I recently had to go some a department store and was amazed at all the kids I saw getting clothing for the back to school extravaganza. It sort of cracked me up. I am in the field of studying behavior and so I love to watch the behaviors of these kids as mom gingerly tries to talk them into a bargain shirt or a color that they do not want and it got me thinking…
When I was a kid, my sister and I used to go shopping at the Old Miller Surplus store for some of our school clothes because they had what every kid our age wanted. Yep, they had the Millers hip hugger bell bottoms. You could not go anywhere else to get these. It had to be Millers. We both got two pairs to get us through the year. My parents insisted we wore dresses several times a week to school, but we would rush home and slither into those bellbottom jeans and feel like a new person. Maybe we were.
These pants were named bell bottoms obviously because the bottom of the pants were shaped like a bell. In fact, they were originally designed for the Navy as part of a uniform to make it easier to roll their pants up. Who knows and who cares, there was a new fashion and I loved it!
They say that these pants made a fashion comeback and were part of the hippy movement, but I always felt it was simply a fashion statement, I was a want to be hippy and my sister was the furthest thing from a hippy, yet she wore those jeans with style and flair. Blue bell bottom, tie dye T shirt, Roman sandals and attitude was what it was like in the late 60s and early 70s for me.
They say the bell bottom was associated with hippies because when the protesting of the war happened so many protesters were wearing bell bottoms. It made them stick out. I once heard a story that a few protesters went to a surplus store, purchased the Navy bell bottom pants to wear in the protest, and everyone started to follow the trend. Fashion designers got on the band wagon and the bell bottom was a hit. Who knows? Who cares?
What I do know is that bell bottoms were a hit alright but not just about blue jeans. I quickly learned that you could make your jeans look worn out and sew cool patches on them and take it to one more level of coolness. Then rock stars started to wear the “psychedelic” bell bottoms and soon bells were not about blue jeans but purples, oranges and pink flowered and stripped and plaid pants started to arise everywhere. I will admit I did have a plaid pants that I wore with what was called bell bottom shirts. That is another story.
Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Mammas and Pappas started to sport the psychedelic belled pants. It was official now! The bell bottom was now about a culture. My generation was telling everyone to take their silly Sears dresses and stick it. My generation was speaking out loud and clear using fashion as one of the statements.
There are some fashions I am glad we will never see again, and some fashion that cannot leave soon enough. However, the bell bottoms I will welcome back with open arms. It meant we did not have to be so conservative and still look good. I would greet these belled shaped pants anytime. I can live without the polyester floral designed ones, but surly, I would embrace a nice pair of blue bells again.