The 1970s: What the heck were we thinking?

And you thought disco was the worst thing about the 1970s.  In a palette-cleanser for a slow newsday Sunday, BuzzFeed takes us back 40 years to the fashion nightmare that was my youth.  Believe me, this will make all of us appreciate just how far we have removed ourselves from the haute couture of the Me Generation.

For instance, feast your eyes on this advertisement of sartorial splendor (via Jonah Goldberg):

The slacks displayed in the foreground are — I kid you not — called “Horoscope fun slacks.”  Apparently, this is intended for the man who wants women in bars to know that he’s serious when he asks, “What’s your sign, baby?”

Considering the fashion trends of the time, these guys had the right idea — well, almost:

We have to give the 70s a little credit here … because no one would hire that bald guy at the top for a fashion shoot these days.  This looks a little like the old Sesame Street game, one of these things is not like the other.  If this was the Village People (another 70s atrocity), he’d be Accountant Man.

One theme seems to dominate in these advertisements, some of which I dimly recall from my youth, and that is … androgyny.  It’s remarkable how the fashions for men and women look so much alike.  The US in this decade experienced enormous shifts in gender-role expectations, with the liberation of women and their rapid expansion in the workforce, so it’s not surprising that this social upheaval got reflected in fashion and popular culture.  As Buzzfeed puts these ads together, it’s not even very subtle.  Take a look at how similar the designs are for men and women in these two separate ads:

Imagine that the models were swapped between the two photos.  Would anyone notice a difference?

In a couple of these ads, the fashionistas seem aware that men might balk at looking too feminine.  An ad for a men’s jumpsuit showed a model with a beard that rivaled that of Fidel Castro, aviator sunglasses, and this text to sell just how doggone masculine women would find a man who wore it.  See if you can find all the sexual references in this classic (#12 on BuzzFeed’s list):

Because one is enough, when it’s you.  Show where you’re headed in the ultimate fashion climax.  Fits so tight it shows all you’ve got … you’re a walking turn-on.  And treats your body as well as she does.  Easy on, easy off, quick as a flick of her tongue.  Sexy cool crinkle cloth for those hot nights to come.  Designed with your desires in mind … she’ll eat you alive in it.  …

Are you man enough to fill it?

Er … overcompensate much?

This one from Jon Gabriel on Twitter is more straightforward in its unisex approach, with less self-consciousness:

On the other hand, another ad overtly celebrates the unisex movement in fashion, with his-or-hers see-through lace pants … but note the name of the brand at the bottom:

That’s almost a parody, isn’t it?  Big Steel Unisex See-Through Lace Pants.  It would have taken sheer nerve to wear these in public, even in the 1970s.

Still, a lot of us wore clothes like these, and worse.  I myself owned two pair of the Angels Flight slacks shown in the last ad on BuzzFeed’s list.  Thankfully, they had as much lasting power as the rest of the fashions of the 1970s.  Let’s hope we never see its like again.

Actually, given the chance (and some adjustments in size), I’d wear this one again … especially the watchband.

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