Flare Pants

In the early 19th century, some sailors in the US Navy adopted a style of wide trousers ending in bell-shaped cuffs. In 1813, one of the first recorded descriptions of sailors’ uniforms noted that sailors were wearing ‘glazed canvas hats with stiff brims, decked with streamers of ribbon, blue jackets buttoned loosely over waistcoats, and blue trousers with bell bottoms.

Often made of denim, these pants flared out from the bottom of the calf, with slightly curved hems having a circumference of 18 inches at the bottom of each leg opening. They were usually worn with Cuban-heeled shoes, clogs or Chelsea boots. 

For the past few years, fashion designers have been telling us that flared trousers are coming back. They’ve been around for a long time, but only one decade truly embraced them: the 70’s. Rich and poor, teeny boppers and football hooligans all wore their flares with pride. It was the beginning of an individual fashion statement. The flare ignited and burned brightly for a decade, then sputtered and died. Never to return? Hold my beer.

The flare leg has slowly been making its way back into the mainstream. The exact reason for why this style has become popular is unknown, although some say it may have been for functionality, with the extra room at the bottom of the leg allowing the wearer to remove their pants over their boots. They could also be rolled up easily to avoid getting wet in water or rain. Disenchanted with the fashion favoured by their parents, young people in the 60’s began shopping at army surplus stores. Buying and re-styling old military clothing conveyed the strong anti-war sentiment prevalent of that time. Shoppers would purchase an item of clothing and alter it, embroidering it with flowers, peace signs and others forms of embellishments. A favourite item available at army surplus stores was, of course, the bell-bottom pant recycled from navy uniforms.

The 80’s brought the return of the skinny jean, and many thought that the flared-style of the bell bottom was gone for good. In the 90’s, fashion included baggier styles, as well as denim, so the flare jean pant made a comeback. This particular cut was more subtle that the bell-bottom pant of the 60’s and 70’s, and was referred to as ‘flares’ or the even slimmer ‘boot cut’ – yes, taking them off over boots. While the 60’s and 70’s favoured the wider leg, the 90’s introduced a slimmer hip and upper thigh, with a small flare at the bottom. These ‘hip-huggers’ were extremely popular and have never really gone out of fashion. These styles have taken more inspiration from the 70’s version – a high waist to slim the hip and elongate the leg. Designers have included flares in their latest collections, with these chic and modern versions coming in bold patterns and colours, luxurious fabrics and are expertly tailored. 

No matter what form, style or fabric, the flare and bell bottom pant are here to stay.

Reminiscent of the 60s and 70s, you need a pair of these funky pants. 

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