Doese the return of high-waisted pants, feathered hair and anti-war songs make you feel like you’re living – or re-living – the 1970s? That’s because we almost are, said associate professor of apparel, textiles and interior design Deborah Brosdahl.
History has been known to repeat itself, and one can see numerous influences from the ’70s prevalent in today’s style and music. But nowhere is the disco era resurgence more apparent than in the fashion world.
“The 1970s is basically where we’re at right now in fashion,” Brosdahl said. “Almost all of the [current styles] are from the ’70s. It’s the major trend area right now.”
She said that every time fashion is repeated, designers make the styles new and not a complete throw-back by altering construction or details but keeping the basic design.
Brosdahl suggested students watch iconic TV shows from the ’70s like “Charlie’s Angels,” “Miami Vice,” and “The Brady Bunch.” She said these shows displayed a lot of fashion, and students should be able to easily identify clothing, hairstyles and accessories that are still popular.
Some of these popular trends include empire waists, A-line skirts, vivid patterns, wide-leg pants and chunky necklaces for women and patterned pants, button-ups with longer-pointed collars and polo shirts for men.
“Fashions repeat because, in between anywhere from the 30-40 years out, people don’t really appreciate what has happened in the past,” Brosdahl said. “Then you get a whole other generation in that hasn’t worn or hasn’t seen [the trends], so it’s fresh and new.”
Hair and Make-Up
Wida Egan, clinic floor supervisor for Crum’s Beauty College in Manhattan, said there were two types of trends in the 1970s – the disco look and the natural or Bohemian look.
The disco look included bright colors, glitter and metallics, which she said can be seen in make-up trends today. But perhaps the most prevalent make-up comeback, she said, has been the use of blue eye shadow.
The flip-side to the disco look of the ’70s was the Bohemian look, Egan said, which offered soft, neutral and barely there make-up techniques. These also have been extremely popular with celebrities and designers in recent years.
Out of the Bohemian look came long, soft and billowing hairstyles for women, she said. This style was first introduced into mainstream pop culture by Farrah Fawcett in the 1970s and can be seen all over the red carpet today.
Another recent popular hair trend from the decade is a horizontal bang.
“The ’70s was when Vidal Sassoon came up with geometric shape in hair – a very straight bang,” Egan said. “That trend just now kind of ended here recently but was a big part of the ’70s.”
The last popular hair trend from the 1970s that can be seen today for women is also the hot look for men. Egan said this is a short, shaggy, untamed style, which has shorter layers at the crown of the head that blend into longer layers at the neck.
“Definitely the young man’s trend of long, wavy, combed-toward-the-face hair is something we’ve seen in the past and mimics what we saw in the ’70s,” she said.
If 1970s pop culture could be remembered for one thing, it probably would be disco music. Craig Parker, associate professor of music history, said disco music accounted for about 40 percent of all songs in the Billboard’s Top 100 list in the late 1970s.
“Disco music was incredibly popular by the late ’70s and is still being played in a lot of clubs today,” he said.
Though it is no longer topping the charts, popular artists that influenced today’s music were the Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa and James Brown, Parker said.
The Rolling Stones became amazingly popular in the decade, Parker said, and were bringing a new twist to rock’n’roll. The band is still playing and selling records today, so they are, he said, one of the major lasting influences of the ’70s.
Another rock musician, Frank Zappa, was experimenting with melding rock with classical music during this decade, Parker said, and has been a huge influence on all kinds of music genres. Though Zappa died in 1993, Parker said his music is still played by classical and rock musicians alike, just as much as it was back then.
A second experimental genre of music that got its start in the ’70s was funk-rock. James Brown was the front man for this new music, which had its roots in the Motown era of the 1960s, Parker said. Funk-rock flourished in the ’70s and eventually gave way to hip-hop and rap.
“Rap really didn’t get going ’til the early 1980s,” he said. “James Brown was doing really rhythmically based songs and lyrics, which influenced the music that came along with Run DMC in the ’80s, and that style certainly dominates popular music.”
Anti-war folk music also surfaced in this decade due to the Vietnam War, Parker said. But once the war was over, he said this type of music lost its appeal until the War in Iraq.
“Artists who were working on [songs then] are still working today and writing anti-war songs against Iraq,” he said. “Other musicians have joined in too, writing the same types of songs – peace rather than bombs.”