Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The History of Bell Bottom Pants

The History of Bell Bottoms

Bellbottoms - Bell Bottoms - Bell Bottomed Pants - big flares, call ‘em what you want - at DressThatMan we call them the 1960's - 1970's fashion statement. But then, we're hippies, man. Total nonconformists.

Derived from the traditional sailor’s clothing, the wide leg was useful to the sailor to put pants on over heavy boots, a breeze to roll up when swabbing the ship deck - and, easier to remove when wet than traditional trousers should you fall off that same ship deck. Bells have long been a traditional part of the Naval uniform.

The late 1960's counterculture movement brought us bells and flared pants that were tighter at the knee and flared from there. The first flares were gentle, and would almost be considered boot cut by modern standards, but the tightness at the knee was a trademark giveaway that set them apart from the rest. By the mid 1970's the flares reached their widest proportions.

Hippies and war protesters were probably the first to noticeably wear bell bottoms en masse. The counterculture movement may have been started when traditional navy bells were obtained at surplus stores and later embellished with stitching and patches. They were loose and comfortable at a time when political tensions were high, and many youth felt that rejecting modern fashion was a part of making a personal anti-establishment statement. This trend then led to people modifying regular jeans with sometimes colorful triangles of fabric. The fabric was sewn into the outside leg seam below the knee to the cuff. The modification and insertion of this material created a flare below the knee.

Of course, the garment industry knows a trend when they see one. Soon, bell bottomed pants were being mass produced. It began with jeans and ended using a wide variety of fabrics and fabric blends, and were produced cuffed and uncuffed. Most notably for the disco era bellbottom pants, the miracle of polyester stands out. We’d bet that jeans topped the production lines in the 60's and 70's bell bottom history, but - because polyester could be made into so many garish patterns and colors - they stand out.

Yes, polyester bells do indeed stand out. Like a sore thumb as some would say. Because there is an undercurrent of a sleazy, cheesy, tacky connotation that goes along with polyester itself. That, my dear... is exactly why the crew at loves polyester - because there is something so very giggly-squealy-sordid about this man made fiber. And, we think the introduction of the 1970's polyester leisure suit was mainly to blame for the trashy reputation of polyester. Especially car salesmen wearing leisure suits. Of course, DressThatMan cannot prove the theory, we’ll stand by the statement nevertheless.

Hate them or love them, the bell bottomed pants were again revived and reintroduced as raver or skater pants in the 1990's. These were styled more like the traditional loose and baggy sailor bell bottoms, much like the “elephant bells” of the mid 1970's that were exaggerated versions of the naval issue bell. Everything old is new again - just as bellbottoms returned as flared pants in the 90's as well.

Since fashion cycles, you can count on this trend reemerging and coming around again in a few decades. Save your bellbottom pants.

The trend of low rise, “how low can you go,” low riding pants may seem like a recent phenomena, they too are nothing more than exaggerated versions of the “hip hugger” bellbottom pants that were popular in the 1970's. So... don’t be thinking that either your Momma or your Daddy didn’t have it going on, son. All my friends know the low rider...

Retro will always be revitalized.

Low rise - hip huggers. Flares - bellbottoms. Techno - disco.

You get the picture. Now get into some authentic vintage bell bottom pants.

1 comment:

Jerry Lee L. said...

I've worn nothing but Levi brand and nothing less than bell bottoms. I'm 57 years old and I have many friends that have not changed either. eBay is not the way to go, I've discovered, but buy Levi's & have the little lady sew in a flare from the knee down.
FANTISTICO! A new pair of vintage bells! Thing is, why is it bells only come in womens no adays? And since bells are so popular, why haven't they returned for men? Could it be my generation started a movement that maybe our Govt. doesn't want to see it return? There's got to be a reason! If they think my generation has passed, and we do not wear COOL THREADS, then they have lost it. We may be getting old, but we still spend money.