By the early 1970s, young people taking a stand against America’s political establishment had cemented hippie fashion as a protest statement. Movements against the Vietnam War and supporting feminism, African American civil rights, LGBT rights, and environmentalism embraced the casual, non-conformist style that had been launched in the late 1960s. Looks included lots of denim, fringe, tie-dyed fabrics, beaded headbands, and leather sandals or boots.
Hip young men eschewed gender norms, adopting garments like platform shoes, loose-fitting Indian tunics and West African dashikis, and flared bell-bottom pants. Even couture labels were showing unisex designs, like the gabardine safari suits designed by Yves Saint Laurent.
In mainstream menswear, synthetic fabrics like Lycra, polyester, and nylon continued to surge in popularity for their low-maintenance qualities. While men’s shirts and waistlines became even more fitted, collars, ties, and pant cuffs all grew extravagantly flared.
During the '70s, music and fashion became even increasingly intertwined as the disco, rock ‘n’ roll, and punk scenes perfected their unique styles. Glam-rock icons like Marc Bolan and David Bowie embodied the colorful, androgynous look, complete with sequins, glitter, and elaborate makeup; outlandish costumes created for Bowie by Kansai Yamamoto helped launched the Japanese designer to stardom.
The success of John Travolta’s “Saturday Night Fever” helped boost the popularity of disco fashion, along with the rise of famous nightclubs like Studio 54. Leisure suits became the go-to look for trendy men on the dance floor, made up of pants and a matching shirt-style jacket usually lacking lapels, and produced in bright white, saturated colors, or garish plaids.
By the late 1970s, the gritter aesthetic of punk rock had begun to make its mark. Artists like the Sex Pistols, Black Flag, the Clash, the Damned, Bad Brains, and Siouxsie Sioux dressed to match their edgy music, while Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s London shop SEX offered the latest in high-fashion punk style, leaning heavily on embellished leather motorcycle jackets, distressed denim jeans, and other garments collaged with safety pins, studs, and rebellious iconography.