I turned in earlier than usual last night in hopes of better acclimating myself to the effects of Daylight Savings Time. That did not happen, but I did get a chance to catch an episode of Night Gallery on MeTV before nodding off.
The plot centered around a mental asylum for rich folks (somewhere in the vicinity of Hazzard County, Walnut Grove, and the 4077th MASH camp) and a mysterious family living in farmhouse on the grounds — a farmhouse that burned down decades ago. David Carradine played one of the patients and David McCallum played the psychologist running the facility. I didn’t really care about the story or the cast, though.
I watched it because of the style.
There is something well and truly fucked about the fashion aesthetics of the early Seventies. Sure, all fashions seem quaint to some degree when viewed in hindsight, but the material culture from 1970 to 1974 is the stuff of eldritch horror.
It’s difficult to imagine anyone, ever, gazing upon it and thinking “this looks sharp as hell.”
Unpacking the whys and hows of it could fill a book in itself. Transitional periods always tend to be a bit disjointed, as various trends vie for dominance. The early Seventies were even moreso, as the multi-front flameouts which marked the end of the previous decade left quite a debris field and still generated a decent amount of heat.
As every other aspect of the socio-cultural sphere disintegrated or fractalized, material culture unspooled to fill the space. All bets were off, polyester and velour were in vogue, and the more baroque, the better.
A resurgence of nostalgia befitting an uncertain future wrestled with the remnants of Space Age optimism. They’ve also proven incredibly resistant to ironic or nostalgic appropriation. Even at the height of the Seventies retro revival, the hep set steered clear of the look. Even today, you’d have a better chance finding someone sporting a 19th Century courtier’s costume than a person rocking a Mary Richards ensemble.
I’m fascinated by it because it’s singularly surreal and a product of the era that produced, well, me.
And I don’t think its a coincidence that my graduate class was the smallest in my high school’s history.