By Maya Mabern
Last week, I went down the rabbit hole of recommended videos on YouTube and spent about two hours feeling nostalgic for an era I never experienced: the heyday of “Soul Train.”
The show, which ran from 1971 to 2006, brought Black culture to mainstream America and changed the landscape of music and dance for years to come. “Soul Train” also brought us some innovative fashion trends that have come back in style or remained popular since the start of the show — high waisted jeans and pants, halter tops and chunky shoes will always be “in”— but others have become relics of the time. Here are some of the best fashion trends from the “Soul Train” era that I’m desperate to revive.
- Knickerbockers with striped socks, worn by the Lockers
“Soul Train” was known for innovations in dance, perhaps most notably with appearances from the Lockers, who pioneered modern street dance and invented the “locking” dance style. While their legacy in dance lives on, their outfits… not so much. They appeared in colorful suits or collared shirts and suspenders with matching knickerbockers, striped socks, chunky shoes and some kind of hat — sometimes a top hat, sometimes a floppy beret.
It was an iconic look, but it didn’t really catch on. I find this disappointing, as I feel like knickerbockers are likely one of the most comfortable pant styles that exists.
- Open shirt with giant medallion, worn by almost every man on this show
From the Isley Brothers to Sly and The Family Stone, everybody and their grandma made sure that if they were appearing on “Soul Train,” their chests had to be at least a little bit bare. Sometimes it was a leather jumpsuit opened to the belly button. Other times, an ornate sleeveless vest or the more timeless and recognizable shirt-collar-over-the-lapel, a la John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever.”
No matter the context in which the chest is laid bare, it always had to be covered up by a gigantic gold or silver piece. I really wish this look would come back, even if it’s sort of the human equivalent of peacocks showing off their feathers to mate.
- Platform shoes for everyone
This kind of doesn’t count because I feel like chunky platforms are coming back in various forms, but right now I’m talking about those 5-inch-tall, lace-up disco shoes, worn by everyone on “Soul Train” at some point. They vary in style — some are plain colored, but many were elaborately embroidered, glittered or bedazzled — but always made the dancing on the show look twice as fun. I’m going to try and order some online after I finish writing this.
- Leisure suits
Okay, I understand why the other fashion trends I mentioned flopped, but I will never understand why leisure suits aren’t still regularly worn. Maybe it’s that the term itself seems to be an oxymoron. Who can feel 100 percent comfortable in any type of suit? But with modern textile innovations, I’m sure we can make them out of a fabric that is just as comfortable and more sustainable than polyester.
Matching, stretchy suits in bold colors and fabrics were probably the best outfits to come out of the ’70s, and with the matching set trend on the rise again, I think the leisure suit revival is on its way. At least, I hope it is.