So much has been said about the Beatles over the years; about their music, their breakup, their personal lives, and, most importantly, their influence and legacy in the music world. Yet, throughout all of the ups and downs of their careers, one thing that was greatly influenced and is quite apparent upon close inspection is their fashion style. While I undoubtedly have left out some key Beatles moments and albums, I believe that you can chart the rise and fall of the greatest band of all time (my personal opinion and therefore a FACT) simply by observing their changing wardrobes…
Key Albums: Please Please Me, A Hard Day’s Night
Quintessential Songs: “I Saw Her Standing There”, “Love Me Do”, “A Hard Day’s Night”
Musical Style: Their debut albums were a mixture of original songs and popular covers, all possessing a kitschy, tongue-in-cheek pop sound, and quickly becoming a hit with teenyboppers.
Fashion Style: The first image of the Beatles has also become the most recognizable, with matching mop tops and black suits. The uniformity of the look was a tactic later adopted by many followers, but it was a fashion phase for the group that would not last forever.
Key Albums: Rubber Soul, Revolver
Quintessential Songs: “Drive My Car”, “In My Life”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “Good Day Sunshine”
Musical Style: Their sixth and seventh albums respectively, while not quite as avant-garde and psychedelic as their later offerings, nevertheless had a much edgier sound than their previous ones. With a wider-ranging sound and more meaningful lyrics, these two albums were a confident step away from their pop roots.
Fashion Style: As the band progressed sonically, they likewise advanced visually. Moving away from their matching getups and hairstyles, the foursome began playing with their own identities, and even veered towards color.
Key Albums: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour
Quintessential Songs: “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, “A Day in the Life”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “All You Need Is Love”
Musical Style: Heavily influenced by Indian culture and the use of mind-altering drugs, this phase for the Beatles was a complete one-eighty from their days be-bopping on stage to “Love Me Do.” Half of the year was spent posing as a fictitious “alter-ego” band while the other half was focused on the sugary and confusing images of childhood innocence.
Fashion Style: This phase also signified a Technicolor acid trip for the band’s wardrobe. Often donning military jackets in bright candy colors, the group returned to their old standby of matching ensembles, but in such a ridiculous way that it seems almost impossible that they weren’t poking fun at their younger selves.
Key Albums: The Beatles (The White Album), Abbey Road
Quintessential Songs: “Dear Prudence”, “Helter Skelter”, “Come Together”
Musical Style: While the recordings of these albums were notoriously clouded by dissent and disturbing rumors, the band had never sounded more cohesive and sophisticated. As if sensing that their time together was coming to an end, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr poured their hearts and souls into these two albums, to astonishing results.
Fashion Style: Gone were the good-natured uniforms of their Sgt. Pepper’s phase, and instead photographs of the band from this time show four distinct men with unique styles to showcase their increasingly disparate personalities.
Key Album: Let It Be
Quintessential Songs: “Across the Universe”, “Let It Be”, “Get Back”
Musical Style: For their final album, it is only fitting that the group favored a “back to basics” approach, including their last live performance on the rooftop of the Apple building. While the music and lyrics are still classic-Beatles, there is a sense of bittersweet melancholy hanging over the entire album.
Fashion Style: The transition from band to four solo artists was complete when Lennon and McCartney formally dissolved their lucrative partnership. The final cover of their final album show four men, each entranced by the music, but no longer interested in playing it together, or even in dressing the part.
John Lennon: A die-hard Lennon fan myself, I find both his music and fashion styles revolutionary. Both could accurately be described as simultaneously whimsical, sophisticated, and bohemian. Taken long before his time, Lennon leaves behind a legacy of goodness, originality, and immense talent.
Quoted: “I’m not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I’ve always been a freak. So I’ve been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I’m one of those people.”
Paul McCartney: With a Midas-touch to everything musical, McCartney managed to find extreme success in two bands and as a solo artist, while retaining his sense of humor and sense of humanity. Favoring ethnic prints and slim-fitting suits, it is no wonder that the superstar produced the immensely gifted designer Stella McCartney.
Quoted: “We’re going to play NAKED”
George Harrison: Holding steady to his quietly intense demeanor, Harrison remained on good terms with his fellow bandmates, and in the successful spotlight, up until his untimely death. His desire to eschew flashiness in favor of a more grounder, earthier vibe likewise translated to his style post-Beatles.
Quoted: “After all we did for Britain, selling that corduroy and making it swing, all we got was a bit of tin on a piece of leather”
Ringo Starr: The lighthearted jokester of the group, Starr was never afraid of the spotlight or of criticism, especially after spending years being good-naturedly ribbed by his bandmates. This fearlessness is also evident in his sartorial life, often showing itself in bold colors, flashy garments, and garish accouterments.
Quoted: “America: It’s like Britain, only with buttons.”