The late 1960s was a time of upheaval, rebellions and spiritual awakening in the United States as people questioned politics, civil rights and gender equality. These tumultuous years of growth for the nation resulted in the ’70s, a decade of freedom of expression and exploration. The fashion of the day reflected the changes taking place across the country.
Attitudes about peace and equality that had seemed radical in the mid-1960s became widely held by the early ’70s, especially among the younger generation. There was a strong sense of wanting peace and an end to the war in Vietnam. Men wore green or camouflage army jackets and pants. The style was a silent protest and reminder of the war. The women’s movement had women burning their bras and wearing whatever they wanted, from miniskirts to men’s suits. The peace-loving vibe resulted in more casual fashions. Men wore polyester leisure suits with open collars and no tie, even to work.
The popular music of the ’70s greatly affected the fashion. The followers of folk and psychedelic rock bands dressed in bell-bottom jeans and casual shirts with bold patterns such as paisley or floral landscapes. Females wore long, flowing cotton dresses known as maxi dresses. Later in the ’70s, the punk music scene inspired its fans to dress in torn clothing, black leather and rebellious and anti-establishment styles. The Mohawk hairstyle was trendy during that time. The advent of disco music in the latter part of the decade created a completely different atmosphere. Disco ladies wore glittery mini dresses and the guys wore tight polyester pants.
Movies and Television
The films and TV shows of the day also had an impact on fashion. The movie “Easy Rider” came out in 1969 and highlighted the self-expression of the time. By the early ’70s, men adopted the film’s styles such as tight pants, long sideburns and hair and biker boots. Actor John Travolta epitomized the disco king in the movie “Saturday Night Fever” and men combed their hair back and wore white disco suits. Women were also inspired by film and television. Actress Diane Keaton appeared in “Annie Hall” and soon women across the nation were wearing baggy pants, men’s ties and hats. Farah Fawcett in “Charlie’s Angels” inspired big, feathered hairstyles for women.
The civil rights movement inspired many African Americans to express themselves and their African roots. Men wore the small, rounded hats that many Africans wore and both men and women dressed in the flowing robes decorated with the bold patterns and colors of Africa. The late ’60s were an age of spiritual enlightenment for many people and religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism were on the rise in America. People wore the garments and fashions of these religions and of the cultures of India and Asia. Men wore collarless Nehru jackets and linen shirts and pants, women wore flowing, colorful caftans.
References and ResourcesFashion Era: 1970s Costume History
Lonestar College Kingwood Library: American Cultural History 1970-1979
The People History: More Than Seventy Years of History of Fashion