The Brief Fashion History of Bell-Bottom Pants

The Brief Fashion History of Bell-Bottom Pants

Looking at passersby on the street, you’ll notice that flared jeans have begun returning to the fashion world. Flare and bell-bottom pants have recognizable features, especially the flared ankle that inspired their name.

Many people associate bell-bottom pants with the 1970s disco era, but their history goes further back than that. Let’s review the brief history of bell-bottom pants in fashion and their recent resurgence in modern style.

Bell Bottoms & Their Beginnings

Bell-bottom pants originated from the 19th-century US Navy uniform. The British Royal Navy men later adopted the style, and it became part of their official uniform in the mid-19th century.

The style of bell-bottoms acted as buoys, making it easier for sailors to rescue comrades who had fallen overboard and making removal after swimming easier. However, bell-bottoms were phased out after a straighter-legged alternative became part of the official US Navy uniform.

The 1960s & ’70s Mainstream Appeal

Most people associate the history of bell-bottom pants fashion with the era of disco, peace and love, and stylish Afros. The 1960s and ’70s were the height of bell-bottom popularity, which people often wore with clogs, Cuban-heeled shoes, or Chelsea-style boots for everyday and club wear.

Celebrities such as Sonny & Cher helped popularize the pants style. This era also saw popularized variations of bell-bottoms, such as the wider loon pant often worn by go-go dancers and the longer elephant bell-bottom.

Their ’90s Comeback & Today

After the 1960s and ’70s faded into history, bell-bottoms surged to popularity again in the 1990s. Because of the bootcut jean’s popularity in the ’90s, the flare on these modern bell-bottoms wasn’t as wide as that of their disco-era relatives. However, the bell-bottoms of today have made their presence known.

The use of bell-bottoms in everyday fashion has become loud and expressive: ruffles, embellishments, and experimental styles have become the norm. There’s also a nostalgic appeal to previous fashion trends, so it’s no surprise that bell-bottoms and flare pants have once again become part of many people’s wardrobes.

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