The return of 70s fashion for men

In retrospect, the 1970s were an embarrassing time for men’s style. If you haven’t done so lately, take a few hours this weekend to watch a young John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. It’s a great film. And seeing Travolta emerge as a full-blown star is fun to see. But I dare you to watch the movie and not wince at what the guys are wearing.

It’s safe to say that the staples of 70s disco wear – platform shoes,  polyester Nik Nik shirts, feathered hairdos, vests without shirts, pimp hats, et al – have not aged well. Nor were the absurdities of 70s fashion limited to the dance floor. Some men actually wore leisure suits to the office. Teenagers and young adults wore bell bottom jeans everywhere. And seemingly, no guy ever buttoned his shirt or shaved his chest hair. 

70s fashion suits
70s fashion men in suits

So when it’s time for you to get ready for your week, and fashion influencers say that 70s fashion is back for men, you have two options:

  • Stay home until the trend passes. It can’t last more than a year or two

  • Carefully peruse the 70s apparel pieces that are back in style and choose only those that are suitable for someone who is not Sly Stone or David Cassidy 

Wardrobe staples of the 70s to wear today

“I would not imagine that bell bottoms are coming back. And I don’t think they need to,” jokes Scott Shapiro, a stylist with Taelor. “But I do think some interesting bits and pieces of 70s fashion are coming back.”

In particular, Scott sees a return of 70s color palettes and silhouettes.

“The color palettes … a lot of those browns and cardinals and burnt orange sort of things that feel very 70s, those are coming back. If you look at the more high-end luxury brands, you’ll see a lot of that,” Scott says.

“We’re also seeing a lot more of those wider collars from the 70s, especially on polos. Short sleeves and wide collars like on camp shirts,” he says. 

Joanna Medieros, another Taelor stylist, also thinks that bell bottom pants won’t become stylish again for men. “I don’t think guys today are going to wear them,” she says. Similarly, the extremely tight polyester pants of the 70s are likely to remain the past. 

But some 70s styles are returning, she says. “Short shorts,” Joanna says. “Those are coming back.” So too are fun floral prints (although not on shirts of polyester.)

70s styles that are now fashion staples

As silly as much of 1970s fashion looks in retrospect, there were a few pieces of apparel from that era that have become menswear staples.

That’s most apparent in footwear. Chukka boots are everywhere today. Their popularity can be traced to the craze around desert boots in the 1970s. (All desert boots are chukka boots; all chukka boots are not desert boots. Desert boots are generally made of suede and have crepe soles.) And as 70s fashion grows popular again, desert boots are suddenly everywhere.

Chukka Boots
Chukka Boots: Image by Bruno Marc

Similarly, corduroy has been around for centuries, first appearing in ancient Egypt. It’s now most closely associated with the 1970s, but it returns from time to time in a variety of menswear pieces. Today you’re likely to encounter it in shirts, jackets and pants. 

But a word of warning: in the 70s it was sometimes fashionable to wear multiple pieces in the same material. It was not uncommon to see a man in corduroy pants with a matching corduroy jacket. You don’t want to do that today.

In fact, the most stylish way to wear 70s fashion today is to take a single piece from the 70s and match it with a more modern piece. A corduroy jacket with a pair of chinos, for example. Or desert boots with modern jeans. 

“Mix and match,” Joanna says, “and find a way to include the 70s rather than dressing like it is the 70s.”

Vibe into 70s with Taelor

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