In the Middle Ages, laws in England restricted the sumptuousness of dress. These laws were in abeyance in 1970s Britain; bell bottoms had replaced pumpkin pants and hose, and the youthful populace was gripped by a passion for a strain of men’s flared trousers known as kites. A vulgar coalescence of bell bottoms and palazzo pants, kites were distinguished by extremely wide waistbands.
‘Huge waistbands, obscene waistbands, unbelievably high,’ recalls Justin, who was in the Third Form when kites reached their apogee. ‘People would boast about them, “Look at my four-inch waistband.” It was the most bizarre thing in the world.’
Kites were made to measure. Justin remembers his friend went to a department store to get fitted up for a pair. Their estimated lifespan was between 1974 and 1976. The most popular colours were beige and RAF blue. No school annual exists to corroborate Justin’s memories of kites.
‘We didn’t have yearbooks in this country,’ he explains. ‘We didn’t want anything that would remind us of school.’
There is no photographic or written evidence of kites online. Web and image searches on Google, Yahoo, Mamma, and Bing using dozens of combinations of ‘kites,’ ‘1970s,’ and ‘trousers’ yield pictures of baggy surf trunks and tethered aircraft. People have grown accustomed to looking up memories on search engines. Omissions can be disconcerting. Friendship beads, skorts, and miniature stuffed monkeys called Monchhichi have all been cataloged–but no nostalgic websites pay tribute to the profane flamboyance of kites.
‘It’s like it’s been airbrushed out of the national psyche,’ Justin said. ‘Effectively, they’ve been erased from history. It’s as though people have a made a pact to never talk about them ever again.’
The photograph accompanying this piece is of a 1970s costume, the closest online approximation of kites.
Addendum: People have visited this blog after entering variations of ‘kites flared trousers’ and ‘flared trousers kites’ into search engines. They really existed!