HER SWINGIN' '60s CREDENTIALS: All legs and arms, lanky Jean was one of the most famous and influential models of the '60s, a swingin' rival to Swingin' Chicks Twiggy and Veruschka for global fashion supremacy.
CATEGORIES OF SWINGIN' CHICK: Model and Movie Star
BIRTH: Jean was born in 1942, so she was eighteen-28 through the decade. Her exotic birthplace: High Wycombe, England, some 25 miles west of London.
IMPACT ON THE '60s: Jean was one-third of the internationally famous triumvirate of Twiggy, Veruschka, and Shrimpton -- is that a law firm? -- and she was famous before the other two. She captured global attention as the original face of Yardley cosmetics, with whom she had a three-year contract in the mid-'60s and for whom she did several major publicity tours. She appeared on countless fashion magazine covers, made the cover of Newsweek on May 10th of '65, was written up in Esquire, Ladies Home Journal, McCalls, and Good Housekeeping. Elle dubbed her "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," and Glamour named her Model of the Year in '63. Some consider her the first true "supermodel" because she had her own mannequin before Twiggy did, and her ups and downs were followed in the press, especially her engagement to swingin' photog David Bailey and her subsequent affair with Bailey's pal, actor Terence Stamp. When we appeared on the A&E "Top Ten" show about great fashion models, the other models on that show, including Twiggy, said that Jean was the one they all looked up to. Her greatest contribution to fashion may have been as one of the "creators" of the miniskirt. She caused a world-wide scandal when she wore a miniskirt, no stockings, no gloves and no hat to the opening day of the Melbourne Gold Cup in Australia on November 2, 1965. Jean had been contracted to appear in dresses made out of the synthetic material Orlon, and she'd had some Orlon mini dresses sent to her. Though they showed up a bit shorter than normal, she didn’t worry because dresses in the U.K. were starting to come up. Australia had never seen anything like the mini, and as Jean wrote later, "The day of the races was a hot one, so I didn’t bother to wear any stockings. My legs were still brown from the summer, and as the dress was short it was hardly formal. I had no hat or gloves with me, for the very good reason that I owned neither. I went downstairs cheerfully from my hotel room, all regardless of what was to come." Apparently, the organizers of the event were waiting for her and were scandalized about her lack of proper attire, because when she arrived at the races, both the men and women were pointing and staring -- the men for obvious reasons and the women because of her fashion gaffe. Jean ended up being on front pages worldwide because of her "scandalous" attire. Later in her bio she wrote that upon her return Mary Quant rode on her coattails to create shorter dresses, which if true would make Jean one of the progenitors of the miniskirt.
CAREER IN THE '60s: Jean's career began in 1960 when she started at Lucie Clayton’s Modeling School, she then appeared on Vogue for the first time in April of '62. She reached her peak as a fashion goddess in the mid-'60s when she signed a deal with Yardley to advertise their Londonderry hair products on TV and in magazines, and she continued all decade, though her significance was gradually dwindling by the end. At the height of her fame, in '65 she wrote a book, My Own Story - The Truth About Modeling. She did get a role in one movie, the little-seen costume drama Privilege in '67.
CAREER OUTSIDE THE '60s: Before she embarked on her modeling career, her goal in the late-'50s was to become a secretary. After the '60s, her modeling career continued until about '72, at which time she quit until, at the insistence of photographer David Bailey, she did hair-color ads for a few years starting in the late '80s. It's hard to believe that her looks may have faded somewhat over the years, but when Terence Stamp saw her on the street in London over twenty years later he passed by without saying hello "because she looked so awful and she used to be so lovely." Mainly she has focused on business opportunities after stardom passed, first running an antiques shop and currently owning and operating the 300-year-old Abbey Hotel in Penzance, England. According to a People magazine article on her in August '99, she told David Bailey "it is nice to be at the end of the world".
TALENT: As a model she was wonderful, as were Twig and Verush, but none of them major on-screen successes. As an actress, Jean's one movie, Privilege was a box-office bust and failed to accelerate her career, stamping her with a rep as a "wooden" actress. Her consort Terence Stamp made the comment that "Jean trying to act is rather like me trying to perform complicated brain surgery" (though she always looked ravishing, of course).
HER '60s LOOK: She had a unique blend of classic beauty with distinctive features, though she herself thought she suffered from a fat face, a weak left profile, small eyes, big feet and bags under her eyes -- "if you take off the makeup, I’m ugly," she once said. According to a piece he wrote for Vogue in November '99, here's what David Bailey thought the first time he saw her: "I was up in the Vogue studios, which lots of photographers used, and I saw this girl being photographed for some print ad campaign. I just thought she was wonderful, absolutely compelling. It was Jean Shrimpton .... I don't think there had been anything like Jean, she was a kind of beauty of the century in a democratic way. She appealed to men, women, everybody ... one of the things I loved about Jean was that she took modeling with a bit of dignity. Honestly, I don't think she really cared if she did it or not .... with Jean you never had to reshoot anything, ever, she was always in perfect sync with the camera. It's funny, though, in terms of personal style, Jean didn't have any, she just dressed in any old rags, most of the time she looked like a bag lady." Though she looked like the classic stick-girl a la Veruschka and Twiggy, Jean's figure was a more robust 34-23-35, and she weighed in at 120 pounds, standing 5' 9."
LIFESTYLE: Her two major relationships during the 60’s were with photog David Bailey and actor Terence Stamp. When she first met Bailey she said "We were instantly attracted to each other." They ended up working together pretty exclusively from '61-'64 and at one point were engaged; however, supposedly Jean broke it off when she found herself becoming increasingly attracted to Terence Stamp, one of Bailey’s mates. Bailey went on to marry Catherine Deneuve. To this day, Jean and Bailey are good friends and are mutually indebted to each other. She said of him at the time "I owe everything that I am as a model to David Bailey." Meanwhile, Stamp, who was in the films Wall Street, Superman II, and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, was someone to whom she was attracted "because he was so good-looking." Later in her relationship with him she talked with Julie Christie about how his looks were almost intimidating and how it made it hard to be with him "because he is so beautiful." They had an intense affair from '64 through '66; interestingly, she says that throughout their relationship he was somewhat cold and distant and that for a lot of their relationship she was "besotted with him," but eventually she got to the point where she didn’t care whether she saw him or not. Here's what she says in her 1990 autobiography:
"Terry and I were really only happy together when we were abroad and on holiday. In London, my life with him was empty. I was bored, and we must have been exceedingly boring to others. I found life trivial then, and looking back I do not understand why I stuck with it. We were so vain that we continued to dress ourselves up and go out to be looked at. Terry always looked amazing, and I had to look good to match, I was so insecure that I was always fiddling in the bathroom or running to the ladies to check my appearance. It was pathetic. Here I was, at the height of my fame, behaving like this. I was just an accessory to this beautiful star, and it was his beauty that I was in love with and that kept me with him -- not the man himself. I was under a spell, but had no energy to break it. In his autobiography Double Feature, Terry stresses constantly how much in love with me he was. I find that hard to believe. Perhaps it was true, but since he never communicated with me, how could I have known."
In his autobiography, Stamp says his "feelings were intensified, having tasted the loneliness of life without her. Grounded as I was in insecurity, I hoped I could, by some superhuman strength, pull it all together, and start anew, but somewhere deep in me, I knew I’d blown it. The oneness I’d experienced with her began surely and inexplicably to evaporate. As her independence emerged, so did the sense of alienation I feared so. The fear deepened the alienation. A vicious circle. Unable to contemplate life without her, I pushed her away."
Jean married a photographer named Michael Cox on January 12, 1979, and they have one son, Thaddeus, born in '79.
EXTRAS: Her nickname: "the Shrimp," a name she disliked ... her younger sister is Chrissie Shrimpton, herself an actress/model who was also a prominent girlfriend of Mick Jagger in the early '60s before Marianne Faithfull swept him off his feet ... Chrissie was supposedly the subject of Mick's "19th Nervous Breakdown" and "Under My Thumb" ... there's no evidence that Jean is related to Kerry Shrimpton, an actress who appeared in 1990's Strictly Ballroom ... in '65 Jean was paid the then-extravagant sum of $60 an hour ... also in '65 a Washington, D.C. department store held a Jean Shrimpton lookalike contest sponsored by Yardley -- 160 contestants entered ... in a '67 Vogue magazine article called "The Changing Face of the Fashion Model," legendary photographer Cecil Beaton wrote:
[The] "most coveted" [model of the mid-'60s was] "Jean Shrimpton who, with her Pekinese features, could well have been tied up in ribbons, placed on a swing and told to sing 'Swing High, Swing Low' from Veronique. Miss Shrimpton's appeal is not so much in her baby-boy eyes, cleft underlip and cozy round cheeks but in the length of her extremities, and the underwater manner in which she wields them. But it was bright-eyed [young photographer David] Bailey who realized that by wearing Levis and jackboots, and clothes that militate against her sweet-briar appearance, 'the Shrimp' can belong to the contemporary scene."
... colleagues say that she was always on time, never had to be reminded of anything, never showed any temper or threw tantrums, seemed immune to fatigue, and was impulsively generous throughout her career ... she was once the victim of an attempted kidnapping, and an admirer once sent her diamonds in her bowl of rice ... she rarely makes big public appearances, though she did some interviews after her 1990 book -- Jean Shrimpton, An Autobiography -- was published ... the Maysles Brothers -- of Gimme Shelter fame -- did a documentary about her entitled The Face on The Cover ... she's also mentioned in a 1985 song by the Smithereens, "Behind the Wall of Sleep": the first line is "She had hair like Jeanie Shrimpton back in 1965," this fact was contributed to us by JS fan JC ... supposedly in her private life she doesn't like to dress up and in fact she says she existed throughout her whole career owning only one evening dress, usually she wore skirts she knitted herself, plus kneesocks, jeans, Mary-Janes, and old sweaters or one of five dresses that she owned ... said Jean, "I can’t bear being dressed up" ... she's quoted in People in August '99 as saying "it was great fun becoming famous, but I got tired of it."