Bell Bottoms

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Showing 1–52 of 100 results

Welcome to the bottom of the Ragstock bell bottom page. Let's have a history lesson!

Believe it or not, bell bottoms were originally designed as a functional piece of clothing. Pants that flare out at the cuffs were traditionally part of a sailor’s wardrobe, and a standard-issue garment for men in the Navy. What’s the logic behind the bell bottom? The wide leg allowed an overboard sailor to pull their pants off over their boots. And everyone knows it’s easier to swim once you take off your pants. The resourceful sailor could then blow air into their pants, creating a DIY flotation device.

During the advent of the 1960s counterculture, many artists, political radicals, and nonconformists frequented Army / Navy suprlus stores to shop for affordable clothing. There, they discovered the denim bell bottom. And so began the bell bottom’s odd transition from a functional piece of military clothing to a symbol of the peace-loving hippie community whose anti-war protests helped shape the 60s. When the trend began, many wearers modified their own pants to make them wider, or embroidered designs into the fabric. As the pants became more popular, clothing manufacturers got onboard and began producing new, fashion forward styles of flared pants.

The trend could not be contained to the counterculture, and by the 1970s bell bottoms had lost their political edge, becoming a mainstream piece of American fashion. Iconic denim brands like Levis embraced the trend, leading to the widespread adoption of the wide legged pants.

Back in 1940s, when bell bottoms were still exclusively worn by sailors, bandleader Moe Jaffe reworked the old English folk song Rosemary Lane into the "modern" hit Bell Bottom Trousers. Have a listen:

If you'd like to sign along, here are the lyrics:

Once there was a little girl who lived next to me
And she loved a sailor boy, he was only three
Now he's on a battleship in his sailor suit
Just a great big sailor but she thinks he's very cute

(With his bell bottom trousers, coat of navy blue
She loves her sailor and he loves her too)

When her sailor boy's away on the ocean blue
Soldier boys all flirt with her but to him she's true
Though they smile and tip their caps and they wink their eyes
She just smiles and shakes her head, then she softly sighs

(Oh, bell bottom trousers, coat of navy blue
She loves her sailor and he loves her too)

When her sailor went to sea to see what he could see
She saw that he ate spinach, now he's big as he can be
When he's home they stroll along, they don't give a hoot
She won't let go of his hand, even to salute

If her sailor she can't find on the bounding main
She is hopeful he will soon come home safe again
So they can get married and raise a family
Dress up all their kiddies in sailor's dungarees

(Oh, bell bottom trousers, coat of navy blue
She loves her sailor and he loves her too)