Let’s settle the argument now: the 1970s were an incredible decade for style. The era of David Bowie, Soul Train and Studio 54, it was a time when everything was looser, freer, and just a bit cooler. Hot on the heels of the rebellious 60s, the 70s were all about sticking it to the man – and his neat, unassuming style. Sure, it wasn’t perfect – for every Mick Jagger there were half a dozen Noddy Holders – but at its best, men’s 70s fashion was unapologetic, and undeniably authentic.
Its comeback should come as no surprise: after a decade of minimalism and all-black-everything, many of us are in search of something less restrictive, less austere and a lot more fun. The 70s had it all, and you can too with these revivalist trends.
Corduroy is literally ancient (a version of it dates back to early Egyptian times) but in the modern age, it is synonymous with laid-back 70s vibes. It was pretty much inescapable during the decade with jackets, suits and flares all ribbed for everybody’s pleasure. Mid-century, corduroy had been used predominantly for men’s clothes, which appealed to the anti-establishment who adopted it as their uniform.
Today, corduroy is at its best in workwear-style pieces – slim-fit trousers and cargo pants, overshirts and chore jackets – in a chunky wide wale. The classic earthy colour palette of browns, greens and mustards is still going strong – go head-to-toe tonal, mixing in fuzzy knits and hardy leather workboots.
The fabric of gods, suede became a full-on obsession for many in the 70s, with everyone from Bob Dylan to John Lennon sporting it. It certainly wasn’t for its practicalities – suede and water don’t mix well – but even today, suede still gives off a classy, ineffable rock ‘n’ roll attitude.
A tobacco-coloured suede jacket is an entry-level take and can be thrown over pretty much anything. For an expert throwback, wear a suede biker jacket with mid-rinse jeans and Chelsea boots. Just remember to use a decent protector spray, like Liquiproof, before you go out in the rain.
Arguably, roll-neck jumpers never really went out of style (this is a hill we’re willing to die on). And why would they? More elegant than a crew neck, as smart as a shirt and tie, and 10 out of 10 for cosiness. Fine-gauge roll-necks are great for tucking into trousers or wearing underneath a suit jacket, but we’re also pretty partial to a rugged, chunky Aran or cable knit. Neutrals are the safer options but if you want to do the 70s proud, the more colourful the better.
Flares probably rank somewhere between ruffled shirts and mullets on the list of terrible-things-your-dad-once-wore. But against all odds, they’re back in a very real way. The new flares are less Saturday Night Fever, more Celine by Hedi Slimane. Flared jeans are probably the easiest to wear, but it needs to look intentional. G-Star have a loose-fit pair that nail the brief while also tapping into the ongoing oversized trend (the white colourway is an excellent, bang-up-to-date option, though extremely unforgiving on mustard and ketchup).
Paisley, polka dot, floral: in the 70s, the key rule of shirting was to make it loud and wear it proudly. Silk shirts cut a particularly groovy shape, usually worn unbuttoned to the navel and overflowing with chest hair. It was sexy, it was unafraid to mix the feminine with the masculine, and frankly, it’s what we need right now. We’re talking long-sleeved, abstract print shirts tucked in and worn over roll necks when it’s cold. In the warmer months, Cuban-collar shirts with floral and graphic prints aren’t going away any time soon.
Perhaps the biggest gift bestowed on us by the 70s revival is that suddenly, tracksuits are appropriate for pretty much everywhere. Even before lockdown turned us into a generation of stretch-waist connoisseurs, luxe jogging bottoms and funnel-neck zip-throughs in jewel tones and all-over patterns were becoming de rigueur. Hell, even velour has been making a steady comeback in recent years.
This is an entirely different look to the minimalist sports luxe of a few years back, and conviction is key – don’t be afraid of bright, clashing colours, a la A$AP Rocky, and mix in tougher textures like denim jackets and puffers.
The sneakers of the 70s were colourful, streamlined low-tops ready for the running track, the tennis court, or anywhere that demanded performance. Dominating the decade were the likes of the Adidas Superstar and Stan Smith, the Nike Cortez and the Puma Clyde. The Vans 95, a precursor to the Era, were also born around this time.
Tellingly, they’ve all stuck around for 50 years and counting, as well as influencing modern reinterpretations like the Common Projects tennis shoe and Gucci’s inescapable Ace. But what do they say about things that ain’t broke?
Knitwear went way out in the 70s, with all-over intarsia patterns, deep V-necks and sleeveless tanks all standard fare. And guess what? It’s happening again. Sweater vests in particular are big news right now, a plot twist about as unexpected as, say, Donald Trump becoming president. But everyone from Prada to COS is at it, and they’re surprisingly easy to wear – just throw on over a white shirt or tee with sharp black trousers.
If there’s one man single-handedly responsible for the 70s revival, arguably, it is Gucci’s Alessandro Michele. And how did he do it? For the fashion set, it was the tailoring: filled with character, colour, print and confidence, the sort of suit capable of taking Harry Styles from teen heartthrob to genuine sartorial god.
You could go all-in with all-over print, clashing colours and flared trousers. Or, you could start with the basics. Cut is key. Trousers should be relaxed-legged and slightly high-waisted, with a wide-lapelled jacket up top. Block colours look slick with a roll-neck jumper and polished black boots.