1 of 24
Summertime in pretty much any city is a different experience than any other season, but summer in New York is another world. Many of the people who can afford to escape from Gotham in July and August usually do so, and even if their numbers are relatively small among the city’s eight million souls, the extra elbow room that their absence provides the rest of us on the streets, at the museums and in the parks, bars and restaurants lends the metropolis a far less frenetic vibe.
It’s not that the city’s unique energy vanishes; instead, it’s directed toward the pursuit of leisure — street fairs, picnics and plays in the parks, free concerts, people-watching — rather than New Yorkers’ customary quests for money, power, fame, an apartment with two bathrooms. . . .
In the summer, despite baking in the sweltering heat, encountering undefinable and often jarring aromas around every street corner and dealing with the constant prospect of citywide blackouts, New Yorkers give themselves license to slow down. To cease striving. To breathe.
In August 1969, meanwhile, LIFE magazine was busy celebrating not the season itself, but the eye-popping fashions that the “young people” — which, judging by these pictures, meant anyone under the age of 40 — were sporting during the summer months. In a cover story shot by photographer Vernon Merritt III, LIFE lauded “That New York Look” with an almost poetic zeal:
Here, in recognition of the singular look and feel of that long-ago New York summer, LIFE.com presents a number of the photographs that ran in the “New York Look” article, as well as some other, atmospheric shots that did not run in LIFE. Take a look — and then go ahead. Get outside. Take a stroll. Flirt. It’s summer, after all.