When American sailors started wearing bell-bottomed trousers in the 19th century, little did they know about the reverberance the style would have over the centuries. The reasons the marines adopted them were purely utilitarian and frankly a bit weird:
- They made it easier to snag a man that had fallen overboard
- The extra room at the bottom of the leg allowed the wearer to remove the pants over boots
- They were easier to remove when wet
- The wide legs could be filled with air and used as a makeshift flotation device.
Luckily for those who love the trend, Coco Chanel came across wide-legged trousers while on a trip to Venice. With a practical approach to women’s fashion she introduced what we today call Palazzo Pants into women’s fashion. The 40s has women wearing flare trousers out of practicality yet again. That’s the decade that has women work in factories and taking on men’s jobs.
But the flares never really took off until mid 60s. Sonny and Cher, seen here in June 1965, helped popularise the look in the US through their TV appearances. Those who took to flares in the latter half of the 60s tended to be the famous people like Twiggy, here in 1966, Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix. Disenchanted with the department stores favored by their parents, young people of the 60’s began shopping at army surplus stores. A favorite item available at the army surplus was, of course, the bell-bottom pant recycled from navy uniforms. This unique style was a huge hit among both men and women, as the cut was a huge departure from the straight-leg styles that saturated runways and department stores. That’s the time when hippies started pairing them with garish tye-dye t-shirts, love beads and mind-numbing anecdotes about mind-expanding drugs. Finally, in the 70s flared trousers struck out global domination. Ironically, the cut that had previously been a symbol of rebellion and “anti-fashion” became a full-blown trend that would characterize the 60’s and 70’s to future generations. Here, a young man waits for a ride near the New Jersey Turnpike in 1971. In April 1974, Abba won the Eurovision song contest in Brighton, England, wearing dress-down flares and silver boots. The style gained more ground with the generation of the Charlie girls as they were known from the popular show “Charlie’s Angels”. At the end of the 80s the bells toll for flared pants as their place is taken by punk drainpipes and then by grunge fashion in the 90s. In the beginning of 2015 the flared pants trend made its comeback and it’s been sticking with us for quite a few seasons already. Diane von Furstenberg, who introduced the iconic wrap dress, has always emphasized simple, elegant silhouettes that skim a woman’s curves just the right amount—like the flared leg does. Likewise, Jonathan Simkhai’s entire pre-fall collection focuses on making soft, casual fabrics (including sweats) into more dressy pieces, just as he does with his effortlessly professional flared pants. There’s a reason this classic look keeps resurfacing, and it has everything to do with clean, well defined lines, and a visually appealing shape. Flares lend us a more symmetrical shape, adding visual weight to our feet to balance out the width of our shoulders. But the appeal of flared pants goes beyond logic to a more emotional appeal. Flares evoke a sense of playful nostalgia, they have us remembering the various moments in history when flares have been popular.
So once more, we are happy to have you know that flared pants reignited and flamed up with a bright, wavering light.