and parties/ This pleasure seeking individual always looks his best/ ’cause he’s a dedicated follower of fashion.”

So, I’m going to ignore the scorn – it sounds like the guy had a blast!

Rounded collar shirt, by Savile Row Company. Currently selling half price at £24.

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