If I walked around UEA’s campus right at this moment, I am almost certain that I will see someone donning flared trousers, platform boots, or some sort of groovy print. Why is it that Generation Z are reconceptualising looks from decades ago, bringing back the Disco Era in all of its glory? The answer is not all that black and white. In fact, the boldness and vibrancy of the clothes themselves can give us some idea.
Life as a student during a global pandemic has meant that fashion choices have often been limited to pyjamas or an occasional workout set. Since being back on campus, there is a feel-good spirit alongside the freedom to navigate outside. Wearing something funky is then one of the best ways to liberate oneself in response to the restrictions imposed upon young people these past couple of years. We have gone back to the 1970s, the diverse decade in which clothing, trends, subcultures, and identity, meant self-expression, more than any decade before.
Looking back to the origins of funky prints and Disco styles, we may think of James Brown and the genre of Funk originating in African American communities in the 1960s. Funk was a rhythmic, danceable form of music, compiled of a mixture of jazz, soul, and R&B. This celebrated one’s individuality, and the “African spirit”, with its use of colourful stage outfits (something that would be relevant to hip-hop later on).
During the 1970s hippy movement, however, the celebration of anti-establishment ideas meant that clothing was rich in psychedelic themes, geometric designs, and culturally diverse inspirations. 70s fashion has seemed to have made a resurgence today, too, as taking a trip to one of the many vintage stores in Norwich has become a typical weekend for a UEA student.
The key message here is that people want to make a statement with their outfits, perhaps to convey confidence, power, and individuality. Whether on campus or high-fashion shows, 1970s fashion is timeless, never failing to invoke a cultural response. For example, Harry Styles imitating Mick Jagger’s sensual stage presence in androgynous statement garments never fails to impress fans and the media.
This idea of 70s fashion having this timeless, evocative presence in our timeline is important now more than ever. This is a time to celebrate those who came before us, the hard times experienced, and the diverse influences that make up our clothing. Hopefully, the 1970s will be Stayin’ Alive a little longer – for us to head to the vintage shops in time!