Have You Met Yvan?
The ‘Swinging Sixties’ remains as the most significant decade in British history which we can’t help but look back on with envy. It had everything, after all. The teenager took flight, each one armed with an amplified, pubescent voice and a sense of individuality. There was music – soul-enriching, get-up-and-just-dance music – with the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones providing the decade with a soundtrack that still reverberates with us today through white headphones. There was England’s triumph over West Germany in the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final and if the decade had a metaphorical taste of sweetness, it would be a direct result of that victory.
Fashion also became more experimental and expressive, not to mention colourful and brilliantly juxtaposed the drabness of the previous two decades. Then, there’s technology, with all the above transmitted through colour television sets that became a household accessory. Indeed, what a time to be alive. Last but by no means least, there was the cinema and film, and via this rectangular medium, Curry & Paxton came into play culturally.
If you were to think of one actor or actress that embodied sixties swagger, it would be Michael Caine. Born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite Jr. – not quite as strong a name as Michael Caine, don’t you think? – in 1933, he was your typical, cocksure east-ender, a boy-done-good character with wispy-blonde hair and a handsome face who became the nation’s favourite for his various roles in TV and film.
In 2006, Michael Caine’s "Yvan" tortoiseshell optical glasses from The Ipcress File went on auction at Christie’s and fetched £6,600 which provides us with comforting evidence of Curry & Paxton’s role in defining Britain’s poster boy for sixties swagger.
Michael Caine wore tortoiseshell Yvan spectacles and sunglasses from Curry & Paxton throughout the 1960s. The film that Curry & Paxton appeared in first was The Ipcress File (1965), which was the first of the Harry Palmer series. Based on the novels by Len Deighton, they were the antithesis of the super-smooth spy films, such as James Bond, that was the prevailing genre at the time. Funeral In Berlin followed in 1966 and Billion Dollar Brain the year after, and throughout the three movies, Caine wore tortoiseshell Yvan spectacles, whether in his pyjamas grinding coffee beans, in a spy-beige mackintosh or a grand winter-conquering coat, the frames are instantly recognisable via the hexagonally arranged pin work around the hinged temples.
It wasn’t just in character that Michael Caine wore Curry & Paxton’s Yvan model as there are photographs of him socialising with friends or sharing a moment with various lovers, such as the Nicaraguan model Bianca De Macias who later became Bianca Jagger, looking splendid as ever with the Yvan frames perched on the bridge of his nose.
Roll on a few years to 1969 and Caine starred in his magnum opus, The Italian Job (1969). It’s one of the most celebrated films ever from a fashion point of view and Caine upgraded his Yvan spectacles with sunglasses.
He only wears them in one scene but it’s a scene that you’ll be hard-pressed to forget. This is of course in the airport in Turin while he’s trying to safely evade the mafia with his girlfriend Lorna.
All in all, it gives us immense pleasure to know Curry & Paxton’s undeniable involvement in such a decade that exuded style, sophistication and unapologetic glamour, and also its patronage by one of the most celebrated subjects of the 20th century. So, for that, we’d like to say thank you, Michael.