Cinema hasn’t been kind to the 1970s. Whether it’s David O. Russell’s American Hustle, with its tight perms and tighter flares, or John Travolta peacocking in Saturday Night Fever, poured into polyester his hips seem at serious risk of igniting. But these images belie a decade that’s undeservingly endured accusations of sartorial amnesia.
Because as brands from Coach to Tom Ford proved, the 1970s was an age of experimentation in fabric and fit, where radical shifts in silhouette and the rise of man-made fabrics produced clothes that it’s taken four decades to fully appreciate.
But before you pillage your dad’s wardrobe for his Friday night flares, know that taking cues from Tony Manero isn’t about playing dress-up. To bring the 1970s look into the 21st century you need to strike a pose between loose and fitted, shimmer and matte, to craft looks that work as well on the street as under the glitter ball.
Don’t… Dress Like A Midnight Cowboy
Denim is a 1970s staple, but you need to switch up your fit. “Straight-leg cuts don’t work with this trend,” says ASOS menswear stylist Benjamin van den Broek.
“Nor does blue denim.” Leave your selvedge in the 1960s and embrace a more outré aesthetic.
Do… Loosen Up
It seems impossible, but flares are back. Note: flares. Not bell bottoms or bootcuts.
Think looser in the thigh with a subtle taper below the knee, so they break on your shoe, rather than dragging through puddles.
Don’t… Get Too Relaxed
The era of super-skinny everything is over, but that doesn’t mean you should let everything hang out.
Proportion is all, says ASOS menswear buyer Maria Cassidy, so couple loose-fitting trousers with snug tees, or go breezy up top and slim-fit below the belt.
Do… Get Busy
If you’d normally reach for block colours, take a counterculture cue and reach for floral or paisley prints.
They’re best suited to relaxed overhead shirts, which lend your look a louche, Jim Morrison vibe. “Wear with ripped, skinny black jeans for a 1970s-meets-rock ‘n’ roll vibe,” says Cassidy.
Don’t… Embrace The Rainbow
Avoid getting too carried away with hues – especially if they’re a smorgasbord of orange and brown. “Pattern clashing is great, but avoid too many colours,” says Benjamin.
Do… Perfect The Art Of Monochrome
Stripping colour gives you more leeway to experiment with pattern (key rule: clash sizes, so small prints rub against bigger ones).
“Layer a monochrome printed shirt over a low-key, patterned vest,” says Benjamin. Simple patterns like micro-dots and stripes beat Aztec detailing.
Don’t… Overcomplicate Things
“Less is more,” says Cassidy. The 1970s was a decade heavy on statement, but that doesn’t mean you need to pile on outlandish pieces.
Flares, a sienna tank top and broad-collar shirt makes you look like an extra from That ’70s Show.
Do… Pick A Hero Piece – And Wear It To Death
Suede and suedette jackets are huge for the season and an easy way into the 1970s look.
Cassidy suggests keeping it “clean and simple and let your jacket do the talking. Camels and tans are the key colours this winter.”
TOM FORD SS16
Don’t… Double Down
Rock too much of one fabric – whether it’s denim or suede – and you end up looking like a book of fabric samples.
If you’re wearing a suede jacket, then suede shoes – especially in the same shade – look too uniform.
Do… Contrast (Subtly)
Chelsea boots in black or dark brown leather will lend your look a point of difference, accentuating each element.
But if the materials contrast, make sure the colours are closer. “Always pair them with black or dark trousers,” says Cassidy.