Originating in Coventry in the 1970s, two-tone was a new music genre born from the combination of Jamaican reggae with a punk attitude. As a result of this music, a style to match was born, and those who identified with the movement found themselves dressing in two-tone clothing such as Harrington jackets, Dr Martens boots and pencil skirts to express themselves.
What is Two-Tone Clothing?
Worn by rude boys and rude girls who were into two-tone music, which was heavily influenced by ska and Jamaican reggae, the two-tone style was symbolic of the ska and mod revival in the late 70s and is still influential in today’s fashion. Bands such as The Specials, The Selecter and The Beat aimed to diffuse racial tension during tough times in Britain and instead celebrated the fusion of two cultures in which two-tone was born.
Two-tone clothing was first popular in the 1960s when mod and skinhead cultures crossed over, and this developed into the two-tone movement of the late 70s, which would continue to be prevalent into the 1980s, too.
Now, the iconic two-tone pieces of the late 1900s are still popular with many pieces found in most wardrobes today, and two-tone itself saw many subcultures produced as a result, including third-wave ska and ska punk.
What Pieces Are Typical Of Two Tone Style?
There is a clear distinction between men's and women’s two-tone fashion, with each gender wearing specific pieces to show their commitment to the movement and appear recognisable in the streets to everyone who saw.
Men would typically sport a shaved head or buzz cut, a fitted polo shirt, perhaps with a pair of braces over the top, clipped onto a straight leg or drainpipe trousers which would be cropped to show off white socks or the tops of their Dr Martens shiny leather boots. The style was very clean cut and sharp and would be finished off with a Harrington jacket or bomber jacket over the top. Trilby hats were also popular among men, perhaps when heading to a night out.
Ladies would often shave the backs of their heads and leave the front fringe long, wearing tight pencil skirts, swing dresses or pinafores, and of course, a pair of Dr Martens to match.
Typically, these clothing items would be in dogtooth or check styles, symbolic of two-tone and ska culture. These patterns have trickled into the mainstream, still printed by designers and fashion retailers alike.
Many of these pieces have remained popular in modern-day culture, such as bomber jackets, Harrington Jackets and especially Dr Martens, that have risen in popularity in the last few years.
Where can I find Two Tone clothing?
You will likely find traditional two-tone styles in retro clothing shops or boutiques that specifically cater for this style.
If you are after genuine vintage two-tone items, you can search online for the specific style you want and find some authentic pieces from the late 1970s, or alternatively, some brand new pieces that have been produced in the same style that was made originally.
When shopping for two-tone clothing, you should look out for retro-style clothing that fits well, as two-tone styles were often high-quality, well fitted items as opposed to baggy or oversized styles. You should choose the colours of two-tone clothing wisely, too. Black and white were popular in line with dogtooth and check patterns, although navy blues and burgundy were also popular colours in the two-tone scene.
How To Style Two Tone Clothing
For an authentic retro look, you should stick to the specific two-tone style that was so popular in the late 70s. This included particular outfits for men and women and specific brands of shoes. You could even go as far as getting the haircut that was popular, though that might be a bit extreme for some people.
If you want to wear two-tone clothing with just a nod to the movement from the 1970s, you could wear a Harrington jacket over the top of your jeans and t-shirt, or women could wear a pencil skirt paired with their top of choice.
Dr Martens are considered very fashionable nowadays and are paired with all sorts of styles. A good pair of boots from this brand gives a subtle nod to the two-tone culture they were symbolic of 50 years ago.
Many will mimic two-tone styles without realising, which shows the impact this movement had on fashion and its lasting effects. For example, a man who wears a check shirt, dogtooth straight-leg trousers and black boots to a dinner party might not realise that his outfit is derived from two-tone culture, but it still carries the air of smart casual, which is suitable for so many events.
After reading this article, you should feel confident in putting a two-tone style outfit together, where to find the best pieces and where the style originated from. You might have even learned that you already have some two-tone style clothes in your wardrobe, and be ready to start showcasing your new two-tone style!