Essential Wardrobe Tips From The Seventies (No, Really)
From left: Messrs Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford and Dennis Hooper were some of our favourite 1970s style icons
How’s this for a conspiracy theory: the 1970s were actually amazing, style-wise. It’s not clear exactly which shady organisation is behind the general perception to the contrary but, as MR PORTER delved into the annals of history for the following piece, it became abundantly clear that the truth is out there and needs to be made known. Yes OK, for this particular spin on history, we are going to have to overlook a few things. Such as all the glaring hairy chests. And flares. And Slade. But overall, there is something that feels immensely appealing, in 2015, about the loose, confident, and most importantly fun, way in which the great men of the period outfitted themselves. In fact, in contrast to the increasingly studied styles of today, curated to perfection, thanks to the vast amount of information at our fingertips, even some of the more outré looks of the 1970s have a charming quality we can only describe as… natural. These clothes were the fruit of a genuine countercultural reaction to the thin, neat looks of the establishment – albeit one that had become mainstream, meaning that, back then, people really knew how to let it all hang out, and how to do it in style. But fear not, you can too. If you’re liking the look of the 1970s-tinged collections coming up this winter from the likes of Gucci, Saint Laurent and Valentino (as well as the welcome return of the shearling coat as a key wardrobe piece), you could do worse than brush up on the key style tenets of the decade, with our groovier-than-thou guide below.
Don't be scared of brown
Mr Michael Douglas in The Streets of San Francisco, 1973. Photograph by ABC Photo Archives/ ABC via Getty Images
You may think brown is fusty, or a bit too earthy, or, really, the kind of colour that belongs in a pub or a forest, and nowhere near one’s person. But if this is the case, then MR PORTER (and the 1970s) must politely inform you that you are wrong. Though, in an age of pristine white Apple adverts and glowingly blue Instagram feeds, brown has fallen somewhat out of favour, it’s a warm, approachable colour that feels easy, natural and superfluously cool, if done right. The trick is to keep it soft and nuanced, by combining different tones of the colour, as in Mr Michael Douglas’ outfit above (from the TV show The Streets of San Francisco, in which he co-starred), where he offsets his brown leather jacket with a taupe sweater and coffee-coloured sunglass lenses. The blue chambray shirt underneath offers the perfect contrast and prevents it all from becoming too muddy.
Stay away from the barber
Mr John F Kennedy Jr and Ms Meg Azzoni during the sixth annual RFK Tennis Tournament at Forest Hills in New York City, 1977. Photograph by Ron Galella/ Getty Images
Let’s face it, the range and quality of men’s grooming products have come along greatly over the past decade. Combine this with the influence of hipster culture (lamentably repackaged by TV programmes such as The X Factor and via teenagers on Instagram) and it seems like every other person you pass on the street has a stiff quiff, a mercilessly gelled-down side parting or a statement undercut. Ah, how different (and arguably better) it was in the 1970s, when letting your freak flag fly was in the ascendant, and you didn’t really have to do anything to your hair… except let it grow. Get the best of both worlds (and ape the bounteous locks of Mr John F Kennedy Jr, above) by forgoing the industrial-strength wax for a couple of days, instead using a product such as Lavett & Chin’s Sea Salt Texturising Mist to gently eliminate frizziness. The resulting voluminous hair-do is not only far more pleasant for prospective partners to run their fingers through, it also doesn’t leave sticky marks on your pillowcase. Sorry for going there, but it’s true.
Embrace the power of the turtleneck
Mr Roy Halston in his office, New York City, c.1979. Photograph by Michael Evans/ Getty Images
In the 1970s, it was considered exceedingly boring (probably because it is exceedingly boring) to always pair your blazer with a traditional button-down shirt. Many replacement options were mooted to fill this position, some of which have proven more timeless than others. The spread-collar shirt, worn with the collar sprawling over a jacket’s lapels, is one 1970s trend we wouldn’t recommend replicating. But, on the other hand, we couldn’t endorse more strongly the pairing of a blazer and a turtleneck. It’s a look, pioneered by decadent types such as Mr Roy Halston (the party-loving designer behind the quintessentially 1970s New York label that bore his name, above), that gives a sense of confidence, sophistication and stylish simplicity. Make like the man himself and pick a turtleneck in a starkly contrasting colour to your jacket to really up the 1970s-retro-futuristic factor.
Never be without a pair of aviators
Mr Dennis Hooper, on location for The Last Movie, Peru, 1970. Photograph by Alan Pappe/ Corbis
Looking back at images such as the above snap of Mr Dennis Hopper from 1970, you get the feeling that the 1970s was a particularly colour-soaked, warm and sun-kissed decade. Is this why everyone stalked around in massive sunglasses all the time? Probably not, but it’s a good look in any case, part of an unashamed bigger-is-better maxim that the epoch lavishly applied to everything from hair to lapels, to the amount of fabric you might customarily find flapping around your ankles in a typical pair of trousers. Before you start worrying: no, flares are not making a comeback. But aviators, on the other hand, are, thanks to the range of impressive (and impressively enormous) styles being offered by the likes of Cutler and Gross, Thom Browne and Maison Margiela. Grab a pair if you’re heading for some winter sun, teaming them with a plain shirt or polo (yes, the top button should be left undone).
Take tennis off the court
Mr Bryan Ferry at his home in London, 1976. Photograph by Michael Putland/ Getty Images
In the 1970s, tennis experienced something of a boom, thanks to a variety of factors, including the onset of “Open Era” in 1968 (which meant that professionals were now allowed to compete in Grand Slam tournaments such as The Championships, Wimbledon, and the French Open) and the rise of feminism (which was somewhat tackily dramatised in the famous “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Mr Bobby Riggs and Ms Billie Jean King in 1973). In fact, as it transformed from a private, country club pursuit into a world-class sport and international obsession, tennis was not only popular, but cool. Celebrities such as Messrs Bryan Ferry (above), Dustin Hoffman, Chevy Chase and Ms Farrah Fawcett-Majors (as she was then known) were snapped in their tennis duds, or competed in charity matches. Charismatic players such as Messrs Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe became celebrities in their own right. Of course, all of this enthusiasm spilled over into everyday clothing: 1971 was the year that adidas signed its sponsorship deal with Mr Stan Smith and began to market its iconic tennis shoe (worn by Mr John Lennon, among others) under that name. Polo shirts also became popular as part of a preppy look, with Lacoste sales going through the roof and the launch of Ralph Lauren Polo in 1972. Then there were the tracksuits. And the tennis socks with stripes around the ankle (Mr Hoffman wore them with flares when out on the town). Since then, such vintage-inspired tennis pieces have come back again and again, whether it’s the sweatbands and striped polo shirts worn by Mr Richie Tenenbaum in Mr Wes Anderson’s 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums, or the continuing craze for Stan Smiths that kicked off this decade’s revival. Opting for just one or two of these items is one of the easiest (and most palatable) ways to incorporate the 1970s trend into your wardrobe.
Throw on a denim jacket
Mr Ryan O’Neal outside Pip’s nightclub in LA, c.1975. Photograph by Gary Lewis/ mptvimages.com
Everyone has a denim jacket. It’s a timeless piece, right? Wrong. In the middle of the 20th century, although it might have been worn by farm workers, rockers or bikers, it was hardly part of the everyday wardrobe of your average style-conscious person. But in the 1970s, the denim jacket became a no-brainer. This was thanks in part to its adoption as a countercultural statement by the likes of Messrs John Lennon and Mick Jagger in the previous decade, but the look was really brought to the mainstream via films such as Little Fauss and Big Halsy (1970), in which Mr Robert Redford spent the majority of his screen time in a denim jacket, collar turned up, and the magnificent Badlands (1973) – perhaps the best argument for double denim ever. Now we’re able to wear them any time we want, why not make the most of this freedom, hard-won by your ancestors? The most 1970s-way to wear it is like Love Story (1970) star Mr Ryan O’Neal, above, with a plaid shirt. As a contemporary improvement, though, we would recommend resisting the temptation to undo that second shirt button. Only in the 1970s was man-cleavage acceptable.
Your lapels should be as wide as your smile
Mr Dustin Hoffman during the Straw Dogs press conference, 4 March 1970, at the Royal Garden Hotel, London. Photograph by Tom Wargacki/ Getty Images
There was obviously some sort of Vampiric neck-fixation going on in the 1970s, because everything that surrounded that area, clothing-wise, was obsessively supersized, from the long, droopy collars of shirts, to fat, wild-salmon-shaped ties to the lapels of jackets, which often stretched more than halfway to the shoulder. Today, wide lapels are nowhere near as widespread but are sprouting up all over the place on this season’s outerwear, with brands including Tom Ford and Maison Margiela (which also tends to cut its suit lapels slightly wider) and Alexander McQueen (which is offering a peacoat with an enormous shearling shawl collar) producing their own takes on the look. Follow in the footsteps of Mr Dustin Hoffman, above, and opt for a wide-lapelled jacket or coat in a traditional herringbone or check textile. You will probably want to modernise the look by forgoing the enormous brown tie, but the large smile is, in MR PORTER’s opinion, still essential.
Shearly you can't be sherious...?
Mr Robert Redford in Downhill Racer, 1970. Photograph by The Kobal Collection
To say that shearling is currently making a comeback is something of an understatement. At the MR PORTER offices, it feels like we’re drowning in the stuff at the moment, from military-inspired flight jackets by Coach to more raunchy offerings from Rocky Mountain Featherbed. Within this mass of fluff, there’s a strong 1970s feel, with classic tan shearling coats from the likes of Tom Ford and Billy Reid as well as shearling-collared denim jackets from Levi’s Vintage Clothing and Maison Margiela. Bearing in mind this was a trend that, at its 1970s peak, was much beloved by cigar-smoking British football managers, such as Crystal Palace’s Mr Malcolm Allison, you should approach this look eagerly, but with a little trepidation. By avoiding tailoring and/ or traditional wool textiles with shearling, you can dodge the Del Boy associations. Wear your jacket instead with denim and sweats and you’ll take on the rugged, rebel quality of the young Mr Robert Redford, pictured here on the set of Downhill Racer, released globally in 1970.
The celebrities featured in this story are not associated with and do not endorse MR PORTER or the products shown