Freebirds Stories
Bell-bottom pants - from sailors to a 2-decade long fashion statement

When it comes to men's fashion, the general rule has been that trends tend to gradually pick up over time, reach their peak and decline gradually over the years. However, there is one exception to this rule, as a particular trend stormed the nation overnight, and after ruling for 2 decades, it mysteriously disappeared overnight. It was the "Bell bottom pants".


The origins of bell-bottom pants (for men) goes back all the way to the 18th century, when sailors felt the need for special trousers which could easily be pulled/folded upto the knees so that they could easily wade through water without drenching their trousers. Moreover, such flared pants served the dual purpose of life-savers as well, as they could easily be inflated and used as a floatation device which came in handy for many sailors especially during turbulent rides.


For the next 2 centuries, flared pants remained confined to sailors and were later adopted as uniform by the Navy due to their utility, but hardly had any takers in mainstream men's clothing. But everything changed in the 1960s, as the counterculture revolution (Hippie culture) turned millions of youngsters around the world into rebels who actually started wearing military uniforms as a form of protest against the army itself. It was during such a mass-movement that the Navy's flared pants were widely used by youngsters as a form of protest.


Due to the uniqueness of flared pants, most youngsters instantly took a liking to it, and started referring it as "Bell bottom pant", which then became a huge rage around the world. Although the counterculture remained limited only to the developed nations, it had its impact everywhere, and one such effect was the proliferation of counterculture's fashion trends like bell-bottom which turned into a global phenomenon by the late 1960s.


In the early 1970s, Bollywood picked up this global trend of bell-bottom and introduced it to India through movies like "Bobby", "Hare Rama Hare Krishna", etc, which was further reinforced by Amitabh Bachchan in "Don" movie, where Big B had taken the idea of bell-bottom to its limits. Within weeks, millions of young Indians, especially in colleges, were seen flaunting their fashionable bell-bottom pants.


Thus, bell-bottom pants ruled the roost for almost 2 decades, and such was the craze that it extended beyond fashion and actually became a daily attire among Indian men, cutting across all ages, classes & geographies. But everything changed by the1980s, as the men's bell-bottom trend mysteriously disappeared overnight without a trace, and has hardly made any attempt at re-entering the mainstream. It has been more than 3 decades since bell-bottom pants disappeared, but it still remains in the memories of old-timers who go nostalgic over its charm which had substantially enhanced the style quotient during their younger days.

Story by
Guru Prasad

Guruprasad (or “GP” in short) is a Chief Engineer & Technology Mentor by profession and spends a...

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