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Style Advice

Your guide to ‘70s style

Your guide to ‘70s style

Not all trends are made to last. Some are passing fads, some change with the seasons, and others come around cyclically, meaning you might find yourself investing in them twice, or even three times in your lifetime. One such example of the latter is 1970s style. Undeniably one of the coolest decades, the '70s is one that designers insist on reviving at five- to ten-year intervals. And if that sounded like a groan, think again. 

Each regeneration of ‘70s style brings new opportunities to embrace the diversity of the decade through a modern lens. So you won’t have to rock a pair of cord flares or a wide-collared satin shirt to pull off the look in 2021 (unless you want to, of course). 

First, some backstory

The 1970s made its mark on the world of fashion with a collection of decade-defining style tribes: punks, hippies, disco fanatics, and preppy dressers. And 50 years later, interpretations of these same styles are still going strong, so there’s still a little piece of the decade for everyone to embrace, no matter their style. 

Beyond all the bell-bottom trousers and psychedelic prints, we have a lot to thank this groovy decade for. The ‘70s saw the start of more casual styling, with relaxed suiting, sneakers, and what could even be identified as the beginning stages of the athleisure trend. The devolution of the smart dress code saw more flamboyance in the cuts and colours of ‘70s garb compared to the prim-and-proper, Chelsea-booted Beatles style of the 1960s. In fact, shots of Harrison Ford rocking relaxed suiting in the ‘70s look like they could have been snapped last week.

Essentially, the ‘70s was all about liberating style – everyone just chilled out a bit, and as a result, new aesthetics and styles were born. And now that we find ourselves in a more chilled-out era of dressing than ever before, there’s no better time to nod to the decade when it all started. 

A modern take

If you’re going to embrace any one element of 1970s style, let it be the silhouettes. In 2021, we’re seeing a resurgence in wide legs, big lapels, and chunky boots as we rebel against skin-tight styles of the early 2000s. And while fashion houses like Gucci are interpreting ‘70s trends to an almost costume-like degree, there are a number of brands nailing more accessible interpretations.  

Classic brands, like Levi’s and Carhartt, continue to reference the ‘70s in their collections today. But there is also a new wave of 21st-century brands – think Basic Rights and The Kooples – who are putting their own modern spin on the decade, but still with a reverence for those hallmark ‘70s features. And what features should you be keeping in mind exactly? It’s all about opting for slimmer fits on top, more relaxed fits on the bottom, and going retro-inspired on your feet.

Go slim on top

Translating ‘70s style on your top half is easier than you might expect. When it comes to outerwear, you may already have some ‘70s-inspired jackets in your rotation without realising. Denim trucker jackets, suede jackets, and anything that zips up with a larger lapel will easily work with your retro look.

Underneath, think ringer tees, vintage logos, and baseball-style tops that are slim-fitting without being skinny. The sporty look up top is perfect for balancing out wider bottoms (more on those later) and can be dressed up or down with trainers or boots. For something smarter, a rollneck or long-sleeved polo feels smart while still in line with the casual feel of ‘70s dressing. And when it comes to shirts with wider collars, they should fit slim to your body without stretching or feeling skinny.

Go big on the bottom

All those fashion rule sticklers who tell you that you should go big on top and small on the bottom, or vice versa – but never both? They probably lived in the ‘70s. The decade is all about neat-fitting tops with a wider silhouette on your bottom half, which sounds daunting but is surprisingly easy to pull off. And we're not suggesting you dive straight in with a pair of bell-bottoms, but instead, look to slightly looser trousers that feel more refined and flattering than the skinnier fits you might be used to.

Another icon of casual style that really came into its own in the ‘70s transition is the humble denim jean. It was previously a fabric worn by labourers thanks to its durability, but enter the ‘70s, and suddenly Levi’s boot-cut jeans and denim jackets were all the rage. And fortunately for those of you who’ve been waiting for the skinny jeans trend to end, you’ll be happy to hear boot-cut styles are back. And they look just as fresh today as when style icons like Marvin Gaye were sporting them in the '70s.

Think with your feet

The benefit of cyclical style means brands are able to plunge to the depths of their archives and revive original designs in response to the demand for classic styles. In fact, several big-name footwear brands – think Converse, Adidas, Nike, and New Balance – originally came into their own in the ‘70s, and their designs from that era continue to inspire many designs today (lucky you if you already own a vintage original from the first time around).

One of the best examples of this revival (or continuation) is Converse’s Chuck Taylor 1970s and the classic Nike Cortez, both of which are just as popular today as they were 50 years ago. If you lean a little smarter and leather boots are more your thing, opt for a pair with a slightly Cuban-style heel. You’ll look stylish on or off the disco floor.

Words: Ella White