These 40 Vintage Photos Reveal What Was Considered Cool Back In The 1970s

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In the 1970s, embracing your individuality was cool, and this was reflected in the fashion of the decade. Mass production meant clothing made from a wide variety of materials was now more affordable, and the countercultural leanings of society saw people keen to mix and match styles. Some of the trends in this list may surprise you, though, as even while many have been left in the past, some are now making comebacks.

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40. Headscarves/floppy hats

The wide-brimmed floppy hat was an essential item for many women in the 1970s and paired nicely with a floaty peasant dress. The cloche hat and beanie hat was also popular, as was a French beret. Many women also chose to wear scarves around their heads, a style which had carried over from the 1960s.

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39. Wrap dresses

The wrap dress became so popular that by 1975, designer Diane von Furstenberg was manufacturing 15,000 per week. Then the wife of German Prince Egon von Furstenberg, she was determined to have her own career. Furstenberg’s creation, which was an all-in-one ballerina wrap top and cotton jersey shirt dress, had a huge impact on women’s fashion.

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38. Caftan dresses

The caftan (or kaftan) has been worn for thousands of years by many Asian cultures. In the 1970s, western women adopted the look, pairing the flowing dress with sandals and beads. The huge sleeves gave the woman’s figure an intriguing outline, especially when paired with an empire belt around the waist. This style was particularly popular among jazz and soul musicians.

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37. Pantsuit

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By the end of the 1970s, many businesswomen had adopted the pantsuit. Before this, female executives had mainly worn a skirt or dress, paired with a coat — even though the pantsuit had been around as an option as far back as the 1920s. Yves Saint-Laurent is often credited with popularizing it in 1966 when he designed Le Smoking, an evening pantsuit that purposely mimicked a man’s tuxedo.

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36. Knee-high boots

In the 1960s, knee-high boots were generally seen as the province of teenage and college age girls. In fact, in 1968 The New York Times surveyed office managers and found that 75 percent didn’t like female employees wearing boots to work. However, by 1977, boots accounted for 20 percent of all women’s shoe sales in the US, as they became hugely fashionable in the early 1970s.

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35. Hippy dresses

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Long, flowing, colorful hippie dresses are one of the female fashion trends most synonymous with the 1970s. The flower power generation wanted loose-fitting, comfortable clothing and the hippie maxi-dress was perfect for this. As long-haul commercial air travel became increasingly commonplace, hippie women drew inspiration for their dresses from Indian, Asian and African garments.

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34. Tie-dye

The tie-dye phenomenon began in the late 1960s and boomed throughout the 1970s. It originated, once again, in the hippie movement and was a homemade method of turning plain white items of clothing into psychedelic, multi-colored garments, often containing spiral patterns or the peace sign. Musicians of the era, such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead all became associated with tie-dye.

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33. Farrah Fawcett hairstyle

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Arguably the most iconic hairstyle of the 1970s belonged to Charlie’s Angels star Farrah Fawcett. The style was feathered, with either a center or side parting, and was layered, giving the impression of a bird’s feathers. The style was massively popular among American women and girls, many of whom added blonde streaks to their hair to further emulate Fawcett.

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32. Sweater dresses

One trend in the early 1970s saw women wearing sleeveless sweater dresses over short or long-sleeved turtleneck shirts. They tended to pair this look with knee high socks or tights, and it worked perfectly in winter. Sweater dresses with sleeves were also popular and the look fit in with the 1970s ethos, which favored comfort over formality.

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31. Jumpsuits

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The jumpsuit was a piece of women’s activewear that became popular in the middle of the 1970s. They were all-in-one outfits, almost always with flared pants and with the option of various sleeve lengths. In a way, they were a modification of overalls, and eventually classier night-time versions were manufactured to go along with the more casual daytime ones.

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30. Homemade jewelry

The early 1970s saw a rise in the popularity of homemade jewelry in the hippie movement. Much like their clothing, the jewelry incorporated elements from different cultures all over the world. Items were made from shells, beads, feathers, leather, stone and wood. By the middle of the 1970s, however, the trend subsided in favor of a return to gold chains and earrings.

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29. Daytime and night-time makeup styles

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There was a revolution in cosmetics in the 1970s, with women freely choosing different makeup styles dependent on their lifestyle, as opposed to following one singular look for all occasions. Most favored the natural look in the daytime, with minimal makeup, but then went much more glamorous in the evenings. The natural aesthetic was primarily associated with American designers, whereas the glamour was quintessentially European.

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28. Leisure suits

Leisure suits became popular with men in the mid-to-late 1970s and sprung out of a culture that rejected formal dress. A leisure suit was a shirt-like jacket and matching pants and were relatively inexpensive. Men could feasibly wear a leisure suit in both business and casual settings, which was a real selling point.

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27. Long hair and sideburns

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The late 1960s saw men growing their hair out, and this continued into the 1970s with male hairstyles becoming even longer and more elaborate. Gone were the days when men would only get short cuts and hair products would only be marketed to women. The increased hair length was often paired with long sideburns, especially amongst the hippie movement.

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26. Mustaches and beards

During the 1970s, young men experimented more than ever before with their facial hair, which had come to represent freedom of expression. In previous decades, such as the 1950s, a clean shaven face was the standard. Now, mustaches became increasingly popular, and beards of the full, goatee and soul patch variety were the order of the day.

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25. Corduroy and crushed velvet

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In 2018, British newspaper the Independent wrote that, “Corduroy was the fabric of the Seventies, used in everything from dresses to skirts and trousers.” Men wore corduroy sports jackets and even “ranger suits” made from the material, complete with butterfly lapels. That is, of course, when they weren’t wearing suits and jackets made from crushed velvet.

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24. Moccasins

The moccasin, a shoe associated with the indigenous people of North America and made of deerskin or soft leather, was extremely popular in the 1970s. In fact, it is currently making a comeback thanks to Brad Pitt’s role as stuntman Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. Pitt wears a pair of Minnetonka moccasins in the movie, and the shoe has now been reissued in stores.

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23. The Glam Rock look

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Many women adopted the glam look in the 1970s, but the androgynous trend had its most dramatic effect on men. Glam rock was a British style of music that was popularized by the likes of David Bowie, T. Rex and Mud. The men wore flamboyant clothes, glitter and elaborate makeup, and it challenged stereotypical gender roles.

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22. Sportswear

The tracksuit, which many may associate more with the 1980s due to acts like the Beastie Boys and Run DMC, actually first came to prominence in the latter years of the previous decade. In fact, sports clothing became everyday wear for many men in the late 1970s. They wore velour or terry cloth shirts, puffer vests, low-top sneakers, tennis wristbands and headbands.

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21. Ruffled shirts

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The evolution of the ruffled shirt began in the late 1950s, when some actors wore tasteful ruffles to the Academy Awards. However, during the 1960s and into the 1970s, the ruffles got bigger, completely taking over the design, and the colors became gaudier. By 1978, the ruffled shirt was deemed, “not in good taste” by Amy Vanderbilt in her Complete Book Of Etiquette.

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20. Platform shoes

Platform shoes were huge in the disco and glam rock scenes in the 1970s. They were considered essential items for disco dancing and were worn by both men and women, as they gave the wearer extra height and drew attention on the dance floor. They could be accessorized with glitter or lights, and the women’s versions often featured gravity-defying heels.

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19. Fur coats

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From the 1980s onwards, wearing real animal furs as clothing became controversial due to the rise of anti-fur campaigners. But in the 1970s it was still socially acceptable, with many men and women wearing sheepskin lined coats and fur vests. The fur coat was also popular among the wealthy. In fact, notorious gangster Frank Lucas claimed a $100,000 floor-length chinchilla coat brought him to the attention of authorities for the first time.

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18. Bell bottoms and flared jeans

The bell bottom, a style of jean that got wider below the knee, was all the rage in the 1970s. In fact, if you think about 1970s fashion, the chances are one of your first images will be of bell bottom (or flared) jeans. Sonny and Cher had helped bring them to an American audience on their television show, and in 1971 Derek and the Dominos sung about the “Bell Bottom Blues.”

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17. Denim shirts, jackets and skirts

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Denim jeans became a symbol for youthful rebellion when James Dean wore them in 1955’s Rebel Without A Cause. But by the 1970s, jeans were worn by much of the American public casually. However, denim expanded greatly in the 1970s, with shirts, jackets and skirts being made from the fabric.

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16. Poncho

The poncho is a simple garment designed to keep the body warm, traditional especially in South America. In the 1970s, Western men and women took to wearing knitted, often-homemade ponchos. But it also hit the mainstream, with men perhaps being inspired by Clint Eastwood’s “Man with no name” in the Dollars trilogy of films.

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15. Afro

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The afro hairstyle hit new heights of popularity in the 1970s, as the Civil Rights Movement gave African-Americans a renewed sense of cultural identity. Many stopped cutting their hair short, returning to a more natural, untreated style. Throughout the 1970s, alongside the rise of Motown musicians such as the Jackson 5, men and women began to grow their afros out, making the style puffier and more eye-catching than ever.

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14. The Punk look

Punk rock exploded in the late 1970s, and the genre greatly influenced the fashion of its male and female fans. The music came to prominence in England, then spread to the States, with the designers Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McClaren being important figures in defining the aesthetics. The look included leather jackets with studs, spikes and chains, ripped shirts and jeans, dog collars and safety pins.

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13. The Disco look

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In 1977 Saturday Night Fever hit theaters, and men were captivated by the sight of John Travolta in his white three-piece suit, with its wide lapels, flared pants and waistcoat. However, women also embraced the disco look, wearing clothing designed to shine brightly under the lights of the dance floor. Tube tops, spandex short shorts and even ball gowns were popular in this trend.

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12. Birkenstocks

The Birkenstock is a brand of sandal manufactured by a German shoe company. The soles are made of rubber and cork, which means they mould to the shape of the wearer’s feet. These sandals became extremely popular in 1970s America amongst the hippie generation, whose outlook on life embraced a back-to-nature approach.

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11. Oversized sunglasses

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In the 1970s sunglasses seemed to get bigger and more elaborate. For starters, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wore oversized sunglasses in the 1960s. But she carried the look over into the 1970s, and popular musicians like Elton John incorporated gaudy, glitzy oversized glasses into their stage acts. Oversized sunglasses were particularly popular among women, but men wore them as well.

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10. T-shirts with slogans

As hard as it may be to believe, there was once a time when t-shirts were predominantly worn as undergarments. However, from the 1960s/1970s onward, they became vital to people’s personal expression and began to be worn as the only clothing on the top half of the body. In the 1970s tight t-shirts with colorful designs and slogans boomed in popularity, especially those associated with popular bands.

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9. Rhinestones

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Crystal rhinestones adorned countless items of jewelry and clothing in the 1970s, as they were able to mimic the effect of diamonds glistening in the sun. Country singers, Elvis Presley and Liberace all accessorised their stage outfits with rhinestones. Then, in 1975, Glen Campbell became forever associated with them when he released the song “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

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8. Turtlenecks

The turtleneck became an indicator of an intelligent, enlightened feminist woman in the 1970s. For instance, journalist and political activist Gloria Steinem wore turtlenecks during the women’s equality movement, inspiring a generation. However, men also got in on the act, perhaps inspired by celebrities such as Grease star John Travolta.

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7. Opulent colors

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In-keeping with the clothing preferences of the hippie generation, which were mostly brightly colored, much of 1970s interior design dealt in opulent colors. Warm yellows and golds were commonplace, especially on glassware and soft furnishings such as cushions, pillows and blankets. The idea was that the colors would be statement pieces and a far cry from neutral whites and creams.

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6. Shag rugs

Shag rugs were huge in the 1970s, as they had an appealingly rustic, shaggy look. But they were also extremely comfortable to lie on. They had a bohemian, hippie vibe, and were difficult to keep clean, but their popularity maintained throughout the decade. In fact, shag and sheepskin rugs would continue to be mainstays of Scandinavian interior design for decades to come.

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5. Mismatched/contrasting textiles

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According to the website Trouva, “Textiles and pattern were a central part of 1970s interior style which was dominated by mismatched, contrasting textures, pattern and shapes.” This created a look that felt lived in, but still stylish and chic. Moroccan rugs gained popularity in the decade and would often be hung on the wall, next to a woven throw on a couch covered in multi-colored cushions.

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4. Brass

The gold-like appearance of brass made it the optimal choice for everything from vases to light fixtures in the 1970s. You see, it fit with the trend toward opulent colors, but also felt somewhat down-to-earth and unrefined. Also, given that brass has been so prevalent throughout history, it gave a room a sense of vintage style.

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3. Plants and hanging baskets

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Nineteen-seventies’ interior design featured indoor plants and hanging baskets prominently. The baskets were often woven or ceramic, and the idea of bringing something from outside into the home was fitting of the time. The abundance of ferns and succulents in a room leant a feeling of being in touch with mother nature.

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2. Lava lamps

The lava lamp was invented by British entrepreneur Edward Craven Walker in 1963. It featured a colored wax mixture and a translucent liquid inside a glass vessel and was a must-have home accessory up until the end of the 1970s. It didn’t give off much light, but created a groovy mood when the colors danced on the walls of a darkened room.

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1. Geometric patterns

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Geometric shapes such as circles, triangles, ovals, squares, hexagons and crescents were prevalent in the 1970s. For example, a neutral couch could sit in front of wallpaper with a repeating hexagonal pattern on it, or a piece of art depicting concentric circles would hang on the wall. Again, it was all about creating a statement with interior design.

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