In the words of Bill Cunningham, legendary fashion photographer, “Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life.” Well said there Bill, and we have been trying to fight the reality of everyday life forever now. That is probably the reason fashion trends have changed, evolved and improved vastly over the decades.
Let’s take a brief trip down memory lane to see how men’s fashion trends have evolved over time.
Fashion in the 70s
Already picturing bell bottoms, bright colours, burly moustaches and shaggy hair? So are we. The 1970s were a decade of fashion awakening. The aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation paved the way for a sense of freedom and self-expressionism in fashion. Men were dressing to express their individuality.
The early 1970s retained a few garments from the 1960s like bell-bottom pants and tie-dyed shirts, but through the mid- and- late-70s, bell bottoms shrank into flared bottoms and later, straight pants. High-waist trousers, often in silk and corduroy fabrics, weren’t uncommon at all either.
Suits were worn with equal vigour. Loose, comfortable polyester suits with wide collars and lapels were the power clothing of the time. The distinguishing factor was the colours – cream, mint, blue and a range of pastels, all of which were preferred for suits. Shirts were tight, bright and printed with long, pointed collars.
The 70s were big on accessories too. High platform heels were, surprisingly, popular with men too. Since it was the post-Vietnam War era, the message of peace was often worn as a signed necklace with heavy chains.
The 70s were also a time of some fairly outrageous and controversial fashion trends like the zip-in-the-front onesies. But all in all, it was a fun and vibrant decade that set the wheels turning on modern fashion.
Fashion in the 80s
The 1980s is often called the decade of excess. TV and movie stars had a great influence on the popular fashion of this time, as did heavy metal bands, hip-hop culture and, of course, Michael Jackson. The outfits people wore reflected what they were into, musically or socially.
Cool and casual styles found a place in every man’s wardrobe in the 80s. Casual t-shirts with a pair of denim jeans, open jackets, pastel suits and loafers were common choices. Leather jackets, often studded and sports-themed, were also a favourite, thanks to influences from movie stars like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
One of the biggest stars of the 80s was the musical sensation, Michael Jackson, who brought studded jackets, skinny jeans, bomber jackets and flowing oversized tops to every man. Other influencers in the music scene were heavy-metal bands such as Poison and Metallica. Skinny leather or spandex pants, torn jeans, casual t-shirts and bandanas dominated the 80s style sense.
Another major trend was hip-hop-inspired fashion that still remains fairly popular among some sections of the modern youth. Colourful Converse all-star sneakers, long and loose t-shirts, parachute pants, thick gold rope chains, bejewelled finger rings and Kangol caps were all style staples that lasted a long time.
Conservative styles inspired from the 50s made a comeback in the 80s and every man liked to get preppy every once in a while. Button-down oxford shirts, cuffed khakis, polo shirts and penny loafers were all a part of this gentlemanly look of the 80s.
The 80s was also the time when cosplay began to gain immense popularity and a range of strange land fashion trends gained popularity, because of which comic costumes, princess and prince cosplay costumes are still greatly sought.
Another fashion trend that began to spread its roots in the 80s was that of brand-name clothing. You could see names like Gap, Guess, Benetton, IZOD and Polo Ralph Lauren boldly displayed on t-shirts and jackets.
In short, the 80s was a decade of heavy TV and music influences on fashion, different styles of which created a colourful collage that still inspires designers.
Fashion in the 90s
The 1990s was the golden decade for fashion. Much of what we wear today is an extension of fashion trends that were created in the 90s. In fact, talking about fashion of the 90s doesn’t feel like a thing of the past at all. It feels more like talking about our own years growing up.
The 1990s saw a major revolution of sorts in terms of fashion when much of the 60s, 70s and 80s fashion was rejected and a more modern and fresh take was adopted. Minimalism became the new buzzword, and bling and glitter were done away with. The casual look, with comfortably-fitted t-shirts, jeans, shorts, sweatshirts and hoodies, became preferred by men of all ages. Even the corporate world focussed on garments that were relaxed and ‘cool,’ making way for lighter suits, breathier fabrics, subtle colours and overall uncomplicated clothes.
Well-sewn and clean-finished leather jackets became the new symbol for macho. Soft and super comfortable flannelled shirts, sporty shoes and baseball caps were all the vogue. Overalls with one strap down were made popular by Will Smith on his show, ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ and all men took to it. Baggy pants of the hip-hop fame were quite the rage too. In short, the 1990s was the awakening decade in fashion when some totally practical and everlasting trends were created.
Fashion in the 2000s
The modern trends of the 1990s evolved into even more sophisticated fashion choices in the new millennium. Wearing amply long, slim-fit jeans became standard practice. Similarly, suits became well-fitted too. Rugged blue chambray shirts provided an alternative to denim and when you wanted some colour on your shirts, plaid shirts came to the rescue.
The colour black gained due credit right about now as men began to dress in black trousers, black coats and even black ties. Bright and colourful designer sneakers, canvas shoes, rugged Air Force Ones, and several other delectable styles of footwear became commonplace, and of course, remember the Livestrong bands? You probably have a few lying around in some old drawer even now.
Fashion never stops evolving. But taking a chronological look at the above events shows us how we got to where we are now. Everything we wear today comes from some trend of the yesteryears. What are your memories of the fashion of the 70s, 80s and 90s? Do let us know in your comments.