Bikini beatniks and pussycats
The Polish authorities were not fans of the new look, but that didn’t stop the young, rebellious generation from replicating the coveted fashions that filtered in from the West. The style of ‘bikini beatniks’ and ‘pussycats’ ushered in the nation’s first subculture, bringing a great deal of color and flair into an otherwise drab reality. They were energetic and had a healthy dose of perspective, which allowed them to thrive with a just modicum of optimism. The name of the subculture – bikiniarze – got its name from the nuclear tests carried out by the Americans in the Bikini Atoll between 1946 and 1958, which were denounced by Poland’s communist authorities.
Its members typically wore ties with an illustration of the atomic mushroom cloud on them or a figure of a bikini-clad woman (sent over from abroad by sympathetic relatives and friends). They wore ‘pancake’ hats on their heads (with wide, flat brims), oversized jackets with broad shoulders, pants with raised cuffs that showed off brightly-colored socks and ‘pork fat’ platform shoes (raised on a platform a few-centimeters high, which were usually upgraded at home using cork or rubber). The look was topped off with a hairstyle known as a plereza, also known as a mullet. Sometimes, the hair was brushed back into a quiff.
A bikini beatnik’s companion was often referred to as a ‘pussycat’. She often wore a colorful top or a snug-fitting sweater, a circle skirt and black flats known as ‘little coffins’ (trumniaki) and, to top it all off, a small wicker basket in hand. Her hair was styled in waves or pulled up in a simple ponytail.
All these efforts were meant to manifest their protest against reality and the socialist system. And so, it’s no wonder the bikini beatniks of Poland were often referred to as hooligans
or bandits to discredit them and turn the rest of society against them. This stance was also promoted by the regime’s propaganda machine and the films it produced. The activists of the Association of Polish Youth (ZMP) were also engaged in the battle to take down the subculture and to embody the proper attitude towards the system in their own appearance and comportment.