Paris 1968 - the revolution of the street, not the beach
In May 1968 a dispute in Paris's universities boiled over into violence. The police had been called in by university authorities - and this move precipitated the violence. The events that followed changed everything, including fashion. France's Labour unions joined the students in sympathy, first in protest, and then in the biggest nation wide strike in the history of France. Millions of students, pupils and workers marched in the streets of Paris. There were fears that the government of French President Charles de Gaulle would fall. But de Gaulle was canny, and simply dissolved parliament and called for a new election for June that year. It worked. The violence stopped as soon as it started. De Gaulle's party was voted in with an even bigger majority. Story over? Not quite. Paris 1968 was to have a profound impact on art, culture, and society in general. It could be argued that 1968 birthed modern individualism. Western young people hence forth wanted to wear what they want, sleep with whom they want, and live how they want. Yves Saint Laurent and other French designers changed tack after 1968. "Recent political events" said Laurent "make Haute Couture a relic of the past." More street orientated fashion, from London and New York became the rage. So mission accomplished? One of the main slogans of 1968 was 'underneath the street, the beach'. Meaning, literally that when the students lifted the cobble stones to throw at the police, there was sand underneath. Metaphorically what was meant was what the students were actually looking for was - less of the drudgery of work - and more play and leisure. But looking back today - if anything we work more hours than ever. Those of us that have work. YSL and Betty Catroux, Paris 1968 Students marching Students marching Images like these made Paris 1968 iconic A picture by Cartier Bresson - 1968 has an air of the romantic about it The slogan, underneath the beach, the street Picking up cobble stones to throw at the police, and - voila - the beach! A Marc Riboud pic The police throws back Not all young people supported the riots - these supported de Gaulle.