Make a (political) statement in a pair of flared pants
Flared pants are everything a fashion trend should be. Their defining feature - a pooling of fabric below the knee - serves no practical function or purpose, at least not for the aesthetically driven. And like the weather, trends come and go; nuances of the flared pant have moved in and out of the coveted periphery since the 1960s. Today fashion heavyweights and sartorial cognoscenti have decreed through their latest collections and social media feeds that the straight-legged pant cropped neatly at the ankle has been deposed once again by its bottom-heavy counterparts.
Bell-esque bottoms were born out of functional design. In the 17th century, bellbottoms allowed sailors to roll up their trousers when tasked with messy jobs and chance encounters with flooded decks. Their purpose was two-fold: should one fall overboard, the pants were easily removable, and the wide legs inflated to produce an adult-sized ‘floatie’.
Notwithstanding humble origins, bellbottoms are more generational trope than innovative design (frayed hems and chaffed calves turn off even the most undiscerning of buyers today). They’re first and foremost a relic of the hippie counterculture of the sixties and seventies, when peace, love and clashing flower prints reigned supreme. Flares have a knack for associating with fun cultural phenomena of the era, like disco and SCOOBY DOO, undermining their ability to present as a statement outside the ambit of being ‘on trend.’ No, in the offseason they’re acceptable only at themed dress-up parties or on hospice clothing racks.
Like most cultural phenomena, their return to prominence is a by-product of the realities of the day. Fashion is, after all, a reactionary business. In the nineties, fashion was a salve against overblown luxury. Padded shoulders gave way to the less constructed t-shirts and hints of grunge; each a rejection of stuffy high fashion and a call to arms for anti-conformism.
As I write this, the Women’s March 2019 is in full swing, marking two years since the largest single-day protest in US history following Trump’s inauguration (to which I add is credited with the resurgence of the colour pink in 2017). Trump’s derogatory remarks and allegations of sexual misconduct against women, proceeded by the #timesup and #metoo movements, have sparked a sartorial resurgence of female empowerment; think two-piece suit, bright hues, clashing, loud prints and exaggerated shapes; be it puffed sleeves or wide legged denim flares. We’re witnessing a resurgence of second-wave feminist fashion; a mix of androgynous power dressing and bold statement pieces. The flared pant achieves both. Plus, injecting a bit of “fun” into our wardrobe is the perfect antidote for troubling times.