London Fashion Trends
From Camden Market to the high-end stores of Mayfair, London has long been at the core of the global fashion scene. This city has delivered iconic looks and groundbreaking styles that have reverberated across the UK and far beyond.
With a fashion history steeped in the innovative visions of designers like Mary Quant, who championed the miniskirt in the 1960s, and the punk aesthetic catalyzed by Vivienne Westwood in the 1970s, London’s fashion trends have consistently shaped and shaken up the worldwide landscape of style and couture.
London Trends You Can’t Ignore from Recent Years
Barbour Wax Jackets
Barbour wax jackets, introduced by J. Barbour & Sons in 1894, combined utility with style, their waterproof qualities appealing to sailors, fishermen, and the royal family. Designed to withstand the harsh British weather, these jackets have become iconic in rural and urban settings.
Burberry Trench Coat
The British luxury fashion house of Burberry is renowned for its iconic trench coat, which has a rich history dating back to decades. Originally designed by Thomas Burberry for military officers, the trench coat features a double-breasted front, wide lapels, a belt at the waist, and a characteristic check lining.
The design was practical for the demands of war, with D-rings that were purportedly used to hang grenades and the waterproof gabardine fabric to keep soldiers dry. Over time, this military garment evolved into a fashion staple, thanks to its versatile style and association with a refined British aesthetic.
Cable Knit Sweaters
Cable knit sweaters are a staple of the British wardrobe, their textured patterns offering both warmth and style inspired by the fishermen of the British Isles; these practical garments have been a cozy favorite for generations.
London casual wear is a mix of comfort, style, and individual expression, influenced by the city’s diverse culture and fashion-forward thinking. With a fashion scene that stretches from the edgy streets of East London to the more refined areas like Chelsea, casual wear in London can vary widely. It often includes a blend of timeless British pieces like a jumper or cardigan paired with well-fitted jeans, or with streetwear graphic tees, hoodies, and trainers, anything practical for the city’s often unpredictable weather.
Footwear like Chelsea boots represent quintessential elements of British fashion. Chelsea boots, characterized by elastic side panels and a pull-on loop, gained popularity in the 1960s as part of the mod scene in London. They owe their name to the city’s bohemian Chelsea neighborhood.
Vintage sportswear piece, the cricket sweater with its distinctive V-neck and striped trim, emerged from the genteel world of cricket in the 19th century and has since enjoyed broader appeal as a stylish, preppy garment.
Crop tops have had their moments in UK fashion, cycling back into prominence throughout various decades, most notably during the 1980s with the rise of fitness culture and again in the mid-1990s to early 2000s with the influence of pop stars and girl groups. Today, they embody the spirit of youth culture.
Doc Martens Boots
Doc Martens boots, an emblematic feature of UK style, trace their origins to the 1940s. Initially designed as a work boot, their comfort and durability soon caught the attention of various subcultures, becoming a symbol of rebellion and non-conformity.
The London fashion scene has long been celebrated for its style, and this is reflected in the array of dress trends that emerge from the city’s designers and streets. This includes Sculptural dresses, often characterized by its innovative fabric manipulation and details that push the boundaries of traditional dressmaking. Historically, designers such as Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan have been instrumental in pioneering this trend.
On the other side of the sartorial spectrum is the wrap dress, a staple in many wardrobes that has also enjoyed periods of heightened popularity in London. The wrap dress is celebrated for its flattering fit and versatility, with a history dating back to the 1930s. However, it was Diane von Fürstenberg in the 1970s who truly cemented the wrap dress’s place in fashion history with her iconic designs.
Duffle coats, with their naval origins, became popular post-World War II, appreciated for their warmth and functional toggles—later on, they were adopted by students and intellectuals, adding to the eclectic British fashion scene. Lastly, pinstripe suits, with their origins in the banking sector of the early 19th century, have long stood as a symbol of formality and professionalism.
Fisherman beanies have emerged from their practical roots in seafaring communities to become a favored accessory in contemporary urban fashion. The snug-fitting, rib-knit caps, often made from wool or acrylic, serve both functional and aesthetic purposes, keeping the wearer warm while offering a versatile style statement that complements various casual looks.
Grunge-inspired wear in the UK, which first gained popularity in the early 1990s, pays homage to the grunge music scene that emerged from Seattle. It’s characterized by a disheveled, undone aesthetic, incorporating flannel shirts, distressed denim, oversized knitwear, and sturdy boots like Dr. Martens — a British staple.
The look often incorporates layered and thrifted pieces, reflecting a rejection of the polished mainstream fashion of the time. British fashion icons and bands from the ’90s, such as Oasis and Blur, helped to popularize this look.
Herringbone and Tweed Suits
For the longest, herringbone and tweed suits have been mainstays in classic British tailoring. Herringbone and tweed suits are known for their durability, texture, and ability to keep the wearer warm—making them popular choices for British gentry and academics, particularly in rural settings.
Jimmy Choo shoes, a luxury footwear, have become an emblematic brand in the fashion scene worldwide. The brand originated in the East End of London when Malaysian-born Jimmy Choo, a bespoke shoemaker, teamed up with the British Vogue accessories editor Tamara Mellon in 1996 to start a ready-to-wear shoe company. Known for their exquisite craftsmanship, elegance, and high stiletto heels, Jimmy Choo quickly became a darling of the global red carpet, popularized by celebrities and royals alike.
Mini skirts are particularly tied to the 1960s where London’s youthquake and the Swinging Sixties brought them to the forefront of fashion. With designers like Mary Quant leading the charge, mini skirts became emblematic of newfound liberation and youthful rebellion. Their varied iterations, from pleated to A-line, continue to capture attention, while shifting views towards body image, gender norms, and personal expression. They remain a favorite in the UK.
Oversized outerwear is a trend that gained traction in the UK fashion scene. This trend goes back to various periods when dramatic outwear was in vogue, but has seen a more contemporary adoption as streetwear fuses with high fashion. With comfort and versatility as key elements, oversized outerwear has been embraced across gender lines, offering an inclusive and bold approach to dressing.
Parkas, with their military origins, became a mainstay in British fashion after their introduction into civilian life, initially during the 1960s Mod movement. Recognizable by their mid-thigh to knee-length cut, fur-lined hood, and often waterproof exterior, parkas have become synonymous with British go-to fashion.
Patterned Tights and Socks
Patterned tights and socks have become creative expressions in UK fashion. Often used to break the monotony of an outfit or to add a pop of color and texture, they feature a variety of designs, including stripes, spots, floral, and abstract prints. Historically, patterned hosiery has had periods of popularity. Brands like Pretty Polly have been at the forefront of bringing these trends into mainstream fashion. The revival of vintage and retro styles has seen a resurgence of patterned legwear, making it a focal point in both casual and formal ensembles.
Puffer jackets in the UK have become a staple of both street and high-end fashion, especially given the British weather. The trend likely originated from the practical need for warmth during the UK’s colder months, but today’s puffers are as much about style as they are about function. They can be traced back to the introduction of down jackets in the 1930s, but the modern puffer became popular in the 1980s thanks to designer brands interpreting them as luxury items.
Punk Inspired Clothing
Punk-inspired clothing originated in the 1970s in the UK. It was a movement that was heavily associated with music bands like the Sex Pistols and The Clash. The fashion style was characterized by a DIY aesthetic, which often involved repurposing everyday clothing.
Vivienne Westwood was one of the influential fashion designers who embraced and helped shape the punk fashion movement, bringing it from the underground scenes to the runways, and as a result, punk-influenced elements have since cycled through mainstream fashion.
Raincoats and Rain Jackets
London’s notorious for its unpredictable weather, with rain being a recurrent feature throughout the year. This climatic peculiarity has inevitably influenced the city’s fashion trends, with stylish raincoats being an important element of Londoners’ wardrobes.
As fashion evolved, so too did the design of the raincoat, with London-based designers infusing this with city’s most fashionable residents. Today, modern stylish raincoats come in many forms—oversized silhouettes, high-tech waterproof materials, vibrant colors, and playful patterns. They reflect the city’s creative spirit while continuing to serve the practical need for keeping dry.
Savile Row Tailoring
The craftsmanship of Savile Row in central London, a street synonymous with bespoke tailoring and exceptional quality since the late 18th century. Savile Row tailors are renowned for their precision and the personalized experience they offer, creating suits that have clothed royalty, celebrities, and politicians alike.
Skinny and Ripped Jeans
Skinny jeans and trousers have been a prominent part of UK fashion trends since the early 2000s, originally influenced by indie and pop-punk music scenes which embraced a more fitted silhouette. These form-fitting bottoms were initially popularized by rock and roll icons in the 1950s and then saw a resurgence in various forms over the decades. The trend has now become a staple in most wardrobes.
Ripped denim is one of those fashion trends that has returned to the forefront of UK style. The distressed look began with punk subcultures in the 1970s. Over the years, ripped jeans has turned into mainstream fashion, becoming a favored in casual and even high-end collections.
Statement bags in the UK have emerged as key accessories that can transform any look. Luxury fashion houses and high-street brands alike have played a significant role in the ubiquity of statement bags, with iconic designs from British designers like Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, and Burberry serving as fashion staples. These bags have become collectible items for many, as it offers a way to stand out and cover a wide range of designs.
Initially emerging in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it has roots in the skate, surf, and hip-hop cultures of the US, which were then adapted by the UK youth. The UK interpretation of streetwear often includes graphic tees, hoodies, sneakers, and accessories like caps and backpacks, often branded with logos. Today, London has been central to the evolution of this trend, especially influenced by social media and the upsurge of sneaker culture.
Tartan and Plaid Patterns
Burberry is also famous for its distinctive tartan and plaid patterns. The most recognizable is the Burberry check, which was initially used as a lining for their trench coats in the 1920s. This pattern, featuring a combination of camel, ivory, red, and black, has become synonymous with the brand and a symbol of luxury.
Wellington boots, or “Wellies,” named after the 1st Duke of Wellington who instructed his shoemaker to modify the 18th-century Hessian boot, transformed into a symbol of British practicality. Initially a symbol of the aristocracy in the early 19th-century, they became indispensable during World War I for soldiers mired in the trenches, eventually evolving into an essential item for country dwellers and festival-goers alike.