What clothes, what watches, what cars and what music were people into in the 1970s?
This is the second in our Window to watch series of feature articles that walks through the decades in terms of changing tastes in these key areas. The main picture shows Bruce Lee. He was dead by 1973, but he was and is far and away the most exciting action star ever.
Fashion: The Bjorn Borg Fila Settanta Jacket
By the mid 1970’s formal dressing was rapidly going out of style. If you insisted on wearing a suit and you weren’t at work, it had to be the white one John Travolta wore in Saturday Night Fever, paired with a black shirt, its massive collar spilling over the lapels of the jacket.
But for the first time fashion was beginning to take its inspiration from sportswear, and no jacket has ever had more of an impact than the Bjorn Borg Fila Settanta Mark 1 introduced in 1976 when Bjorn Borg dominated the tennis world. Singlehandedly Bjorn Borg took sales of Fila sportswear from $25m to $53m in just 3 years – that’s how massively popular this jacket was – and still is. The jacket also came in green and blue, but everyone wanted the red one because it’s the one worn by Borg. Girls used to invade the Centre Court of Wimbledon when he wore it.
Watch: Rolex 18k Gold Quartz Watch
Watches in the 1970s was a decade where a gold Rolex meant everything. Major status. In mainstream circles no one knew or cared about other high quality Swiss made watches, and no one was interested in a mechanical movement you had to wind by hand. This was the era of the quartz crisis, several excellent Swiss watch manufactures were going to the wall, and even the biggest and best were scrambling to offer quartz, and that included Rolex. Quartz was it, quartz was king.
If you wanted to look like ‘The Man’, impress guys and ‘score with chicks’, to use a popular expression of the day, then you wore an 18k gold Rolex with a quartz movement.
It was perhaps the most 70’s watch you could buy.
Car: Ford Capri
This was the British answer to the Ford Mustang, and for the first time it put a cool and powerful motor within the aspirational ballpark of the average working class male. The Ford Capri quickly amassed a huge army of faithful followers. It was launched in 1969 and was marketed as ‘the car you always promised yourself.’ The Capri had no less than 26 different models, with the most sought after being the Cologne built high revs RS2600.
This was the car that screeched and roared its way around the streets of London driven at breakneck speed by Bodie and Doyle in the ratings smash hit TV series The Professionals and in numerous episodes of Minder. In 2006 it was brought right back into mainstream popularity with another ratings winner, BBC 1’s ‘Life on Mars’. There’s never been anything quite like it since.
Music: The Sex Pistols
This album was known in the BBC where I was working at the time of its release in 1977, as ‘Never Mind The Brown Paper’ because the authorities insisted that the word ‘Bollocks’ be covered over with brown paper on all copies of the record sleeve.
This is the Sex Pistols as they should be remembered, as pretty and vacant as you can get. It’s hard to exaggerate the outrage this band caused when they first hit the headlines. Johnny Rotten and his lads were probably the first people ever to utter the ‘F’ word on British TV. One man, a long distance lorry driver who probably heard the word dozens of times an hour in his working life, was so incensed that he put his foot through the TV screen and nearly electrocuted himself.
The album contains classics such as ‘Anarchy in the UK’ and ‘God Save The Queen’. Few albums have caused more shock or outrage. Now Johnny Rotten sells property in Los Angeles and Sid Vicious is long gone, as alas, are the 70s, a great decade.