How the Beatles went from all leather to “what we thought were great costumes”

Highlights of the article:

  • The Beatles started wearing leather jackets in Germany
  • Leather jackets quickly became leather pants and leather jackets
  • “Too many people would laugh” at the band’s outfits, so they switched to the costumes

As well as being musical icons, The Beatles were fashion icons. Known for their haircuts and mod costumes, the band had a seminal flair. But how did John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr find their signature looks? In a 1963 BBC documentary, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison reveal how they landed on costumes.

The Beatles (left to right) Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison | by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

John Lennon urged The Beatles to “Mach schau! “

In the interview, Harrison said he believed the band found their style in Hamburg.

“We developed our style because of this guy [Lennon], he said, as recorded in the book George Harrison on George Harrison. “He used to say, ‘You have to put on a show for the people,’ and he would come every night shouting, ‘Mach Schau! Mach schau! ‘ So we used to ‘mach schau’, and John used to dance like a gorilla, and we all bumped, you know, heads together and things like that. Anyway, we got back to Liverpool and all the bands there were doing Shadows stuff. [The Shadows were a popular guitar-based instrumental group of the period. —Ed.] And we came back with leather jackets and jeans and fun hair, “maching schau”, which went pretty well. “

Influenced by The Shadows, leather jackets seemed to fit the “mach schau” philosophy of putting people on a show.

The Beatles all wanted to wear leather jackets

Lennon said one member of the group started wearing a leather jacket for shows and the trend has spread to the rest of the group.

“We only wore leather jackets,” he said. “Not for the band – one person wore one, I can’t remember – and then we all liked them, so we were all on stage with them.”

Before, the boys had just worn jeans “because we had nothing else back then.”

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But with their new leather look, the Beatles “got quite a few reservations.” By the time they returned to Germany, the group was carpet with leather.

“They all thought we were German; you know we were billed like [being] from Hamburg and they all said, “You speak good English,” Lennon said. “So we went back to Germany and we had a little more money the second time around, so we were wearing leather pants and we looked like four Gene Vincents, a little younger I think. And that was it, you know. We just kept the leather gear until Brian [Epstein] came up with. “

Paul McCartney said people would ‘laugh’ at their leather outfits

In the end, the all-leather outfits did not have the effect expected by the group.

“It was kinda, kind of an old hat anyway, all dressed in leather clothes, and we decided we didn’t want to look silly coming home because more often than not, too many people were laughing, ”McCartney said. “It was just stupid. We didn’t want to appear like a bunch of idiots. And Brian suggested that we just sort of wear regular costumes. So we bought what we thought were very good costumes and got rid of the leather equipment. That was all.”

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