Carnaby Street: 10 Fascinating Facts You Never Knew

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Carnaby Street is most famous for being the beating heart of London’s fashion scene at the height of the Swinging Sixties. Exclusive boutiques on Carnaby Street sold the latest Mod looks from the top designers of the era, such as Mary Quant, and bands including The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones were frequently spotted shopping there. Though London may not be swinging in quite the same way, but this iconic shopping street is still a popular shopping location today.

Here are 10 things you might not know about Carnaby Street.

1. Starting on a rather macabre note, the area around Carnaby Street was used as a mass burial ground for victims of the Great Plague in the 17th century. It was also home to one of the first “pest houses”, built to nurse those who had succumbed to the disease.

2. After the Great Fire of London in 1666, the street was used as a residential building location, starting with Karnaby house in 1683, giving the street its name. Some of these original buildings still exist today.

3. The first boutique on Carnaby Street was “His Clothes”, opened in 1958 by John Stephen, later known as “the King of Carnaby Street”. A plaque in his honour can be found at No. 1 Carnaby Street).

4. If you listen carefully to The Kinks hit, Dedicated Follower of Fashion, you’ll hear a reference to Carnaby Street: “Everywhere the Carnabetian Army marches on, each one a Dedicated Follower of Fashion”.

5. In a Simpsons episode from the eighth season of the show, Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious, Bart and Lisa appear on Carnaby Street wearing Mod fashions.

6. U2’s music video for Even Better Than The Real Thing includes a look-a-like version of the band singing in a Carnaby shop window.

7. Tom Jones once walked down the street with Bond girl Christine Spooner and a live cheetah on a lead, to publicise the opening of a shop called “Tom Cat”.

8. Carnaby Street is perhaps the first street to star in its very own musical. Carnaby Street The Musical tells the story of a band trying to make it big in the rock and roll heyday of the ‘60s, complete with characters named “Jude” and “Penny Lane”.

9. The opening of Lady Jane boutique on Carnaby Street in May 1966 involved live models dressing and undressing in the window of the shop. Henry Moss, the owner of the boutique was arrested and fined £2 for obstructing the highway, due to the large crowd of men who had gathered to watch the spectacle.

10. Carnaby Street is not only a great shopping destination, it’s also a great place for lunch. The famous street is home to several restaurants, cafes and bars specializing in food from all over the world – Hawaiian, Asian fusion, Indian, tapas and even a restaurant specialising in mashed potato! The street also houses speciality tea and chocolate shops and hosts regular food and drink festivals.