1970s fashion was a mixed bag of glam and punk rock, from the post hippie era of the Swinging Sixties to the emergence of New Wave Romantics at the end of the decade.
The 1970s in Britain was a time of change. More families were adopting new technology in their homes that we now consider commonplace household items, such as the colour television, the microwave, and the VHS video recorder. The lifestyle in Britain was closely tied in to music and fashion, in addition to events that helped shape the nation.
Some if these events included a recession, strikes, and an oil crisis. Energy needed to be conserved during the time of inflated oil prices and miners strikes, so the country created a three-day work week. Television was also shut off at 10:30pm every evening to save energy. A rise in unemployment also contributed to the recession.
It was a difficult decade, but it was the perfect time for punk rock music to emerge onto Britain’s music scene. It first gained popularity in London in the early to mid-1970s as a result of the youth culture. With the nation’s economic difficulties came a movement that glorified anarchy and chaos. Bands such as The Clash and Sex Pistols provided anti-establishment lyrics to a generation of angst-ridden youth.
The fashion in 1970s Britain was affected by the punk rock movement. Clothes became a way to make a statement on not caring about society. Ripped jeans and tee-shirts, leather jackets, and studded accessories all helped create a tough image.
Other fashion trends emerged in the 1970s, particularly early in the decade. Glam rock was a big music trend before punk came onto the scene. Artists like David Bowie were as famous for their fashion sense as they were for their music. Sequined clothing and tight shiny fabrics like Lurex were form-fitting and glamorous ways of dressing for a night out at a club.
Feathered hair, vibrant makeup colours, and platform shoes that were at least four inches high completed the glam rock look. Model Bianca Jagger was a glam rock fashion icon in white Yves Saint Laurent suits, platform shoes, and sheer blouses.
The bohemian chic lifestyle and fashions lasted for much of the 1970s in Britain. Bell-bottom pants, suede fabrics, peasant skirts, and loose, flowing blouses were signature items.
Music and fashion have always been influenced by the changes to society. Britain in the 1970s influenced many trends that were seen across the globe. In recent years, many of the trends from 1970s fashion have even been recycled back into today’s clothes.
Life in America in the 1970s was a time of great change and a beginning of what many considered an untraditional existence. Much of the rebellious ideas and ways of thinking carried over from the 1960s and became more mainstream in America. People wanted changes in values, lifestyles, and entertainment.
The 1970s lifestyle became the motivation behind most of the music, entertainment, and fashion of the decade. Men sported longer hair, emulating the style worn by David Cassidy, and wore bellbottom pants, platform shoes and brightly coloured patches of clothing. Leisure suits became the rage for men after John Travolta donned one in the hit movie “Saturday Night Fever.” Women wore just about everything from hot pants to ultra short mini-skirts to angle-length flowing dresses.
The most popular hairstyle for women was mimicked after Farrah Fawcett and was long, flowing and “feathered.” Thanks to the Jackson Five, the afro was immensely popular for both African American men and women. Halston and Diane Von Furstenberg were the premier designers of the 70s. Lava lamps and mood rings were must-haves, and many children (and even adults) were the proud owners of a pet rock!
The musical scene in the 1970s erupted into vast subdivisions. There was disco, soul, southern rock, and soft rock. It was during this time the Beatles broke up and Elvis Presley died. Arena rock became popular with bands like Boston. Bands such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath introduced us to heavy metal music.
Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers gave us our first taste of southern rock. Towards the end of the 70s, New Wave emerged, with bands such as Devo and The Cars. Disco is what most people associate most commonly with the 1970s. Steve Wonder still reigns today as one of the most popular musical artists during the 70s with his soulful R&B.
Families travelled in station wagons and recreational vehicles (RVs) became immensely popular. Many credit the 1970s as the advent of the digital and electronics age. The first home computer was created, and video games soon followed.
As the 1970s saw an increase in divorce rates and promiscuity, the “Family Values” movement emerged setting its sights on mothers who worked, feminists and homosexuals. Those targets were blamed for the corruption of the family unit.
The 1970s was indeed a decade of vast change and influence, with much of its influence still felt today.
Anything goes: that was the way of the 1970s, and it was especially true of the hairstyles of the time. The hairstyles of the day also marked a sudden shift from the overdone hairdos of the 1950s and ‘60s: natural was in, in a big way. No more rolls, pinup hairdos, or sleeping in curlers. Many of the hairstyles of the ‘70s have gone on to influence the hairstyles of today.
The most popular hairstyle of the time was undoubtedly the sleek, straight hair hairstyle you see in many pictures from the ‘70s. The style first came around as an imitation of Ali MacGraw’s hair in the film Love Story. Today, the style is easily achievable with a straightening iron, more commonly known as a flat iron. Of course, they didn’t exist in the ‘70s. So what to do?
Enter the clothing iron. Yes, young women would iron their hair with a clothing iron, inch by inch. It was a two-person job; trying it alone would probably burn your hair and necessitating a haircut.
Speaking of short styles, the shag was also popular in the ‘70s. The most iconic shag haircut of the time was likely Jane Fonda’s, forever immortalized in the film Klute. This style was more edgy, more anti-establishment.
Some styles were seen as edgy at the time but have since faded into history as an embarrassment. The disco wedge cut is a good example of this. Not many people remember it, and some people are even afraid of it. But perhaps the best example of an embarrassing cut is the mullet. No more need be said.
Perhaps due in large part to the Black Power movement, people of African descent were also embracing their hair’s natural texture. The afro was an extremely popular style for black people at the time, as a sort of statement to others that beauty came in all shapes and forms.
Lastly, any article on hairstyles of the 1970s would be remiss in omitting ‘feathered’ hairstyles. Most famously worn by Farrah Fawcett, the feathered look took advantage of the better motors that hairdryers had in the 70s. The look had more volume, body and movement than previous hairstyles.
Sleek. Feathered. Shagged. Even mulleted. Many styles of the ‘70s are still well-known today. Hair of the 1970s was simple, carefree, and natural. And really, who wouldn’t want that?
1970s Fashion – Punk Music
Punk rock is a style of music that represents the hard-edged, aggressive musicians who wanted to separate themselves from the sentimentality of rock music. Sick of the toned-down versions of rock and roll, bands like the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and the Clash set out to make music that was edgy, fast, raw, and stripped down to the bare minimum to provide fans with what they believed the modern rock scene was missing: pure, unadulterated rock.
The origins of punk rock can be traced back to New York’s underground rock movement with the Ramones and the New York Dolls, Radio Birdman from Australia, and the Sex Pistols from the United Kingdom, all of which came to prominence in the mid 1970’s. A prominent figure in the punk scene and guitarist for the Sex Pistols, Steve Jones, claimed that his band was not as much about music as it was about chaos, a trait that came to be associated with the punk rock attitude. Chaos plays a crucial part in the punk scene, urging youths to reject mainstream ideals and embrace rebellion.
Musicians and fans involved in the punk rock style appreciate the concept of do-it-yourself clothing and accessories, and perhaps the most infamous element of the punk “costume” is the safety pin. Credited to Richard Hell, frontman for Richard Hell & The Voidoids, the safety pin played a part in creating the ragamuffin exterior associated with punk rock. Oftentimes, the pins held the ripped fabric of jeans and t-shirts together, a look also credited to Hell.
Punk rock fashions aimed to make bold statements. The typical punk rocker’s wardrobe was not complete without a pair of drainpipe jeans, metal studs, heavy boots, and plenty of black. The genre in general embraces the idea of nonconformity and rebellion, so for women, the idea was to shatter female stereotypes by combining feminine clothing like skirts with leather jackets and biker boots. Absolutely nothing was considered taboo – except the mainstream.
As music styles tend to do, punk rock eventually hit its peak; it topped the charts in the late 1970’s and its heyday was over by the early 1980’s. Nonetheless, the punk ideal lived on and continued to influence bands like Bad Religion and Screeching Weasel, eventually evolving (or at least influencing) the alternative rock genre of the 1980’s and continuing to infuse its free-spirited ideals all the way into the 2010’s.
1970s Fashion – Disco Music
With its roots planted in the 1960s, disco drew much of its inspiration from the related genres of funk and soul. Disco got its beginnings in Europe when deejays and their previously recorded music began replacing live bands, prompting more opportunities for fast-paced tunes characterized by four-on-the-floor beats and hi-hat musical patterns that people could dance to. The genre caught fire quickly and in no time, the flamboyant style of European discotheques reached New York City.
Disco was shaped by names like Tom Moulton, the originator of the modern remix, who took existing songs and put spins on them to create truly unique sounds that later came to be known as disco. Another pioneer in the genre was Francis Grasso, a nightclub deejay who used a number of different record players to create unique mixes with records playing funk, soul, and pop in a fashion that later came to be known as house music.
After its kick-off, disco came to be known as a powerful and influential genre of music in the 1970s, and one of the most notable bands to emerge from the disco era was the Bee Gees. With lead singer Barry Gibb, the Bee Gees wrote some of the most prominent disco songs that came to define the genre, tunes like “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever,” the latter of which was used in the film Saturday Night Fever. KC and the Sunshine Band was another influential disco group, releasing songs like “Get Down Tonight” and “That’s the Way (I Like it),” further defining the genre as something outstanding and truly unique.
With clubs like the infamous Studio 54 reaching prominence in the late 1970s, disco had officially taken over and marked its territory with innovative dances like the Bump, the Penguin, and the Robot, but none of them reached the same level of popularity as the Hustle. Popularized in 1975, the Hustle made its mark in the world of music right along with 1970s disco fashion.
With outrageous and colourful clothing as the norm in discotheques, absolutely nothing was taboo and extravagance was key. Halston dresses were popular choices for women and men sported reflective shirts opened at the chest, often to display medallions and other types of necklaces.
Disco culture faded in the late 1970s, but rave culture quickly took its place, drawing inspiration from their predecessor’s dances, fashions, and undying love for music.
1970s Fashion – Glam Rock
Marc Bolan and T. Rex. David Bowie, Elton John. All of these famous names and more have one thread of commonality: glam rock. Set apart from the other popular music styles of its time by highlighting the use of flamboyant fashions, big hair, and outrageous makeup, the musicians involved in glam rock set out to break the mold, embracing camp, androgyny, and shattering what the world had come to expect from rock and roll.
In the wake of the late 1960’s psychedelic scene came the early 1970’s glam rock, charging its way into public consciousness with a fierceness achieved exclusively with the use of platform boots and copious amounts of glitter. Intended as an extension of the art rock trend, glam rock placed as much focus on the visual aspect of its musicians as the tone and quality of the music itself.
The roots of the genre can be traced back to Marc Bolan, a pioneer of rock and roll who pushed the limits of music trends by performing onstage with his band, T. Rex, in extravagant feather boas, top hats, and glitter sprinkled over his cheeks, but one of the most notable examples of glam rock and the cult followings that resulted comes from Bolan’s friend and artistic rival, David Bowie.
A minor star in the late 1960’s, Bowie reinvented himself and in 1971, he catapulted his way back into the music scene with a new persona: Ziggy Stardust. Accompanied by his band, The Spiders from Mars, Bowie’s inventive new character embodied the glam rock style, sporting red hair, heavy makeup, and incorporating elements of performance art when he took the stage. By becoming Ziggy, Bowie achieved an international superstar status, a status that one can attribute to his wild and memorable use of visuals and performance art unique to glam rock and its later castoffs.
At its core, glam rock is about three things: the look, the look, and the look. A glam rocker will never step out of the house without looking his (or her) absolute best. Eyeliner is a must and any article of clothing with faux leopard print is acceptable. Language is equally important. Anyone can achieve a glam rock look with enough leather and glitter, but a true glam rocker is well-read, articulate and can quote Oscar Wilde from memory. Wilde himself said it best: The man who can dominate a London dinner-table can dominate the world.
1970s Cars and Automobiles
With environmentalism taking flight and the oil crisis hovering morbidly in public consciousness, the demand for cars in the 1970s was low. The price of fuel and insurance rates skyrocketed, the public showed major concern over the emissions caused by public and private transport vehicles, and in the wake of the oil crisis, the idea for auto-makers was to produce smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles with high performance value.
The 1970s saw the creation of American-made vehicles like the AMC Pacer, infamous for its “jellybean” shape, and the second generation of the Pontiac Firebird, both of which have become synonymous with the decade. Coupes were especially popular at that time. Nonetheless, sales were down and American Motors agreed to a partnership with the French company Renault to keep from going under.
Car designs in Europe went through an overhaul as well, producing vehicles like the Volkswagen Golf, a smaller family vehicle to accommodate the decade’s need for fuel-efficiency. At that time, Ford Europe completely overtook its American parent company, but no auto company could overtake Japan.
While other countries suffered through the effects of the oil crisis and the mounting environmental issues, the auto industry in Japan was on the rise. Japanese vehicles were, by design, not only affordable due in part to robotic manufacturing but also fuel-efficient, which was exactly what consumers needed.
In that decade, the world saw the release of the the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic, the latter of which saw outstanding success because of its innovative fuel-efficient design. Mazda also shifted some of its focus to smaller vehicles, coming out with the Mazda RX-7 in 1978. Subaru, another Japanese automaker, became famous for using the boxer engine in most of their cars.
With environmental issues fresh in public consciousness, the idea for automakers in the 1970s was to make a smaller vehicle that could perform as well as a larger one without compromising on the values imposed by environmentalism.
Muscle cars and flashy convertibles began to fade from the public eye when consumers turned to more practical vehicles, concerned about harmful vehicular emissions and determined to do their part by selecting more practical automobiles that fit their budget and helped the environment.
1970s Homes & Interiors
To hear people tell it, the home décor popular in the 1970s was situated somewhere between ‘neon nightmare’ and ‘art major’s wet dream.’ When you have a book released titled Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes from the Horrible ’70s, some would feel that pretty much says it all. So just what was popular then that people seem to scorn now?
First thing to know: nothing ever matched. Young people in the ‘70s making their own homes turned away from what they saw as the stuffiness and order of the homes of their parents. There seemed to be a deliberate attempt to make everything into as much of an eyesore as possible.
Bright colours were all the rage in the 1970s, a small holdover from the 1960s. However, while the ‘60s had these colours arranged in psychedelic patterns, the 70s were all about the bright colours themselves, without use of patterns. Metallic wallpapers in incandescent and muted colours were also popular.
And who can forget the particular shade of avocado green which could be seen particular everywhere in the ‘70s? Moreover, colour clashing (remember, nothing matched) was common: only I n the ‘70s would you see bright orange, pale pink, and beige in the same room.
Who can forget shag carpeting? While shag today is merely slightly fluffy and comfortable, the shag of the ‘70s was so shaggy and deep you could probably lose sight of your ankles when you stepped in it. The most popular colours of shag carpeting at the time were various shades of white.
If you didn’t have shag carpeting in the 70s, you probably had parquet hardwood floors. Basically, your floorboards were arranged in a sort of geometric mosaic in a decorative effect. Some cynics would say the parquetry was used to distract from the colour clashing.
Our last subject should probably be the lighting that was popular in the ‘70s. Dimmer switches and low wattage lighting were extremely popular, thanks to low key lighting being seen as “mood lighting.” Fibre optics also burst into popularity. It was incredibly common to see lamps shaped like streetlamps in someone’s home. Another popular lamp was the Panthella lamp, which had a mushroom-shaped shade and a base like a stem.
1970s décor is not looked back on fondly. Colours clashed, the décor was oddly shaped, and nothing matched. Fun to look at, and maybe cringe a little, yes?
1970s TV Shows
The 1970s were years filled with entertainment found in a variety of media throughout the UK. The advancement of television was in full force and its popularity was reaching a peak. This article will focus on a few of the more popular and entertaining TV shows of the 1970s.
Eurovision Song Contest
While this television show neither originated nor terminated in the 1970s, it was nonetheless one of the more popular television shows of the decade. The contest is held annually and includes all nations belonging to the European Broadcasting Union. Each nation provides a song and upon conclusion of the competition, votes are cast. Throughout the 1970s, the competition directed popular culture, lifestyle, clothing, and fashion.
This comedic television show starred Alfred Hawthorne Hill, an English actor and comedian. Previously aired on the BBC, the show was moved to Thames Television throughout much of the 1970s. Benny Hill was a popular variety show which influenced many individuals in the 1970s.
The Miss World beauty pageant is one of the longest running international beauty contests that has ever been held. The competition originated in 1951 by Eric Morley of the United Kingdom and grew tremendously in popularity throughout the 1970s. The pageant was important in influencing fashion and music in the 1970s.
Bless This House
A British sitcom which aired in the early 1970s on ITV starred Sid James and Diana Coupland. Bless This House cantered around Sid Abbott, his wife Jean, and their teenage children Mike and Sally. The comedy also included neighbours and friends of the family. Many members of the show’s audience found it easy to relate to the humorous dealings that the family encountered. Bless This House played an important role in the pop culture of the 1970s.
Love Thy Neighbour
Another popular UK sitcom which aired from 1972 to 1976 is Love Thy Neighbour. The comedy was produced by Thames Television and subsequently broadcast by ITV.
The show focused on a white, suburban, middle-class family and their Caribbean neighbours. The sitcom followed the relationships between the two families and their attempts to live in harmony with one another. It was also during this decade that Britain was struggling to accept much of the recently immigrated black community. The comedic show was important in helping many individuals accept the new culture in the 1970s.
1970s Cinema & Films
Many view the 1970s as a creative high point in cinema. Prior to this time, Hollywood was experiencing a financial and creative slump. With the films of the 1970s, the film industry experienced a creative boom that drew audiences in.
Some of the most successful films were on the harsh truths of war, perhaps due to growing disillusionment with the Vietnam War. Films such as Patton and M*A*S*H offered an honest look at war and were huge successes.
Some popular films in the ‘70s were praised for their honest views of love, life, and growing up. In particular, the films Love Story and Summer of ’42 were praised for their honesty, as well as their slow, old-fashioned feel. Both films went on to be some of the most financially successful films in Hollywood history.
The’ 70s was also a successful decade for the well-known James Bond franchise. The decade saw Sean Connery’s final entry in the franchise with Diamonds are Forever in 1971 before the Bond role was handed over to Roger Moore. Live and Let Die was Moore’s most successful Bond film when it came to admission, while Moonraker in 1979 was the most financially successful Bond film for almost 20 years.
Most disaster films owe a debt of gratitude to Airplane, a disaster film with a complex plot and developed characters, and which was a financial and critical success. A boom followed in the disaster genre, not only from the film’s sequels but from other films such as The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, and The Towering Inferno.
The Godfather was released in 1972, and the second part of the trilogy followed in 1974. The depiction of violence and Mafia life in the films drew audiences and would later influence many films in the gangster genre.
The 1970s introduced us to a future director of one of the popular film franchises to date: George Lucas. Three of his most famous films were released in the 1970s: THX 1138, American Graffiti, and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (then simply known as Star Wars). The beginning of the Star Wars franchise remains a popular sci-fi film today.
No article can truly encompass the scope of popular films of the 1970s. Many genres received a boom, many franchises achieved success, and many directors hit their stride. No wonder films of the ‘70s are remembered so fondly!