Nostalgia is a funny thing, it looks back on most decades adoringly, picking out timeless trends and reaffirming just how utterly crap our current setup is. Apart from the 1970s, that is, which is typically remembered with cringing, shuddering disgust.
Truth be told, the charge sheet is epic: flares, male perms, chest hair that looked like carpet, carpet that looked like chest hair – by all accounts it was a monstrous orgy of bad taste.
The after-effects of 1970s style had all the symptoms of a particularly savage hangover. First regret, then shame, followed by the most insincere phrase in the English language: “never again”.
This season, however, the decade style forgot is getting a long-overdue crack at redemption.
The Rebirth Of 1970s Style
Responsibility for the 1970s revival can be laid at the door of minimalism, which has become the sartorial equivalent of health and safety gone mad. Sure, it’s comforting knowing that it’s virtually impossible to end up looking like an utter tool, but to borrow the ultimate meaningless reality TV catchphrase, “You’ve got to take risks in life etc., etc.”
Menswear designers have cottoned on to this collective fatigue and served up a big, unapologetic slice of the seventies this season. At Hermes everything from trousers to trench coats came crafted from cord while Prada’s orange, brown and mustard colour palette could have come straight from your nan’s old kitchen wallpaper.
Shy and retiring the 1970s is not, but for those sick of ‘clean lines’ and ‘neutral palettes’, it’s a welcome return to menswear that isn’t on a self-imposed fun ban. Even better, all of the crap has been cut out, so all that’s left is a bunch of wearable highlights. We’ve sifted through the tat to bring you the key 1970s trends to rock this year. The rest you can leave to Tom Jones.
If there’s a fabric more inherently seventies than corduroy, we’re yet to hear of it. “Plush, feel-good fabrics such as corduroy are having a resurgence this winter and can be worn as a statement in suit form or through casual separates,” says Mr Porter style director Olie Arnold. So, not only is this season’s corduroy as bold or discreet as you like, it’ll make you want to touch yourself too.
Corduroy trousers in darker shades are a solid starting point for those who are feeling 1970s shy. “If you’re wanting to wear corduroy in a less obvious way, a pair of comfortable cord trousers can replace jeans or chinos,” continues Arnold. Narrow wales (the proper name for those vertical cords) will always be more subtle than thicker styles, too. Add your usual sweatshirt, shirt or T-shirt and you’re good to go.
Tailoring crafted from corduroy, however, needs a bit more attention to stop your inner Austin Powers making a break for it. “Be sure to accompany the suit with a more relaxed underpinning such as a grandad collar shirt or roll neck,” Arnold says. Think Butch Cassidy, not retired geography teacher.
In what must surely be this year’s most unexpected turn of events (at least in menswear, the world is still pretty batshit) the patterned jumpers you begged your mum not to make you wear on school picture day have become hot property.
It’s all about taking that nostalgic feeling of classic knitwear and giving it a modern reworking and much better fit. “There is a homespun, vintage feeling coming through in men’s knitwear that’s led by Prada. It showcased a variety of 1970s-inspired, thick- and fine-gauge intarsia knitwear in multicoloured geometric prints,” says Damien Paul, head of menswear at MatchesFashion.
If you want to commit to the 1970s vibe, Paul recommends going all in: “Stick to the theme and team these pieces with corduroy trousers, crisp shirting and brogues to achieve a modern take on a retro look.” Keep the palette coordinated and your pattern should not make people think they’ve taken LSD.
Sorry mum, we were wrong all along.
In their heyday 1970s-style silk shirts may have sent unwanted sightings of torso shag piles skyrocketing, but the modern man is critically lighter on the ol’ chest pubes. Now, without getting too Boogie Nights about it, the menswear world’s having another crack at this clavicle flashing style.
Reiss head of menswear design Alex Field explains the appeal: “Dressing up and standing out are becoming cool again. So a silk bold print shirt can be worn paired with slim-fitting trousers with little chance of channelling Tom Selleck.”
It should go without saying: if you’re wearing bold prints, let them speak for themselves. That means black trousers are you best friend, along with dark coats and jackets. You can afford to go a bit Harry Styles with your footwear though – think brown, tan or sand suede Chelsea boots.
Strictly speaking velvet didn’t just enjoy a good run in the 1970s, it managed to muscle its way well into the 1980s, too. Since then though, most men would draw the line at a black velvet blazer, worn only when a work party absolutely called for it.
Tony Cook, menswear editor at luxury fashion e-tailer Farfetch, reckons today, velvet can go even further: “Wearing velvet has classically given guys that extra edge on formalwear, but this season there’s no need for a black tie dress code for it to feel appropriate. Designer Haider Ackerman nails a 1970s-inspired look, reworking the lush fabric into contemporary off-duty staples such as hoodies.”
If you can’t be tempted into unfamiliar velvet territory (it’s not for everyone) a formal velvet blazer is still a good way to stand out at party season. More adventurous guys should still wear their velvet up top, but branch out from the blazer. Velvet T-shirts and bombers are the safest options as they won’t cause trouble when paired with your usual off-duty staples.
This one’s not brand new. The roll neck has been edging back into the mainstream in recent seasons and now that we’ve all had enough time to get to grips with the basic premise – they’re a more refined way to keep warm than slinging a scarf on – it’s the ideal time to up the ante with 1970s styling.
“As far as I’m concerned the 1970s never went out of style; roll necks have been a staple of my wardrobe for years,” says male model and influencer Richard Biedul. “A fine- to medium-gauge roll neck works well as a contrast to a heavily patterned/textured suit, or if you’re off-duty try wearing with some high-waisted trousers to fully commit to the 1970s look.”
Chunky roll necks are as seventies as they come, and again they work best when layered. A cream chunky cable knit roll neck worn beneath a shaggy tan shearling coat is perhaps the finest example of winter layering you’re likely to come across. Get in there quick before everyone else does.
Wider Leg Trousers
Before you get all antsy, we’re not going to push you towards flares any time soon. Breathe. Seventies-inspired wide-leg trousers are less Saturday Night Fever, more a welcome antidote to Love Island-esque circulation sapping skinnies.
“Add some individuality to your winter wardrobe with the new trouser on the block: The 1970s wide leg,” says stylist Alice McColm from the River Island Style Studio. “Whether your preference is the ultra-wide leg, pleated or peg-leg turn-up variety, this style has cast some serious shade on the once favourable skinny-legged look, as fashion does a complete 180.”
Wide-leg trousers may initially seem like a bold move, but they’re actually a walk in the park to style. A simple crew-neck sweater and trainers are a safe shout, and if you want it give them some turbocharged 1970s appeal stick on a roll neck jumper, a sherpa-lined denim jacket and some low-top, lace-up sneakers.
Word of warning: short jackets work better to balance the proportion of wide-leg trousers and minimise chances of hearing that terminally unfunny quip – “Did you borrow your dad’s clothes?”
Sick of minimal sports luxe? Done with your ironic 1990s tracksuit top? No worries, menswear’s jogged back a couple of decades for inspiration. That means you get another season of clothing that’s got comfort as well as style nailed.
Buyer Mark Macdonald of cult concept store 18Montrose says, “The key to this look is texture and shape, and one of best examples of this is the velour tracksuit. It channels 1970s plushness through the super-soft fabric and side-stripe detailing.”
Before you tell us that velour is what Katie Price wears to buy a loaf of bread, the fabric is perfectly wearable as long as you wear one piece at a time. For inspiration, look at what the Last Shadow Puppets were wearing when they publicised their last album. Macdonald continues: “Velour track pants worn with a beaten up denim jacket and classic white pumps reimagines the 1970s look in a modern way.”
Darker colours such as navy, black, burgundy and forest green will lend velour a masculine edge and will knock those Paris Hilton vibes on the head. If you want to be the ultimate 1970s swot, pair your velour with Stan Smiths – surely the best proof that the decade wasn’t a complete style vacuum.
The 1970s Colour Palette
Brown and orange are two shades at the bottom the most wanted colour league table – unless that is it’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in Essex. Navy, black and grey they ain’t, but given half the chance these autumnal colours can work surprisingly well in your wardrobe.
“The resurgence of 1970s style has broken the taboo of wearing orange and brown in public,” says Topman creative director Gordon Richardson. “Browns and oranges were prevalent during London Fashion Week Men’s – it looks like the trend is here to stay.”
With the seal of approval sorted, what’s the best way to wear these neglected 1970s shades? For a start, it’s safer to steer clear of wearing brown and orange together. Try an orange knit with an all-black outfit for a modern hit of retro colour. Brown meanwhile is best recruited with lighter colours, or applied to tailoring. Try layering a cream roll neck beneath a brown suit for advanced 1970s swag.
In a further blow for the naysayers, it turns out that the suede jacket is a bonafide 1970s staple. Meaning at least a good percentage of supposed 1970s style haters are endorsing it without even realising it.
“Seventies-inspired jackets look great today in-part because of the warm colourways and luxuriously textured fabrics,” says menswear designer Oliver Spencer. Hold fire on raiding your dad’s wardrobe though. “Though they can be similar in colour and fabric to the 1970s originals, today’s silhouettes aren’t as extreme as they were back then for a reason – more minimal, streamlined designs work best. Let the colour and fabric do the talking.”
Suede jackets (bomber or collared) work with everything from denim shirts to plain T-shirts to chunky knitwear. If you are in-knit to win it, try a medium-gauge roll neck beneath a suede jacket and finish with a pair of tailored trousers.
Remember those tiny lapels on blazers circa peak Indiemania? If you don’t, good. If you do, we’re hope they’re just a memory. Sidestepping the common menswear Goldilocks advice of aiming for just in the middle, blazer lapels this season are going wide – and are all the better for it.
“Wide lapel blazers work well with fine-gauge knits, which soften the overall effect,” says Biedul. This balance is crucial to avoid looking like you’ve stocked up on suits at your fancy dress shop. Play things down by keeping accessories to a minimum and bear in mind that a fine-gauge knit, T-shirt or roll neck will let you pay homage to 1970s tailoring in a way that won’t make spectators shout “Stayin’ alive!” from across the street.