Carnaby Street is corny, trashy… and absolutely iconic. When I was 19 I bought a smelly Afghan coat there and shopped with a friend for a tassled suede coat. His excuse was he was a front man for a rock band. My excuse? I didn’t really have one. But hey, it was Carnaby Street!
These days – decades after my Afghan coat and I parted company – it’s mainly a tourist hotspot, but one with a rich history. The street is referenced widely in pop culture, particularly during the ‘Swinging Sixties’; The Kinks referenced it in Dedicated Follower of Fashion, it has appeared in many films and TV shows, and there’s even a ‘Carnaby Street The Musical,’ although that clearly never made it big. But the street was synonymous with bohemian culture in the 19th century, long before the Swinging Sixties laid claim to it.
Did you know? In the 17th century this area was a huge burial ground for victims of the Great Plague, and the street itself was home to small hospitals set up to treat plague victims.