‘Foxey’ Fashion: The Changing Style of Jimi Hendrix from ’65-70
Jimi Hendrix provided a soundtrack for the 60s counterculture, and has come to represent the decade through his music. His iconic sound drew on a combination of genres including blues, folk, and rock ‘n’ roll. These assorted musical inspirations were paralleled by an equally eclectic fashion sense.
This article establishes a brief timeline, cataloguing Jimi Hendrix’s unique sense of style. It features expert commentary from Vintage Stylist and Go-Go Dancer with The Meyer Dancers, Holly Charlotte Campbell, as well as Fashion Designer and Curator at The Hippie Shake, Naomi Hession.
In the early sixties, before he was famous, Hendrix was gigging around the United States on the ‘Chitlin Circuit,’ as part of the backing band for the Isley Brothers, Little Richard, and Curtis Knight. Given the American racial climate in the ‘60s, he had a very conventional style, conforming with the rest of the backing band’s established wardrobe. The above photo, taken in 1965, is a representation of his early look; neatly combed hair, slight facial hair, with the only accessory being a skinny tie. This very ‘establishment’ look is not the image we associate with Hendrix today. Within just a year of this photo being taken, Hendrix had moved to London, begun his solo career, and started to explore his identity.
Hendrix made his UK television debut on Ready Steady Go!, with ‘Hey Joe,’ in 1966. After about three months of living in London, Hendrix’s style shows signs of loosening up. He kept the top buttons open on his floral-patterned shirt, and accessorised with a cross necklace. One major change here is his hair, it is no longer neatly combed and coiffed, instead it is left a bit unruly. A disciple of Bob Dylan, he took inspiration from Dylan’s curly locks and incorporated it into his own iconic look.
Holly Campbell [Vintage Stylist and Meyer Dancer], situates the fashion of the 1960s within a social context, saying: “What was empowering about that time was that young people had the means to go out and explore their individuality, unlike previously. In the ‘60s, there was a bubbling of change in the air through a series of cogs turning and twisting across the whole of society. That meant young people had independent income for the first time, and a new scene birthed for the teenagers that they could get involved in and explore. There were finally shops directed towards youth, rather than having to shop at the same stores as their parents.”
Hendrix became fully immersed in British fashion. The 1960s counterculture brought about a revival of Romantic and Victorian aesthetics in various mediums including music, art, lifestyle, and fashion. Weaving together the elements of the past, they were able to wear these garments in ways that looked to the future. The cult of Victoriana in fashion really came to the forefront in 1967, best represented by the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, with the Beatles sporting multi-coloured, military sergeant’s jackets. This particular coat that Hendrix is wearing is a ‘Pelisse’ or ‘Hussar’ jacket, ornamented with a fur trim and gold French braiding. He purchased it from ‘I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet,’ on Portobello Road, in Notting Hill. This outfit shows the influence that living in London had on Hendrix’s style. There’s no way to know if he would have been interested in European military regalia as a discharged member of the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army, had he not moved to London.
Discussing why old fashions were so popular in the 1960s, Holly says, “Here we are now, as vintage lovers, looking back to the 1960s and 1970s in awe, and buying clothes in those styles. But when you look back at the ‘60s, Hendrix and the Beatles were actually buying stuff from earlier decades too. ‘Lord Kitchener’s Valet,’ I believe, was the first boutique to really popularise genuine military jackets as vintage items. What’s most interesting about the timing of that piece being reclaimed, is its military reference during the height of the divisive Vietnam War. It’s a statement of social and political commentary – especially from Hendrix as an ex-soldier. This is what I find so powerful about fashion, especially in the ‘60s. It shows that you don’t necessarily have to be on the front line of activism, or giving political speeches, to contribute to change. In his expression through music and style, Hendrix shows us that you can make really effective, time-defying statements in creative ways.”
Hendrix also took a liking to the ‘Granny Takes a Trip’ boutique on the Kings Road, where he purchased this floral jacket. Like ‘I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet’, the store played upon the revival of past fashions. ‘Granny Takes a Trip’ assimilated the countercultural aesthetics of pleasure-seeking and excess, with the decadent dandy fashions of the fin de siècle, making their ideal customers the artists that were partaking in this indulgent lifestyle. It featured a large collection of vintage clothing, and also up-cycled certain pieces with psychedelic fabrics from Savile Row. Their customisation allowed them to sell one-of-a-kind pieces. This exclusivity attracted musicians like George Harrison, Brian Jones, and of course, Jimi Hendrix. Jimi’s grandmother was in Vaudeville shows, meaning that Hendrix had a direct style influence from the era of excess in the late nineteenth century. He styled this ‘Granny Takes a Trip’ jacket with a black poet shirt underneath, and corduroy trousers, complete with black Chelsea Boots.
In the above photo you can see that velvet was a prominent feature in The Jimi Hendrix Experience look. Naomi Hession [founder of The Hippie Shake], identifies Hendrix’s style with: “Lots of velvet, and embroidered velvet as well. He also wore heavily embroidered waistcoats that had a fur trim. Lots of intricate beadwork, lots of printed silks. He wore very rich and regal sort of fabrics, almost like costume-wear, stuff that you can’t get now. Those fabrics aren’t really around. The amount of work that went into his clothes is incredible, and that is the look that we try to achieve at The Hippie Shake.”
Playing in the early morning at Woodstock, Hendrix embodied what it meant to him to be an American. He gave one of his most famous performances, an electrified ‘Star-Spangled Banner’, and dressed the part. The adoption of Native American fashions was incredibly popular in the hippie trends of the 1960s and 1970s. This influence can be seen in the suede material, beading, and fringe. For Hendrix, the incorporation of these elements into his wardrobe was a celebration of his Cherokee bloodline. The fringed shirt he was wearing is a direct portrayal of his heritage. Matching the blue of the beading, he wore a pair of similarly coloured bellbottoms, accompanied by a turquoise-studded belt. The silk scarf tied as a headband was a fashion staple, but it also served the practical purpose of keeping sweat out of his eyes when his hands were occupied with playing genius riffs on the guitar. This look has become one of Hendrix’s most memorable, capturing the style transition from the structured 1960s, into the more laid-back 1970s.
Holly describes the shift in styles, explaining: “As we get into the late 1960s, fashion reflected the flower power movement, and the Civil Rights Movements. There was a movement for peace during the Vietnam War, which visually shows in the casualness and the earthiness of the clothes. Silhouettes became less structured and clothes looser; people wore bellbottoms, tie-die, and grew their hair long. What I love about fashion is that the times, the politics, and the social activities are reflected through the style.”
When asked about her favourite Hendrix look, Naomi responded: “It has to be the Woodstock one, where he’s playing his guitar on stage with the fringe. He looks incredible, I’d love to be able to recreate that. For a lot of people, that image will always be in their mind when they think of Hendrix.”
One of Hendrix’s staple style elements was his black hat. It was such a simple piece and yet it allowed him another outlet to creatively express himself. He wore it slightly tilted to one side, and always adorned it with decorations such as feathers, silk scarves, pins, and many other accoutrements. In the Hendrix Flat exhibition at 23 Brook Street, the hat displayed is embellished with the circle-chain belt, a popular ornament for Jimi, often layered on top of a purple scarf. The tilted hat seems to have its origin within the 1940s ‘Mob’ style. The placement, as well as the flamboyance of the hat as Hendrix wore it, has since become synonymous with the ‘pimp’ look. This was solidified through 1970s ‘Blaxsploitation’ films, such as Super Fly and Willie Dynamite.
On the importance of Hendrix’s hat, Holly states: “It’s a really simple piece but it is so sharp, it really is the epitome of a rock and roll star. In terms of style, it has become a part of his iconography. You could just see the hat and you would know that that’s Hendrix.”
The bell sleeves paired with matching, patterned bellbottoms is what was dubbed the ‘Butterfly’ costume. He wore this outfit for the Isle of Wight performance in 1970. The spotlight seemed to highlight the silhouette and the velvety texture and pattern of colourful butterfly wings. Often regarded as symbols of freedom, Jimi embodying a butterfly personifies the main ideologies of the 1960s: freedom from oppression for all races, genders, religions, and sexualities. The outfit blends the femininity of the delicate sleeves and rainbow of colours, celebrating the androgyny of fashion to come in the glam rock of the 1970s.
Commenting on the androgyny of fashion, Holly mentioned: “An interesting term, “the peacock revolution,” was coined because men were being ‘out there’ with their style, showing their bodies off more, wearing eccentric prints and satin shirts. For men at that time, fashion was a room for expression outside the confines of what was traditionally carved out for the role of a man. Fashion broadened the parameters for people to play with their style and identity. You can see this, as men accessorised with necklaces and scarves and wore feminine prints.”
When asked about her favourite Hendrix outfit, Holly responded: “Any outfit with all the layering: the jackets, bellbottoms, loads of accessories, loads of prints that are pulled together in a really cohesive way. Maximal dressing that pulls together all those prints and details into a cohesive look is truly a fine art and Hendrix absolutely nails it!” After some deliberation, she decided on the following photo in front of bassist Noel Redding’s yellow Lotus Elan in 1967. “It checks all of the boxes – multiple prints, detail of necklaces and belt, just amazing!”
Dressing like Hendrix:
The classic Hendrix look will undoubtedly consist of flared trousers with multiple decorative belts, an open poet shirt, an ornamented wide-brimmed hat, and many pieces of jewellery. If something is still missing, tie a patterned silk scarf just above the knee.
When I asked Naomi to describe how to create the perfect Hendrix outfit, she formulated: “I would wear a printed shirt, with a clashing neck scarf in a completely different print, some kind of velvet or embroidered waistcoat, a wide-brimmed hat, loads of necklaces, and velvet flares. I would layer chain belts to finish the look off. More is more with Hendrix.”
According to Holly, “Bellbottoms, military or tailored jacket, and a loose, silky, ruffle shirt. I think if you’ve got those three things in your wardrobe, then Hendrix has made his imprint on you.”
There is no doubt that Hendrix’s revolutionary guitar style has a lasting legacy in popular music. His unique fashion sense has equal prominence. The following are responses from Holly and Naomi when asked about their perspectives on the legacy of Hendrix in the world of fashion.
Naomi: “There are always revivals of 1960s fashion.” In fact, she mentioned, “next year’s winter collection for The Hippie Shake is going to be Hendrix inspired,” which we can’t wait to see! Additionally, she’s utilising Instagram to do “icon” sales, where she curates “30 vintage items inspired by an icon like Stevie Nicks or Jimi Hendrix. For our Hendrix inspired vintage, we gathered waistcoats, shirts, loads of scarves, and things like that. It was really successful; everyone is obsessed with his style. There’s so much attention to detail. The way Hendrix put stuff together is so bold, but it looks so effortless as well. You can see his influence on people at festivals: they like to wear a statement piece, like a Hendrix-style waistcoat. The styling of the shirt with the waistcoat is a very iconic look, Hendrix was all about the hero piece with added accessories.”
In addition to the collection and the icon sales, The Hippie Shake have begun selling floral-printed facemasks, giving 100% of the profits to charity. Naomi explained: “We raised close to $4,000 for the mental health charity ‘Mind,’ so we thought we’d like to support something else as well. With what’s going on recently, we’re now donating to Black Lives Matter and The Bail Project. I think people will be needing facemasks for a while, and it’s been a great opportunity to give something back in this time.” Check out the floral facemasks that any 1960s-lover would approve of here!
Holly: “Hendrix’s style is timeless. You look at the rock stars now and they’re still drawing on the things that were ‘new’ back then. Mick Jagger, the Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix: their style literally defined the look of the ‘rock star.’ This incredible, authentic sense of expression flowed through Hendrix’s creations; his ability to play guitar also reflected in his style. There’s a magical knack that he had for pulling on all of the past influences that he had but still creating something new. I don’t think any of it has ever really gone away. The 1960s as a decade has literally stayed in fashion in some shape or form, that’s the level of influence that the revolution had.”
Written with the help of Handel & Hendrix in London Intern Stephanie Hernandez.