Why the 70s Came Back into Fashion: A Theory

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No matter what the fashion magazines tell you; a trend isn’t a trend until the people say it is. If no one adopts fashion’s themes into their wardrobes, it’s of little significance.

One trend which undoubtedly swept the catwalks, the blogs and the streets last year was 70s style. The maxi lengths, the suede skirts, the colourful faux fur; we couldn’t get enough of it. So what made this trend take off over any other?

More than just a revival of clothes, it’s a revival of values.

Firstly, our awareness of environmental issues and the value of non-material pleasures. While it’s ironic that people invested in one of the most environmentally-damaging industries in the world to channel the hippie mentality of the 70s, the look symbolises a different outlook on life. Long, flowing hair and hemlines says to the world ‘I am bohemian, I am a free spirit, I stand for peace and love not capitalism and consumption.’

It’s a thought that resonates strongly with the current generation of shoppers. Following the hedonism of the logo-heavy 90s and 00s came a global recession which meant the previous desire for ‘more, more, more’ became distasteful to those hit by austerity. Similarly, the scepticism about global warming of the previous decades was widely smashed by Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ in 2006 and the next generation grew up not debating the evidence for it, but debating how every individual could do their bit to help.

Social media has provided a strong place for debate on politics and race and gender equality and the ability to download music from any decade means that for the first time ever, old albums outsell new albums, and as a result, young people are relating more than ever to their parent’s generation.

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Grace Jones photographed by John Carmen

It wasn’t just the hippie look of the 70s that has made a resurgence though; from disco to Dolly Parton, whatever your favourite look of the era, it was back in fashion in 2015.

I believe this is because the 70s was the first era in the 20th century when individual style became more important than conforming to trends and tribes.

Pre-1960s, fashion was about ‘fitting in’ and conforming and young people were expected to dress the same as their parents. Then along came ‘youthquake’, the rock ‘n’ roll rebellion of the swinging 60s and along with it; short skirts, hot pants, kinky boots and other fresh styles that gave teenagers their own sense of identity. Fashion became more affordable with high street ready-to-wear brands like Biba taking the youth market by storm.

The style revolution was part of a wider social revolution; the invention of the pill, significant growth in mass media and a relaxation in censorship. Abortion was legalized in 1967, as was homosexuality, and a ground-breaking law in 1969 meant couples could divorce more easily. No doubt about it, the 70s would not have been what they were, without these landmarks in the 60s.

For the first time, many people were free to be who they wanted to be – at least in more liberal corners of society. While it would still take decades for the stigma of being gay or a sexually liberated woman to quell for the everyday person, public figures such as David Bowie, Grace Jones, James Brown, Sid Vicious, Stevie Nicks and Bianca and Mick Jagger made being extrovert, original and creative, the height of cool.

It wasn’t about ‘belonging’ it was about being yourself. Finally.

So how does this relate to today’s style conscious? Well, our social revolution has been technology and the information age.

When consumers see the new season collections six months before they arrive in stores, when their Instagram feeds are full of outfit inspiration from friends and stylish people around the world or they’re trying to make their own original blogs and social media profiles, trends don’t come from the stores anymore. It’s become harder and harder for trend agencies to predict the looks that will be a hit with shoppers because now, more than ever, they’re starting on the streets and influencing the brands.

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SS15 catwalk images: The Trend Spotter.

We’re bombarded with images and nothing is shocking or new anymore. It’s also a sign that we’re not alone. While the idea of being truly individual sounds great, our human nature for pack survival means we look to ‘fit in’; as much as the more intellectual side of our brain might tell us we like to stand out. While the misfits of the 70s had to wait for an icon like Bowie to give them the courage to be true to themselves, today’s generation can find it online.

They may not ‘fit in’ with those in their immediate surrounding but they can seek solace in connecting with those they identify with online, disrupting the traditional ‘trend’ model.

This spirit of disruption did not go unnoticed by designers; the perfect time to start a 70s revival.

The recent death of David Bowie has brought this message of self-expression home to many of us even more. Though the 70s micro trend in fashion is coming to an end in the fashion world, the anti-trend trend for individual style looks set to be with us for some time to come.

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