Interview with Paolo Hewitt, Author of Fab Gear: The Beatles and Fashion

Author Paolo Hewitt

I'm very pleased and honored to have had some discussions with author Paolo Hewitt about his excellent book Fab Gear: The Beatles and Fashion, which I reviewed here on this site last month. Paolo is an esteemed writer from the UK who has been covering music, fashion, and football (soccer to my fellow Americans) for more than three decades in various publications. He's also the author of over twenty books. As you read in my review, his book on the Beatles and fashion is excellent and highly recommended to any fan of the band and their classic 1960s look.  Paolo was kind enough to answer some questions I had about the book, his research into the subject, and his thoughts on various aspects of the Beatles and how, along with their music, they revolutionized the world with their style.

RNRChemist: Paolo, thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions about your book and the subject of the Beatles and fashion. What do you think it is about the Beatles' fashion that was so striking initially?

PH: Two things: their refusal to align themselves with just one style and their instinctive nature to continually change. Beatle clothes took in all elements. When asked if he was a mod or a rocker on Ready Steady Go, Ringo replied "I am a mocker" which gives you some idea of their wide eclecticism. Like their music, they were always seeking new ways of expression and that is what made them so striking. As soon as someone wore what they had worn, that was it, they were off in search of the new. That meant they continually looked interesting.

RNRChemist: In your opinion, what about their look still makes it so cool and modern all these years later?

PH: Apart from a couple of blips (Sgt. Pepper) they always maintained amazingly good taste in clothes and always opted for great style. You have to remember that they dressed as one which massively deepened the impact.

RNRChemist: Which is your favorite look of theirs, and why?

PH: Difficult. I love their looks around Revolver and the White Album. Casual but very smart, always striking. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I have been unable to carry the Paul McCartney hair style from 1966. Their dandy period (late '66-'67) is also interesting.

RNRChemist: Did it surprise you to learn that four working class scruffy lads were so clothes conscious even from a young age?

PH: No. The British working class have always loved clothes and been brilliant dressers.

RNRChemist: Do you think their impact on fashion was greater in the UK or the US?

PH: I think their fashion impact was huge everywhere. Especially their early haircuts, which were revolutionary at the time.

RNRChemist: Why do you think Paul was the only one who resisted going full-on when it came to truly long hair?

PH: Probably because he knew he looked much better with a shorter style. Later on (1969) it was his protest against what was going on with the band.

RNRChemist: Do you think the Beatles changed men's attitudes to fashion, ie made it ok for men to care about their hair/clothes/general appearance?

PH: Absolutely, although there were other influences. People such as John Stephen or Cecil Gee or John Michael were also very instrumental in helping shape mens fashions post-World War II. It was a definite movement which the Beatles were a major part of for many years.

RNRChemist: Do you think that any band these days could have the same impact on fashion and style as the Beatles did in the 1960s?

PH: Hard to imagine but I keep an open mind.

RNRChemist: What was it about their look, in your opinion, that helped their influence reach beyond simply the "rock musician" look and into general society as a whole?

PH: By being interested enough and intelligent and savvy enough to be plugged into many circles, they anticipated so much. For example, they saw what was happening on the Kings Road and then popularized it. In those days, fashion moved much slower, but by The Beatles adopting a look or a fashion, this allowed it to spread much faster and with much more import. In the same way that they brought new sounds and musics into the mainstream, so they did with their clothes and thus carried huge influence. Many fans not only wondered what the next record would sound like but also what the band would be wearing. And what the band were wearing, the world would be wearing not long after.

RNRChemist: Paolo, thanks so much for discussing this with me and I hope everyone reading this goes and gets a copy of your book so that they can enjoy it as much as I did. God bless!

(Paolo can be followed on Facebook and Twitter, and Fab Gear can be purchased at Amazon by clicking on the link within this interview).