Remember Bell-Bottoms? History Of Flares Worn By Hippies And Disco Dancers

By | August 12, 2020

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American soul group Chairmen of the Board, featuring (L-R) Eddie Custis, Harrison Kennedy and General Norman Johnson, circa early 1970s. From Insight Talent Inc. (Photo by Gems/Redferns/Getty Images)

Bell bottoms, also known as flares -- what was up with that? The pants, often jeans, that flare out below the knee are one of the less redeemable fashion trends of the late '60s and the '70s. Everybody wore them, particularly musicians and actors when they weren't in costume. But today, you couldn't get arrested in bell-bottoms. What is the story behind this strange style of legwear, the facts behind its sudden popularity and its downfall? 

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No bell-bottoms no boo. (pinterest)

Bell-bottom jeans made ubiquitous fashion waves in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Everyone from disco dancers to Sonny and Cher made the flared out jeans a must-have item. In the Groovy era, you couldn’t walk half a block before seeing a pair of wide-legged, bell-bottom jeans sashaying their way around town. Despite hitting it big in the days of hippies and pet rocks, bell-bottoms actually date to the 17th century.

As far back as the early 1600s, sailors wore flared out pants -- not for fashion, but function. Pants that were wider below the knee could be rolled up more easily while working. Also, if a sailor fell overboard, the wide legs inflated more effectively to use as a life preserver. They also could be taken off quickly. The youth of the free love era appreciated that.