Clothes, Trends include Denim Styles from Huntington Beach
Retailers find '70s back with twist:
Clothing and materials from Me Decade is once again becoming hip.
By Doretta Zemp
Fashions from the 1970s are everywhere. So is the music. Plaid is back.
Ponchos and denim have taken on a new life of their own. These are just
some of the more obvious trends of the Me Decade that have solidified as
big business in these look-at-me days.
Interior designers are choosing plaid wall coverings, furniture and
accessories for home decor. Furniture stores, harking back to the age,
are again showing sectional sofas.
Leland Van Andler of Lelands Just For Fun costumes in Hermosa Beach says
that '70s costuming is the No. 1 interest of his 25- to 55-year-old
Today, music piped over loudspeakers in malls and other retail venues
often echoes the era. Doris Endler, a supervisor at Manhattan Beach
Trader Joe's on Rosecrans Avenue, says she chooses to play '70s sounds
because, "It's what I and my friends grew up with."
Endler's sentiment echoes that of many in the huge market segment -- the
baby boomers, those born from 1946 to 1964, who include about 76 million
This group, according to a 2002-2003 study by AARP and Roper ASW, is as
fickle when it comes to choices and brand loyalty as the younger
demographic is. They've bought their home and the furnishings. Their
children no longer demand their attention. They can spend their
discretionary income as they please.
Last year alone, they spent nearly $400 billion on such items as
apparel, beauty products, travel and entertainment.
As smart business follows the numbers, smart business also plays the
familiarity game; familiarity produces ticket sales, viewer interest and
incentives to buy.
"Grease," the most commercially successful 1970s rock musical, which
became in turn the highest grossing of all Hollywood musicals in 1978,
was recently staged at Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. The
February run sold out.
The 1974 movie "The Longest Yard," which starred Burt Reynolds, is being
remade for a May release with Adam Sandler in the lead role. Burt
Reynolds has a part in the film as well.
With a backdrop of Led Zeppelin 8-tracks and Farrah Fawcett posters, Fox
television's teen sitcom "That '70s Show," starring Ashton Kutcher, is
enjoying an eight-year run. Some of the '70s legends who have appeared
on the show are Tommy Chong, Shirley Jones and Charro. Sponsors include
Ford Motor Co. and Target.
As familiarity tweaks sales, Paul McCartney as the Super Bowl XXXIX
halftime entertainer was a sound choice. McCartney still is a top-of-the
list baby boomer favorite. Although the Beatles as a group came up in
the 1960s, McCartney held a formidable presence as a solo artist on the
McCartney wasn't selling anything at the Super Bowl, per se, but weren't
the 78,000-plus attendees and the multimillions who tuned in also
entertained by Anheuser Busch, Toyota, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, and not to
forget, Degree deodorant for men'
Pendleton traditional wool plaid shirts -- de rigueur for those who grew
up in the '70s -- still sell well in all age groups.
But it's a NOW generation of plaid that sells today. Plaid blazers in
vibrant colors are selling out at Banana Republic. The fashion-conscious
man is willing to try hot pink or bright green. He also likes the
colorful cotton Ralph Lauren Polo plaid button-down shirt sold at
Robinsons-May. Kohl's, where the Ralph Lauren Chaps line of button-downs
is sold, calls the look "the newest sportswear collection for him."
Jason Furutani, a twentysomething cashier at Whole Foods Market in
Torrance, says he has more plaid shirts than he can count. His hip
counterparts might choose a funkier treatment such as the wide plaid tie
worn with a short corduroy blazer and plain white V-neck tee.
The '70s was a more leisurely time than the turbulent '60s, and more
invigorating than the '80s. Young men flocked to stores for the denim
suit. Today, the denim suit is back, but mainly worn by today's youth.
(Thankfully, the '70s polyester leisure suit worn by older men hasn't
'Denim is pervasive in the 21st century; it's in all manner of
tailoring, especially jeans. Levi Strauss, the main denim jeans
fabricator in the '70s, isn't the behemoth it was. Fiscal 2004 full-year
net sales were $4,072 million compared with $4,091 in 2003, which were
down from 2002. But jeans by countless other makers have flooded the
The younger set, who have outgrown the baggy jean grunge look but still
wish to assert their independence, is choosing denim as though they
invented it. This might include avant-retro models such as the
pinstriped suit with denim lapels designed by Howe Denim of
Huntington Beach that will hit surf and skate
shops in June.
Grizzly clothing store of Hermosa Beach, a block off the sand, is
embracing the decade with retro jeans, such as those with whip-stitching
(a hand-stitched trim). Grizzly's stock of denim includes bold striped
blazers with matching pants, and wide-leg denim pants in a variety of
Grizzly also stocks full warm-up suits of the variety not seen since
Bjorn Borg won Wimbledon. In addition, there is what 27-year-old
manager/buyer Ryan Keenan calls "deadstock." These are quality leather
jackets that were made in the '70s but never sold. Now they're big
ticket items and selling well to the Grizzly demographic of men mostly
in their 20s.
A walking '70s historian, Keenan points out that there was more than one
approach to fashion in the decade, but that it was the disco craze in
the latter half that inspired the look most remembered. Outfits worn by
John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever" (1977) were representative.
Women's wear is having a '70s sellathon, especially in ponchos,
hip-hugger bell-bottom pants and, like the men, every variety of jeans.
Not everybody likes the look. Ava Redd, who works in Gardena, was 15
years old in 1977. She has a 1977 photo of her mother wearing hip-hugger
bell bottoms held up by a beaded wide belt, both of which are popular
Redd says, "I didn't have a problem with that stuff then, but I don't
like it now." Although she is slim and could look good in anything, she
calls today's bell-bottom pant (now called flare leg), "unflattering."
Lila Fontno of Redondo Beach is more tolerant. "All the major retailers
are selling them. I don't want to miss out, but the right fit is hard to
find." Then, she cautions, "Just because a store has your size and
you're OK exposing your belly button, doesn't mean it's going to look
good on you. I mean, some women I've seen look so ridiculous."
Ponchos have topped the must-have list for the third year in a row.
These blanket-like cloaks slung across the shoulders have taken the
place of sweaters for all age groups. They come in various fabrics and
colors, but crocheted ponchos are the big sellers.
This follows a '70s trend that started with the lady of the house
learning to crochet things other than the doilies and tablecloths. This
included crocheted bikinis which -- no surprise -- are now available at
Macy's, Nordstrom, seen in Newport News' spring catalog, and elsewhere.
Capris are back as well. Old Navy calls capris "the look of the season."
Not to be outdone, local Ross stores recently added a capri rack with
nothing but the calf-length pants that fashion-conscious women couldn't
do without thirty years ago.
Today's fashion magazines are showing numerous styles from the '70s,
including flared gaucho pants, "the wedge" (earlier called platform
shoes), shiny gold and silver-tone bags, and oversized espresso-tint
D'Arte Connection in downtown El Segundo sells all of the above. "We're
not afraid of retro. Retro-forward is a big look today," said Marie
Gray, one of five owners of this boutique, which also has stores in
Downey and Huntington Beach.
"We look for innovative designers who understand the women we serve,"
Gray said. Now in their second year, Gray says sales are spiraling
upward. She expects that the store eventually will grow out of its 600
square feet of space just as the Downey store did in the second year
when the sales floor was doubled.
From the simple D'Arte storefront window display, the passer-by might
not suspect that inside the ambiance and clothing choices are upscale
daytime-evening chic, many with a '70s flair.
Interest in the '70s is also coming from another segment of the buying
public: grown children of boomers who purchase the '70s styles for
themselves and for their children: Teen girls can't do without jeans and
bare midriff tops (the same skin exposed in the late '70s).
Preteens are showing up in tie-dye T-shirts and pedal-pushers (shorter
versions of the capri). Young girls are wearing what used to be called
"sizzlers," very short dresses with attached matching shorts.
Grizzly's Ryan Keenan believes that Southern California, with its casual
way of living that personifies leisure, exerts much influence as a
trendsetter, and the retro '70s theme is one more example.
D'Arte's Marie Gray says there's been a general movement away from
formality -- and what better era to express casual living than the
Doretta Zemp is a contributing writer and sociology professor at the
University of Phoenix Southern California, located in Manhattan Beach.