Reemergence of bell bottoms sparks conversation of their utilization in past and present activism

Avary Hutzelman | Staff Writer

 Bell bottoms are back.

Like most fashion trends, bell bottoms went on sabbatical. But now they’re back and their return is catching the attention of some bell bottom veterans at Mason High School. 

Bell bottoms were born during a decade of controversy, spanning from the mid 1960’s to the late seventies. These long flowing pants that came to symbolize freedom, expression, and rebellion are returning during the 2020’s, a time period that seems to resemble the sixties, with cries of social justice, voting rights, and equality. 

Not only are bell bottoms making a return, but young people are speaking out again. They’re taking to the streets, spawning a new generation of activism from today’s young people who just just by some unique coincidence are seeing bell bottoms return as a fashion that has awoken from a long slumber. 

Visual arts teacher Audrey Gorman, an admitted bell bottom wearer during her teenage years believes that the current women’s rights movement plays a large part in the return of bell bottoms. Gorman sees history repeating itself as the fashion resurfaces at the same time women are once again fighting for some of the same things they fought for over 50 years ago. 

“In the sixties and seventies, women were taking on bigger roles. They were finally deciding they can have both a family and a career,” Gorman said. “I think that we look back at our leaders from that time period and we see the clothing they’re wearing, and I think it spurs inspiration in today’s generation.”

Gorman is proud of the current bell-bottom wearers, especially the ones who are not afraid to speak up on issues at MHS. 

“I think it’s really great to know that we have so many people that are not afraid to say, hey that’s not right’ or ‘I’m going to step in and tell you to stop doing that,” Gorman said. 

Even though bell bottom jeans and pants are fashionable, sometimes clothing is not just clothing when it connects to a deeper meaning. The reemergence of the bell bottom seems to coincide with a time when young people are making their voices heard. 

Sophomore Sophie Seiveking loves her bell bottoms. She likes the look and how free spirited they make her feel. But Seiveking isn’t afraid to speak up in support of people who need a voice. 

“I speak my mind especially if I have a contradicting opinion,” Seiveking said. “I think it’s really important to [share] other perspectives.”

Sheren Mirib, a sophomore at MHS enjoys the styles of the seventies. When she saw bell bottoms making a comeback she felt right at home in her flared legged pants. 

“[Bell bottoms] feel really authentic,” Mirib said. “I take a lot of inspiration from past decades. The [clothes] are so different and it’s fun to revisit a style.”

As women continue to fight for equal pay, respectful treatment in the workplace, and women’s health rights, Seiveking takes pride in her involvement with the feminist movement which gained popularity in the ’60s. 

Women’s activism was marked by a time when the young women who joined this movement wanted to break free from conservative clothing. 

Bell bottoms were viewed as a style for radicals which made some popular clothing brands hesitant to sell the jeans. In response, women often had to make their own by taking their straight leg jeans, cutting the outside seam, and adding another triangle of fabric to create a wider leg. 

But bell-bottoms weren’t just popular among the girls. As with many popular fashion guys didn’t want to get left out. So they chose to wear bell bottoms as well. Long time MHS English teacher Tim King was one of those guys. He wore bell bottoms from the time he was elementary school to well into his college years. 

Even though the jeans could get hung in his bicycle chain due to all the material around the ankles King liked how his jeans looked and he felt they reflected his own idealistic personality. 

King was raised by parents who believed in voting rights, environmentalism, diversity, and equality. He was also brought up knowing when he needed to voice his opinion. 

“I argued with my friends all the time about beliefs. I got in fights over it,” King said. “The typical war-loving point of view that my friends had, I would take the other side and we would argue and sometimes we’d even start wrestling.”

The Vietnam War played a huge part in the bell bottom trend. Many people were against the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. When young men began to get drafted to fight in the war, the tension got worse. The youth felt like things were out of their control. They took to the streets to protest. Even though King knew his pants reflected the style of the times, he was keenly aware that his long flowing pants also made a statement regarding his beliefs. 

“There’s no doubt that [bell bottoms] signaled the protest movement of the ’60s and ’70s,” King said. “They were definitely related to the anti-war protests and to make the world a better place movement.”

MHS Guidance Counselor Phyllis Bell fondly recalls wearing her bell bottoms. She even remembers being asked if she was a hippie when she wore flares to teach an English class when she first started teaching. 

“It was a counter-culture movement,” Bell said. “Mainstream in the ’60s was not that. Even though it looked like there were all these movements everywhere, the music, the clothes, the protests, it was not mainstream culture.”

While fashion trends and especially bell bottoms were not mainstream, the adults at MHS who once wore bell bottoms who have since moved to the trends and styles of the 2020’s, haven’t lost sight of their symbolism. While they may no longer wear these pants with the excess ankle space, they haven’t lost their voice when it comes time to speak out against inequality. 

Bell may have been young at the time. Bell bottoms may have gone out of style but speaking up hasn’t. She continues to take her involvement with issues very seriously, and while she may no longer wear bell bottoms that doesn’t stop her from voicing her opinion because the influence of her youth adorned by the fashion of her time remains strongly a part of her personal belief system. 

“I am a social justice warrior, I am an advocate for kids,” said Bell. “ I have participated in women’s marches. So even though I was younger when that was happening, it is part of my life now.”