‘I wore a hat and gloves for my first job at the BBC [in 1964]’
Joan Bakewell, 2011
Whilst it’s a cliché to say that the 1960s were a decade of change, it’s undeniably true. As the decade opened, the catalogues reflected glamorous American movies: models with Marilyn Monroe’s womanly hourglass figure photographed in the European settings of films such as Roman Holiday (1955) and To Catch a Thief (1959).
By the end of the decade, the flamboyant London style of The Italian Job (1969) and The Persuaders (1971) was in the ascendant. Models had the androgynous figures of Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton (who did actually model for Kays in 1962).
To wear such styles one had to be young, slender and very confident. By 1969, Mary Quant’s invention, the miniskirt, was almost the only hem-length available.
Kays also introduced more ranges for the ‘fashion conscious young’, cementing the idea that the teenager was a breed apart. Until 1972, young people could leave school at 14 to go to work. The increasing prosperity of the working classes meant that these young people had more money and leisure time than their parents had a generation before.
The catalogue offered a growing range of leisure goods to fill that time including camping equipment, ‘scootering’ suits, LPs and musical instruments endorsed by the Beatles.