1970s Mens Fashion: Disco, Punk and the Return of the Classic

As in the previous decade, 1970s mens fashion included diverse styles and trends continued shifting as the decade progressed. One thing was now well-established: fashion for both sexes was very much about the youth, who had an ever-increasing disposable income.

Casual Fashion Evolution Continues & Formal Tightens Up

The ultra-casual hippie look that evolved at the end of the 1960s persisted into the 1970s, but things would soon change, with music trends prominently influencing the new fashions of the decade. Whereas the decade started off with frayed jeans, it ended with a resurgence of classical styles in formal wear for men and the opposite, namely the anarchic punk look.

In the early 1970s, stage outfits of androgynous glam rock musicians like David Bowie and Marc Bolan both influenced and reflected the tastes of the day.

For a while, platform shoes were in vogue for men as well as women. But it was disco that above all defined popular fashions of the decade.

The iconic image of 1970s mens fashion is surely John Travolta in his wide-lapelled, white three-piece suit in 'Saturday Night Fever' (1977). In fact, prior to this date, couturiers like Yves St Laurent and Pierre Cardin had begun to inject new life into formal menswear, though wearing tuxedo was now limited to special occasions.

By the mid-1970s, off-the-peg formal clothing, at affordable prices was already making a comeback. There was still room to make a bold fashion statement, but in general, colors were rather more sober and designs were not quite as self-consciously flashy and flamboyant.

By the late seventies, black and white elegance in formal wear, and more traditional suit styling that had not been seen for three decades, made their appearance once more. In the '70s the business suit could be worn to work but was also just the thing for a night out beneath the strobe lights at the disco.

The vest (or waistcoat) returned to complete the three piece suit. The suit cut was generally snugly fitting, tapering at the waist. Trousers were high-waisted and flared below the knee, widening as the years went by.

On the negative side, this was also the era of the affordable and washable but supremely kitsch polyester suit. This was likely worn with loud polyester or, for evening wear, Lurex, shirt left half-unbuttoned. Chunky chains and medallions completed a look many prefer to forget.

It's no surprise that a counterculture look also emerged in the seventies. Punk fashions were a reaction against the waning hippie look as well as a critique of materialist social values.

Key Influences of 1970s Mens Fashion

As in the 1960s, London designers were pioneers. Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren helped popularize a dishevelled, anarchic style (or anti-style), with leather jackets and customized blazers. They were typically worn with skinny jeans, heavy boots, t-shirts (often ripped) with offensive messages and with legendary accessories like safety pins, razor blades, studs and body piercings.

Style icons of the 70s are a diverse bunch. Inspiration came from the campiness of glam rock, the panache of Travolta, the suave soul singer look and the Sid Vicious rebel image. The seventies may have triumphed in the kitsch stakes, but there certainly was something for almost everyone.

1920s Mens Fashion

1930s Mens Fashion

1940s Mens Fashion

1950s Mens Fashion

1960s Mens Fashion

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