Baby Boomers Loved Their Bellbottoms

bellbottom pantsThis may come as a shock. Baby boomers didn’t invent bell bottoms in the 1960s. It was introduced as standard ware by the British Navy a century earlier, less for smart looks than a way to ditch pants in a royal emergency.

The style reached a fashion apogee during the 1970s Disco craze, but it was already established as part of a boomer do-your-own-thing costume that included tie-dye shirts, long hair, love beads and granny glasses. “Relax, Mom, everyone looks like this now!

Men’s mainstream fashion in the early 1960s (think Mad Men) called for tan-black-gray straight legged narrow pants just above the shoes, a tad of black (or white if FBI) sock showing. Girls who donned pants were called names, most starting with the letter “b.”

Bell bottoms were radically different. It was pop culture/political rebellion, pure and simple.

Elvis dug them. So did James Brown. It became standard garb for Sonny & Cher in their cultivation of hippie haute couture. The innovation took time to reach hinterland bellbottom jeansstores, so enterprising baby boomers created their own by splitting the bottoms of jeans along the seams and sewing in triangular patches or pieces of Old Glory.

In the early hippie days, bell bottoms were denim, but as the casual 1960s evolved into the style-go-crazy mainstream 1970s, the fad emerged in a polyester-corduroy­-velvet jungle of wild colors and patterns designed for Saturday night dancing fever. No self-respecting hippie would be caught dead wearing such stuff.

It got worse. The look was toned and sold as “hip” attire to the over-thirty crowd who wanted to keep up with their kids or had delusions of youth. Welcome the leisure suit. Thankfully, all things must come to an end. As hippies and disco music faded into the boomer sunset so did bell bottom fashions. Like other artifacts of the era, it was revived years later with Generation X kids knowingly or not following in their parent’s footsteps. Whatever, dude.

Among the fashions available in the disco 70s were bell bottom jumpsuits, two piece halter-top numbers, “liquid silver disco pants,” and “loons, short for “balloon pants,” a version that flared out from the knee rather than the calf. Original vintage pieces are available on the Internet.

Terry Hamburg writes the Baby Boomer Daily about the exciting and revolutionary baby boomer years.


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