Bell bottom jeans – or flare jeans if you prefer – are a great look that is sadly quite rare in current fashion trends. That means you are guaranteed to stand out in these tributes to 60s fashion with a Boho or Hippie vibe. They are a versatile garment as demonstrated by many rock bands through the 1960s and 1970s.
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While bell bottom jeans seem a relatively modern fashion statement by their rather impractical hems that drag on the ground as you walk, their origins are in the Navy.
In 1813, one of the first recorded descriptions of sailors’ uniforms, written by Commodore Stephen Decatur, noted that the men on the frigates United States and Macedonia were wearing “glazed canvas hats with stiff brims, decked with streamers of ribbon, blue jackets buttoned loosely over waistcoats, and blue trousers with bell bottoms.”
While these trousers in the US and British Royal navies were more just about wide-legs than any shaping, the modern flared shape seem to have grown around their mainstream popularity in the 1970s. These were clearly a bold fashion statement of individuality, though they obviously went on to be hugely popular.
The effect of bell bottom jeans is that they make you look taller and slimmer, like a human Eiffel Tower! The way they kick out as you walk brings you an air of carefree liberty, as opposed to the rigid legs of skinny jeans popular today. Meanwhile most bell bottoms you find today including jeans will all be made of cotton – meaning they are a much more sustainable fashion than many synthetic alternatives.
What to Wear With Bell Bottom Jeans
While flared trousers are still available, flare jeans don’t look too out of place as they are still just jeans. Plus they have all the benefits of jeans in durability and going with just about anything you can wear.
If you are going for a 60s fashion vibe then consider leather and suede jackets – especially with tassels – as well as loose and flowing shirts. You could be very bold and consider a military jacket to rock bell bottoms like Jimi Hendrix.
As for the shoes, sandals will make a better hippie outfit but equally a range of boots will look great. Classic combinations include cuban heels, clogs and chelsea boots. Ultimately bell bottom jeans go with everything.
How to Make Bell Bottom Jeans
One of the great things about flare jeans is the sprit of recycling and craft. Originally many people made their own flare jeans by opening the side seams below the knee and sewing in a triangle of fabric. This could be a wild contrast like leopard print or paisley.
Where to Buy Bell Bottoms
Even though flare jeans are seen as more of a retro 1960s fashion, there are actually of plenty of modern shops that sell flares.
Men’s Bell Bottom Jeans
Finding men’s flared jeans is a lot more difficult than for women. One good option is to look at some of the men’s varieties from Run & Fly.
Another option is to look for original vintage deadstock. These have never been worn and are often found in goldmines when shops or warehouses clear out.
A more mainstream alternative would be Levi’s bootcut jeans.
Women’s Bell Bottoms
Free People – Just Float On
In a clean silhouette with a flat front these high-rise jeans feature a flared leg with a raw hem.
In the 1970s Dick Hayne opened a store in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and called it Free People. Free People nurtured the young people who lived there and shopped there, who looked for a little of their own freedom in the clothes they wore. The brand grew rapidly and became Urban Outfitters.
But Free People returned as its own bold line and now caters for strong independent women: “smart, creative, confident and comfortable in all aspects of her being, free and adventurous, sweet to tough to tomboy to romantic,” says Free People. “A girl who likes to keep busy and push life to its limits, with traveling and hanging out and everything in between.”
“Today we draw, design, sew and buy for her. We offer her countless options within our own Free People collection, so that even if she takes her best pal shopping, they won’t come out looking at all alike.”
These classic FP jeans are featured in an extreme flare silhouette.
We love how these flared jeans are based on sailor trousers – which are traditionally very baggy anyway. The narrow knees create a bold and adventurous silhouette that combines these two iconic trouser designs.
Bold designs aren’t for everybody. These are more like classic boot cut jeans which won’t have you tripping over your hems!
With a huge range of colours, wide legs and ripped knees these Vibrant bell bottoms are just that!