A cavalcade of good bad taste
by Priya Elan
22 February 2021
As comebacks go, this is probably not the one you’ve been waiting for, but after years of being maligned by most men as more suitable for fancy dress, flared trousers are now being embraced by younger generations, including the likes of Harry Styles.
Flares had their heyday in the 1970s, of course, but now fashion designers such as Gucci, Casablanca, Wales Bonner, Martine Rose and Lemaire have featured the bell-bottomed silhouette in their recent collections. Year-on-year searches for “flares” are up by 43% in the UK and by 33% globally, according to Digital Loft, and on Instagram last week the rapper Travis Scott posed in a pair from Raf Simons’ spring/summer 21 collection while actor Lakeith Stanfield wore a pinstripe pair.
And yet it may still surprise many of us who remember the 70s as the “decade that style forgot”, Prof Andrew Groves from the University of Westminster calls it “a complete cavalcade of good bad taste”.
Flares “will always be transgressive”, according to Groves. “(They) are forever worn with invisible quotations marks; they persist as fashion’s most out of fashion garment,” he adds.
But is there a deeper meaning behind their popularity? Could there be a link between the recession and the length of our trousers, a ‘trouser length index’?
“The theory is that in times of economic downturn, such as the 70s, manufacturers pushed maxi dresses and flares to sell more fabric,” says Groves. “Today’s flares are being worn both tight and sexy or loose and baggy, which I think indicates the financial uncertainly we’re all facing.”