The students who arrived on the Pittsburg State campus in 1961 looked a lot like their predecessors, who came in rapidly increasing numbers throughout the ’50s. Today, we call them Baby Boomers.
By the end of that tumultuous decade, however, styles, like society, were undergoing radical change and Kansas State College was in the midst of it.
Many social scientists argue that fashion reflects the politics and mood of the time. Some even claim to be able to track the stock market by the length of women’s skirts or the width of men’s ties. Whether fashion has some deeper meaning or it is simply a matter of the incessant striving by each generation to differentiate itself from those who came before, there is no denying that the decade of the ’60s brought one of the most dramatic shifts in fashion the nation has seen before or since.
In the early ’60s, men wore their hair well above their ears and crew cuts were a popular style for men at Kansas State College. Men’s casual shirts were likely to be plaid, with buttoned down collars and blue jeans were the uniform of the day.
The women, meanwhile, were inspired by the both by the elegance of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and by the early Beach Party films. The beehive was a popular, if difficult hair style at the beginning of the decade, but it quickly gave way to much shorter page boy and chin-length contour cuts. The required knee-length skirts of the early ’60s also gave way to polyester slacks and capri trousers. When the mini-skirt was introduced in 1964, the fashion floodgates opened.
In the wild years between 1965 and 1970, the nation changed and Kansas State College changed with it. Styles on campus were just the visible evidence of that wider, deeper social upheaval.
By ’69, longer hair had become more fashionable for men and facial hair was popular. Bell bottom jeans for both men and women were common. The beehive and bouffant hair styles for women in the early part of the decade had been replaced by long, straight hair more characteristic of Joan Baez than of Jackie Kennedy. For both African-American men and women, the afro became not only a popular hairstyle, but also a symbol of the struggle for racial equality.
Color, for both men and women, was everywhere.
It was just 10 short years, but what a difference – in clothes and hair, but also in attitudes and opinions. The Baby Boomers had arrived!