TNB Night Owl – The Seventies

70's toppers. Photo by Carlene Cruz.

Fifty years ago, a decade began that was tumultuous and full of contradictions. In retrospect it seems a bit surreal. As much conflict and unhappiness as there was, people lived as if everything was great and expressed that attitude through fashion and lifestyle. This Night Owl isn’t about the history that occurred during the seventies, it’s about the way people lived their lives in spite of what was going on.

At the start of the decade, rock music and muscle cars were cool, especially if you had an 8-track tape player in your ride. The big motor gas guzzlers didn’t make it too far, though, as gas scarcity and skyrocketing fuel prices made them impractical overnight. Suddenly almost everyone wanted economy cars. They kept their 8-tracks, though soon enough the CB radio craze had more drivers talking to their ‘good buddy’ instead of listening to music.

Fondue parties were popular early in the decade and fondue pots, it seems, were common wedding gifts. A fondue was typically swiss cheese melted in a fondue pot and eaten by dipping pieces of bread into the cheese with special fondue forks. (Yeah, don’t ask me, I have no idea either). About that time, red velvet wedding cakes with white icing were the rage, too, at least for awhile.

Denim bell bottoms of assorted colors (vertical stripes were common) or blue jeans with flared legs were what you wore if you were hip. Long hair was as much a political statement as a fashion statement. Puka shell necklaces were worn by both men and women, at least among the young and cool. Tie-dye t-shirts were carried over from the sixties, never seeming to go out of style until the eighties.

Posters of Farrah Fawcett were hung in dorm rooms, apartments, and teen’s bedrooms (if their parents weren’t too strict) all across the country. Among a certain segment of the youth population, black light posters of various designs printed with day-glow phosphorous colors were also common. When incandescent lighting was turned off and a black light was turned on, the posters glowed in the dark. Lava lamps were also popular in similar settings. These were popular accessories that were mandatory if you listened to psychedelic rock music.

Tube tops, hot pants, and polyester leisure suits debuted in 1970-71. The leisure suit was most popular during the disco era of the mid- to late-seventies, while hot pants and tube tops were popular throughout the decade.

Vertical stripes (wide or narrow) were common, but plaids of questionable taste were also widely employed in everthing from pants and leisure suits, to furniture fabrics, drapes, and wall paper. It was quite a time to be alive.

Bell bottom jumpsuits also were worn, particularly by entertainers and celebrities: Elvis and Elton John both had them in their wardrobes. They were usually decorated, often with sequins, and loud if not downright gaudy.

When disco took off in the mid-seventies, so did corduroy pants, loud shirts (unbuttoned halfway down the chest, of course), and two-tone platform shoes.

Popular home color palletes included Avocado, Lime Green, Harvest Gold, and
Coppertone Brown. My parent’s kitchen featured avocado appliances, brown cabinets and coppertone flooring, yellow tile backsplash and yellow formica countertops, with lemon yellow and lime green wallpaper. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, but by the nineties it clearly had not aged well.

Color TVs became affordable and commonplace in the seventies. Some of the most popular TV shows of the decade were Happy Days, M*A*S*H, The Carol Burnett Show, All in the Family, The Rockford Files, Sanford and Son, Columbo, Taxi, The Six Million Dollar Man, Laverne & Shirley, Welcome Back Kotter, Barney Miller, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and WKRP in Cincinnati.

For men, big sideburns and mustaches were in. Women’s hairstyles included the Dorothy Hamill and the Pixie. Caucasian men and women both would go to the hairdresser to get Afro perms.

Macrame was a craft hobby that was ridiculously popular. People made all sorts of things using macrame, such as a swinging seat suspended from the ceiling, or window coverings, lampshades, wall-hanging art, belts, vests, and other articles of clothing, purses, handbags – basically anything and everything. However, the most common macrame object d’art were plant hangers

Among the fads that came and (mostly) went were mood rings, klackers, pet rocks, and streaking. Other popular fads that didn’t outlive the seventies were waterbeds, earth shoes, Disco dancing, the Hustle, and roller skating rinks. The decade that started with 8-tracks finished with cassette tapes.

The seventies was a decade that belonged to extroverts and attention seekers.

Reminiscing the 70s is incomplete without mentioning the music and movies it was famous for, but those will have to wait for another time.

Question of the night: What is your favorite memory if the 1970s? Or, if that was before your time, what was your favorite decade and why?

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About Richard Doud 90 Articles
No one is right all the time. No one is wrong all the time. No exceptions to these rules.