Move over bellbottoms, here comes something that looks…the same? Many people consider the slow spread of the pant leg to be both a bellbottom, and a flare, but don’t be fooled: there are differences. Flares are a more subtle shape than the wide bells that had dominated the early 70’s. When the radical bellbottom style promoted by the hippies had faded, the flare took its place.
A favorite style in jeans and the ever-popular polyester plaid print, flares were so named because the leg ‘flared’ out from the knee in a mild slope. The circumference at the hem was much smaller than at the bell, closer to what we now call the ‘boot cut’ (just wide enough to slip over your boot so that you don’t have to take them off when undressing. Why you want to keep them on once your pants are off, we just don’t know, but that’s what they’re built for). So the flare was the happy medium between the outrageous bellbottoms of the 60's and the slim-fit boot cut of the turn of the millennium.
Flares were the only pants to wear during the groovy 70's, when cords and polyester beat out denim two to one. The flared-legged pant grooved on until the end of the decade, when disco’s skintight fit made its debut, but thanks to Old Navy and others, the flare returned to spread a little relief to your constricted ankles in the late 90’s.
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