60s Fashions: How Childhood Poverty Became a Look

Author: Carol L. Skolnick
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Why would fashion-conscious teenagers and young women want to take on the unhealthy gauntness of an undernourished street urchin? The underfed, androgynous poorboy style was popularized in the 60s by Twiggy, the model who may have made anorexia a household word, setting off a phenomenon of young girls starving themselves in order to resemble her (though Twiggy herself was naturally thin).

The 15-year-old supermodel's appearance on the Carnaby Street fashion scene turned the idea of beauty on its ear. Twiggy's flatsides figure, wide-eyed features and short, straight hair soon became the benchmark of Mod femininity.

The "poorboy" look, which prospered well into the 70s, took its name and its inspiration from the underprivileged children of London. Poorboy hats, often made of unchic, utilitarian materials like corduroy or denim, were oversized newsboy caps, while the ribbed-knit poorboy sweater -- often fashioned from the new synthetic "wonder fabrics" like Orlon and Acrilan -- was undersized and skintight (the better to show off one's starved-to-perfection figure).

The poorboy look returned in the 90s and continues to be popular in the new millennium. Today's infinitesimal baby tees, so popular with our navel-baring youth, are surely derivative of the poorboy top. And what better way to camouflage a "bad hair day" than to pile it into and under a hat that's too big for you?

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