Evolution of the Artist
Who'd have thought that those four lads from Liverpool who said Please Please Me and Love Me Do would, in just 4 years time, be making Sergeant Pepper or The White Album? Revolution No. 9, anyone? In reality this rapid evolution was always ready to reveal itself.
The Hamburg-era Beatles returned to Liverpool as far greater musicians than before they left and Liverpool caught on quickly. This improvement was largely due to the fact they were playing five or six sets every day in Germany. Their look had also developed: the teddy boys with greased hair were on their way to becoming Love-Me-Do-Beatles. The art set they had gotten to know, Astrid Kercher especially, started to influence their dress. She even gave them those mop top haircuts.
Once news started to spread about The Beatles triumphant return it wouldn't be long before Brian Epstein approached them with an offer of management. As part of this plan he suggested the Beatles get matching suits and introduced them to Chelsea boots. Such was their popularity that the shoes were soon known as Beatle boots. This early in their career they had already undergone a number of transformations and were starting to inspire their fans.
Pre-Ringo Beatles pose for this photo in full leathers and look at those boots - no heels yet. Wearing leather at the time was still intimidating for some but at this point they were in the notoriously busy and violent streets of Hamburg so this look probably did them some favours. John Lennon once famously said "without Elvis there'd be no Beatles". I think that's pretty clear here.
Suited and Booted
Epstein got the boys in Pierre Cardin's Edwardian-inspired collarless suits and paired them with the Chelsea boots he'd spotted and had commissioned complete with cuban heel. Paired with the drainpipes and collarless blazers it wasn't long before other bands were following suit (pun intended) and the fans jumped on board to boot (also intended).
By the end of 1965, The Beatles released Rubber Soul which showed how far they'd come musically in just a couple of years. It also showcased their longer haircuts and each ones individual style was emerging. By the time 1967 came around, the hippy movement was in full flow and The Beatles burst into full colour. You can see the differing styles of each and there's no arguing about the two best dressed: Lennon in that Afghan coat and George in that velvet deep red. Great moustache work, too.
Sgt. Pepper Uniforms
Even though these outfits were more Sgt. Pepper promotional tool than Beatles fashion, you can't really write about their style without giving them a quick mention. In four years The Beatles had gone from The Fab Four, in matching suits and all smiles, to creating arguably the first concept album in the midst of psychedelia.
The Beatles in India
The Beatles had grown up together and were still, at this point, in their mid-20s. Their well-documented trip to India was the first time the differences in their music, personalities, and fashion were truly highlighted. John and George would stay the longest and ultimately, particularly for Harrison, have the most impactful time. By the time The White Album was recorded on their return they were hardly talking: it was clear this was four very different lads from the leather-clad Hamburg rockers.
George Harrison had left the group and the rooftop gig was one of his stipulations for returning: he wanted to play a live show. The disharmony is clear in their outfits: McCartney in a simple black suit, almost business-like. Lennon in mink furs (fashion choice but also it was freezing). Harrison in bright green trousers and more furs (he and Lennon would remain close friends despite the band fallout). You can't see it here but it's worth looking up Ringo's jacket too: he wore his wife's bright red frock coat.
Abbey Road: The End
It's fitting to end with the cover for the final album The Beatles would ever record together. In 1969, just 6 years since their first single was released, The Beatles were poignantly pictured walking away from Abbey Road studios, each one displaying perfectly their individuality. Despite John, Paul, and Ringo all having Tommy Nutter designed suits on they clearly are not the same anymore. John in messianic all-white, Ringo's solid, sturdy black, and Paul with no shoes on despite the business attire. George in double-denim shows how far the youngest Beatle had evolved, just as they all had, but now it was time for them to walk alone, and find their own evolution,