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Introducing: The 70s Revivalists

You may see them walking up Kingsland Road like they're on their way to Whiskey-a-Go-Go, but they’re actually just off down the pub.
Lauren O'Neill
London, GB
November 16, 2021, 9:15am
Introducing: The 70s Revivalists
Illustration: Esme Blegvad

Him: Saw one video of The Allman Brothers Band, said “that’s fucking sick bro”, and decided to cultivate beard; suede jacket from charity shop; a beard that wouldn’t grow in properly so now there’s just sort of a moustache; recently looted parents’ 12 inch collection despite showing no interest in it previously.

Her: Got The 70s Haircut after seeing Florence Given with it on Instagram; calls it the “Florence Given Haircut”; snatched a Penny Lane coat out of the hands of another shopper at Beyond Retro Shoreditch; point-blank refuses to wear a non-flared trouser. 

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You may see them together, walking hand in hand up Kingsland Road like they are on their way to Whiskey-a-Go-Go (they’re actually just off down the pub), her resplendent in floral print, him in yellow-lensed sunglasses, despite the fact that it’s 7PM in November. You know them, you have seen them: They are the 70s Revivalists. 

You can’t really call this lot a “subculture”, per se, because the 70s are fucking everywhere in fashion right now, so they’re really just taking what’s in the shops and running with it.

For women, the “big collar” trend, plus a general penchant for kick flare trousers over the last few years seems to have ushered in more of a full-on 70s revival. In 2020, womenswear makers from La Veste to Monki began seeing success with large-collared silhouettes on otherwise simple blouses, and the voluminous necklines are back for this year, too.

Where menswear and grooming are concerned, two factors spring to mind: 1) The Harry Styles Phenomenon; and 2) I do genuinely think the fact that a lot of people grew their hair for a laugh over lockdown, and then just decided to go with it as an overall look, is at least partly responsible for the trend. 

When thinking about the 70s Revivalists, and why there are so many of them right now, there’s also a Gen Z-shaped elephant in the room, which is the younger, cooler generation’s embrace of largely unflattering Y2K fashion. Seventeen year olds are heralding the return of Von Dutch, cargo pants and that red mark-leaving harbinger of body dysmorphia, the low rise (they are, of course, not old enough to remember the psychic scars it left the first time around). Twenty-seven year olds are looking to their own version of getting in on a trend that happened before they were born.

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Seventies fashion feels more adult than its 90s and 00s counterparts – or at least it does in its 2021 incarnation. High waisted, leg-lengthening, flared trousers abound for all genders, while the fairly universally complimentary shag and mullet haircuts (for posterity I should say that I recently got this haircut) have reached the zenith of their popularity in recent months, as demonstrated by – what else? – TikTok, where videos under the “shaghaircut” hashtag collectively have 82.1 million views. (Interestingly, this haircut is a hybrid of two decades; it’s not quite a total 70s swooping fringe, nor is it full 2000s PlayStation chic – it’s somewhere between the two, and is therefore, in turn, its own thing: a type of “newstalgic” look, as recently explored by Sadhbh O’Sullivan for Refinery29.) 

Of course, the fashion isn’t the only reason why 70s culture is enjoying a bit of a resurgence. New or upcoming movies – The Many Saints of Newark, the prequel to Millennials’ Favourite Show™ The Sopranos; Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, out later this year – are reimagining the period, while a brightly colourised nu-70s aesthetic is present in much of Netflix’s original programming, most notably Sex Education. The Cameron Crowe movie Almost Famous remains a generational reference point for anyone who has ever gone near a Tumblr, bridging the gap between contemporary cinema and the wild mythology of 70s music, which itself is also once again popular. 

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Fleetwood Mac, practically a synonym for “the 70s”, went viral on TikTok in 2020 (specifically “Dreams”, from the Rumours album which was released in 1977); elsewhere, in a more ambient internet sense, “dad rock” – though I think that’s an unfair moniker because it should just be called “the best music in the world” – like Steely Dan, The Eagles, and The Doobie Brothers have also reached new fans.

It’s not new to say that we live in a feedback loop, or that the culture of the past is frequently recycled by our own. One of the reasons for this is innocent and obvious: We have the internet now, we can see cool shit online, and we want to try these fashions and tastes out for ourselves.

Another reason is more depressing and insidious. We turn to the culture of the past because this is just what mainstream culture does now. We reboot and re-do, rehash and regurgitate, as nonsensical origin stories of characters nobody much cared for in the first place dominate culture. The 70s Revival and its loyal Revivalists are part of that, but aesthetically, at least, there are worse trends to embrace than a decent jeans silhouette and two minute long guitar solos. 

You could analyse the reasons for the resurgence of the 70s – a dying mainstream; the cyclical nature of fashion; the nostalgic, rose-tinted fondness for the era in movies and music that sidesteps the unsettled period that ended in unprecedented strikes and the beginning of the Thatcher premiership – and in some ways you may be entirely correct.

But culture is so fragmented now that it’s highly possible that none of this is at all relevant to the heroes of the tale, our 70s enthusiasts stomping on platforms around east London: him, the singer in a newly-formed psych rock band; her, the singer in a newly-formed psych rock band. We’re all amalgamations of the world we surround ourselves with, but that world means something different to everyone now. Maybe the 70s Revivalists you see strutting down the road in platforms are longtime fans of George Harrison. Or maybe they just really, really like wearing fringe.

@hiyalauren

18th Nov: An earlier version of this article stated that Richard Linklater directed ‘Almost Famous.’ The film was directed by Cameron Crowe. VICE regrets the error.