Fashion

Flares are back! 1970s staple flourishing on catwalks and high street


The return of 1970s-inspired fashion will not come as a surprise to anyone who spent the summer wearing tie-dye, crochet and carrying a straw basket bag – albeit only to the local park. But flares – a 70s staple – had previously taken a backseat to fashion’s infatuation with tinted aviators, crop tops and clogs. That is, until now.

In the past week alone, the model Kaia Gerber and the singer Dua Lipa have worn flared blue jeans. Elsewhere, Nigella Lawson opted for red Safiyaa flares for her appearance in the December issue of Good Housekeeping, and Claudia Winkleman went full disco in a pair of flared sequin trousers from Zara to present Sunday’s episode of Strictly Come Dancing.

On the catwalk, subtly flared trousers were featured throughout Hedi Slimane’s Celine collection for this season while, at Gucci, flares were cropped and overt. Richard Quinn and JW Anderson even showcased more exaggerated bell-bottomed styles – tapering in at the knee, then out at the ankle. Meanwhile, a collection launched last week by the estate of the late rapper Lil Peep included three pairs of flares, in black, pink or green vegan leather. According to Lyst, online searches for “flared jeans” were up 145% in the three months to October, compared with the same period last year.

Flares on the high street - at Asos, Miss Selfridge, and Topshop
Flares on the high street; at Asos, Miss Selfridge, and Topshop.

Interestingly, whereas the high street often has a tendency to tone down catwalk extremes, bell-bottomed flares have flourished, particularly when it comes to soft, elasticated styles (rather than denim). At Asos, for example, there are over 400 flared trousers currently on offer, with options such as “kick flare leggings”, “jersey flare trousers”, “supersoft” flares and “slinky” flares prominent among them – suggesting our pandemic-induced love affair with comfortable clothes is not over yet. Recently dubbed both the “anti-skinny jean” and an alternative to leggings, it’s little wonder that flares are helping us get into the groove of lockdown 2.0.

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“It’s fun, optimistic, disco … the whole Cher vibe,” says the fashion historian Tony Glenville, who argues that flares are a classic, rather than a passing trend. “We may not party but we can dream. It’s about a great silhouette.”

Despite flares’ retro roots, Aurore Bardey, a senior lecturer in psychology at London Metropolitan University, argues that 2020’s iteration are different to their 1970s predecessors. “I would say that the return of flares has nothing to do with 70s or nostalgia but is a response to consumers’ needs of being comfortable and still elegant,” she says. “The 70s flares were defined as an innovative way of wearing the usual denim associated with industrial workers [whereas] 2020 flares [are a way] to be comfortable (working from home, not having as many social events as pre-covid) and still be trendy.”

After months of so-called “Zoom dressing”, and a focus solely on clothing designed for the waist up, it seems legs are once again getting a look in – although shoes are still very much optional.

Wear with a silky shirt

Channel your inner Farrah Fawcett by pairing flared jeans with a silky shirt (or a turtleneck, now the weather’s turned) and blazer jacket (which you can buy secondhand). Your shoes should be completely covered by flare, so it appears almost as if you are floating – like an angel.

Go high-waisted and velvet

Trousers are the gateway flare, between jeans and leggings; wear them like you used to wear 90s bootcut jeans – eg with “a nice top”. Keep your waistband high and your footwear chunky. Split hems and velvet flares are good options here, too.

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Embrace knits and ribbing

Flared leggings are the most daring option … but also the most pyjama like? TikTok teens like to pair their kick-flare leggings with crop-top co-ords and bucket hats, but don’t panic. It doesn’t have to be this way. For maximum cosiness, go for thick, ribbed, high-waisted flared leggings and an oversized jumper. Knitted flares work too, honest.



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