A Brief Fashion History Of England Part 3 - The 1970's
At the beginning of the seventies, people were still in hangover mode from the end of the sixties. Many said if you could remember the sixties, you weren't in them, but frankly, I think there would be far more people who'd rather forget what they looked like in the seventies than in the sixties.
In 1970, a strange bespectacled bloke, playing the piano started singing 'Your Song'. He seemed normal enough, but the glasses got more outrageous and the costumes got even more elaborate and Elton John burst onto the scene.
Along with Elton came David Bowie. His androgyny, wild costumes, platform boots and the theatrical makeup was to become a trademark for pretty much every band that followed.
This spilt over into mainstream fashion too, with everyone rushing down to their local shoe repairers to get their shoes and boots 'raised' and I think the hospitals saw more broken, sprained and otherwise damaged ankle during the first five years of the seventies than at any other time in history.
Flaired men's trousers
These were a distinctly different cut to the bell-bottoms, whose flairs curved outwards as they reached the bottom of the leg. These were tight around the crotch and thigh, flairing all the way down in a straight line.
Culminating in massive platforms with even more massive heels, flairs were an absolute menace as they made a joke of going up stairs without tripping over these enormous sail-sized bits of fabric flapping about round your legs.
Yet as the seventies got into full swing - right up until about seventy-seven, flairs just kept getting wider. If you didn't have wide enough flairs, then put in an insert and many a pair of jeans or any other trousers could be seen with different colour inserts down the legs.
Now I don't care what you lot in the states want to say about these, but they were very fashionable during the seventies.
These were usually knitted and were more like a sleeveless pullover/jumper or sweater than today's tank-tops (which we call vests. Confusing isn't it?). They were more often than not garishly patterned, but that was like the subtle way that mainstream fashion kept up with the pop scene, which was much more theatrical than everyday life would ordinarily allow.
The Glam Rock Revolution.
Headed by people like Roxy Music in the gold Lame jackets and skin-tight trousers, Bowie, T-Rex, Sweet, Elton John, Gary Glitter, Mud, Suzy Quattro, Alvin Stardust and many others, Glam rock really made a statement.
Sweet's Teenage Rampage, Ballroom Blitz along with Get It On from Marc and T-Rex were staples, whilst the rest of them just had to take a back seat. Of course, we were also plagued by a certain group of whiter than white toothed boys (and a girl) from the USA who's Crazy Horses single was never really matched.
By about seventy-five, the glams were starting to disappear, but instead, in came the afro, the fedora and more platforms, this time attached to Huggy Bear as the biggest thing on British television took hold - Starsky and Hutch.
Also, disco seemed to be taking over and our weekly music show was full of George McRea, The Tymes and Gloria Gaynor. Little did we know that by 1977, Saturday Night Fever, medallions and open-necked shirts were going to grip our fashion throats.
Heatwave had Boogie nights, men had VERY tight trousers, Mexican moustaches and the women, well...
Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett Majors and Jaclyn Smith marked a change in television viewing and while Tom Bosley's girls were ripping up the place, strange things were happening in London as Malcolm MacLaren and Vivienne Westwood began changing the face of British music and British fashion.
Everyone was shocked, stunned and otherwise outraged by bands like the Sex Pistols, the Stranglers, Sham 69, The Jam (who were really new wave mods, but hey) and others like Siouxie and the Banshees, Polly Styrene of X-Ray Specs and oodles of others.
Their colourful and outlandish appearance made them look intimidating, where the effeminate and androgynous predecessors had not. Safety pins in the ears, brightly coloured Mohican hairstyles, torn jeans, zips where zips shouldn't be and above all, foul language did nothing to endear them to the great British public.
Nevertheless, they marked a return to drainpipe jeans, leather jackets and eased the over-the-top disco merchants out of the way, marking the end of platform shoes and boots, flaired trousers and the open-necked shirts of Medallion Man.
All told, the seventies changed more rapidly than the sixties--at least musically and more people were outward followers of particular music crazes than hitherto.
Only a few would dare to dress in the spangly suits of people like Gary Glitter, David Bowie or Sweet, yet thousands if not millions were happy to wear the jeans,, printed t-shirts, badges and safety pins of the punk era.
It still took until 1982-3 before I got my hair dyed pillar-box red, but that's another story.