header print

10 Things That Defined the 1970s

The 1970s were a decade of great change - from fashion, to fads and trends, together with political disillusionment, an awakened environmental consciousness and the very earliest iterations of the technological world we see before us today. Let's revisit the decade of ABBA, bell bottoms, hippie communes and arguably the naughtiest President in US history: 

 

1. Over-the-Top Fashion

Do You Remember The Things That Defined the 1970s?

Image Source 

The 1970s were all about big hair, platform shoes, enormous belt buckles, bell bottoms, sideburns, leisure suits, and Mods and Rockers. The fashion was wacky, but really good fun. Farrah Fawcett became an international fashion icon, after a poster of her in a one-piece bathing suit became the best-selling in history. Furthermore, her hairstyle, known as the “Farrah Flip”, became a predominant hairstyle among American women.

 

2. Many New Genres of Music Emerged

Do You Remember The Things That Defined the 1970s?

Image Source

Glam rock, punk, disco, early heavy metal, funk and hip hop all emerged in the 1970s, as did commercial pop as we know it today. The act that probably sums up the decade better than any other is Swedish pop group, ABBA. Following their Eurovision Song Contest win in 1974, they became international superstars. With that being said, who can forget Elton John, Ziggy Stardust or Led Zeppelin?

 
3. Female Empowerment and the Equal Rights Amendment
Do You Remember The Things That Defined the 1970s?

Image Source

In the United States, many continued to fight for women’s rights, and the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution, stating that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex”, was approved by Congress. Some 35 US states ratified the amendment, however it was halted in its tracks after conservative activists mobilized and prevented it from being ratified by just three more states, which would have allowed the Amendment to pass. This caused women to turn away from politics and begin to set up their own feminist communities and centers – think rape crisis centers and abortion clinics.

 

4. Environmentalism and the Very First Earth Day

Do You Remember The Things That Defined the 1970s?

Image Source 

Earth Day, held on April 22 each year so the people of the world have the ability to demonstrate their support for the environmental movement, was first celebrated in 1970, and marked the beginning of positive moves to be made at the political level in regards to the environment. In the US alone, the National Environmental Policy Act was passed that same year, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act followed in 1972, and the oil crisis later in the decade brought environmentalism into mainstream consciousness.

 
5. The Antiwar Movement
Do You Remember The Things That Defined the 1970s?

Image Source

By the turn of the decade, very few people both in the United States and in the wider world supported the country’s ongoing war in Vietnam and the broader Indochina region. The invasion of Cambodia in 1970 caused mass protests in US cities and college campuses, resulting in the Kent State University shootings of students by police, as well as those that occurred at Jackson State University in Mississippi. President Richard Nixon did not wish to end the war, as he believed that the United States would appear weak on the international stage. US troops finally left the region in 1973.

 

6. OPEC Oil Embargo and the Death of the Muscle Car

Do You Remember The Things That Defined the 1970s?

Image Source

The Arab-Israeli Conflict was reignited in 1973, following attacks by Syria and Egypt that took place in the Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula respectively. Unknown to the United States, the Saudi Arabian King, head of state of one of the most important countries in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, had secretly met with the president of Egypt prior to the latter’s aggression against Israel's beginning. When the United States came to Israel’s aid, OPEC countries decided to first raise oil prices dramatically, then enforce an oil embargo, starting with Libya. The price of oil in the US quadrupled, which caused mass panic, energy rationing and killed off the iconic American muscle cars for good. Their huge engines were no longer economically viable. A second oil crisis followed in 1979, following the start of the Islamic Revolution.

 

7. Life-Changing Inventions 

Do You Remember The Things That Defined the 1970s?

Image Source

So many things we've come to know and love, as well as medical revolutions, were created in the 1970s. It was the era of video cassettes and the very first video games. Disposable lighters and post-it notes were also invented during the decade. Probably the most significant advancements that were made were the creation of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and artificial hearts. Last but not least, the very first iterations of the personal computer were created, sparking the technological revolution that has lasted until this very day.

 

8. Orange and Brown Everything

Do You Remember The Things That Defined the 1970s?

Image Source

We all tend to look back and think that the colors used during the 1970s were pretty awful – think brown bedroom wallpaper with orange accents and a matching duvet. Coupled with the odd color palette were the over-the-top patterns and furnishings. Yellow, orange and black tartan with shag pile carpet, anyone?

 

9. Hippie Communes

Do You Remember The Things That Defined the 1970s?

Image Source

Although hippies came to the fore in the 1960s, it wasn't until the 1970s that they began to live together in communes in significant numbers. The deep-rooted social discontent that was prevalent in both the US and Western society due to seemingly endless wars resulted in groups of hippies banding together and living in communes – usually off the land and with very little clothes on! While some communes were deeply religious and drug-free, others were completely secular and permitted copious use of marijuana and mind-altering substances. Many of the children that were raised in these kinds of environment recall very happy childhoods, but many of them also admit to having found it difficult to integrate into “normal” society.

 

10. The Watergate Scandal

Do You Remember The Things That Defined the 1970s?

Image Source

US President Richard Nixon was caught with his hand in the cookie jar when police caught five burglars, all who happened to be part of the President’s Committee to Re-Elect the President, in the Watergate building. The latter is the national headquarters of the US Democratic Party. Tapes were then released implicating Nixon in the cover-up of this break-in. He instructed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to stop investigating the break-in and instructed his aides to cover up the scandal. The President resigned in April 1974 following three articles of impeachment against him - all of which were approved by Congress. This single event caused Americans to detach from politics entirely, and continue enjoying the rest of the trend-laden, fad-happy decade on their own terms.

Written By: Jake Schembri 

Content Sources: History Channel, Nerd Like You, Debrief Daily
Sign Up Free
Did you mean:
Sign Up Free
Did you mean: