How to Wear Bell Bottoms the Modern Way

How to Wear Bell Bottoms the Modern Way

As we’re in the midst of Woodstock’s 50th Anniversary, now felt like the perfect time to revisit one of our favorite items of clothing—the bell bottom! While they were popularized in the 1960s, there are tons of fresh ways to wear this flattering cut (along with the vintage-inspired looks that are also fire!) Check out some of our favorite ‘fits from and easily shop some of our own selection. If you’re in the mood, our 150+ selection of bell bottoms can be found here.

Credit: Riona L.

Curious about the history of bell bottoms?

Bell Bottoms had their biggest moment in the ’70s—the spotlight was on the likes of Sonny and Cher, Queen, The Jackson 5, Jimi Hendrix, and Bowie—all wearing moderate to ultra-flared “Elephant Bell” bell bottoms in all kinds of cuts and colors.

Their origin, however, was long before this! In the 19th century, they were designed by the U.S. Navy to be worn by sailors for tons of practical reasons. For instance, the wide leg of the pant made it easier to grab if a sailor fell overboard! The pants could easily be slipped off if you did end up needing to swim to shore, flipped up to avoid a flooded deck soaking the hems, and even filled with air and tied closed or pulled over the boot in the need of a last-minute flotation device!

Bell bottoms slowly phased out of the Navy circuit, replaced by straighter-legged alternatives. It wasn’t until the mid-‘60s when bell bottoms began to be purchased at local surplus and second-hand stores by young people in what would soon be recognized as one of the more distinct periods of youth counterculture in U.S. modern history. The bell bottom demanded attention and represented rebellion in a society saturated with straight-leg pants. It aligned with the strong anti-war sentiment at the time, conveyed in part by re-styling second-hand military clothing.

As with every trend started by the few, bell bottoms quickly became mainstream and stayed popular through the disco days of the ‘80s, disappearing for a while before a reappearance in the ‘90s cut as a denim jean.

Today, with the ‘90s being potentially more popular than they were in the actual ‘90s, bell bottoms are back.