What Corporate America Looked Like in the 1970s

Jul 05, 2021James Montalvo

The 1970s was a decade where there was no predominant fashion trend. Despite its notoriety for the colorful and spontaneous fashion history, the 70s corporate world was not an exception. Down-to-earth interiors, technologies were invented, and men and women wear what they were required for work regulations. Change is constant and corporate fashion has undergone an evolution throughout the decades. Here’s what Corporate America looked like in the 1970s.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Tom Kelley

HOLD UP

Before getting into the undoubtedly groovy throwback that is 70s corporate America, let's set up what had happened during that era to turn the United States corporate world into what we know it had become. There were a lot of factors that sprung into action, but what we'd like to focus on are the different social movements that changed how people dressed back then. So first up, is the pre-70s timeline.

Advertisment
Loading...
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/The National Archives UK (No Restrictions)

BEFORE EVERYONE WANTED TO GET IN ON CORPORATE AMERICA

Before the sudden emergence of countless high-rise buildings and the idea of the dramatic rat-race - a.k.a the chase for corporate success and glory, there was a social movement that invited people to rebel from the social norms of consumerism and materialism. This, of course, was the 60s' counterculture movement. So let's talk about these hippies, yeah?

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Andy Eick (CC BY 2.0)

THE EMERGENCE OF HIPPIE MOVEMENT

In the 1960s, the counterculture also known as the Hippie Movement was developed and lasted from 1964 to 1972, which was fueled by America’s involvement against Vietnam. But before it was involved in the Vietnam War, the early hippies of American counterculture were known to reject the prevailing social norms, which include capitalism, consumerism, and materialism. They had become the largest counterculture group in the United States.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Ric Manning (CC BY 3.0)

BEATS: THE EARLY PREDECESSORS

The early predecessors of the Hippie Movement were the Beat Generation. The group which consisted of young bohemians including Jack Kerousac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs, created a name for themselves by rejecting the social norms. The Beats embrace Eastern religions but they didn’t steer themselves away from bad vices. Their followers were later known as the Beatniks and weren’t directly engaged in politics, unlike the Yippies.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Ken Westerfield (CC BY-SA 3.0)

ALIENS OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

The Hippies were aliens of the middle-class society that were dominated by materialism and repression. This led them to develop their own distinctive lifestyle. They love to wear their hair long and wear casual fashion. They often wear unconventional dresses sometimes in mind-blowing colors. In contrast to what the American norm requires men and women to wear; the Hippies wore sandals and beads. 

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/alexkon (CC BY-SA 2.0)

MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR

The Hippies were advocates of nonviolence and love. The Hippie movement became the largest counterculture group in the United States, as young Americans gathered to protest America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The Hippies view mainstream authority as the origin of the illness in the society, including the war, and joined their activist counterpart, the Yippies, to protest against their opposition in the Vietnam War.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Jmabel (CC BY-SA 3.0)

THE YUPPIES

In the mid-1970s, the movement began to slow down but paved the way for a new generation of hippies who were intent on making careers for themselves in corporate America. They were known as Yuppies a.k.a Young Urban Professionals. Hippies continued to influence a wider culture, in the new concern for the environment, and a widespread lessening of formality. Let's see what folks wore just before the 70s kicked in.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Popperfoto/Rolls Press

A DECADE OF RADICAL CHANGE

The 60s was known for its tumultuous decade of social change. It was a decade of vulnerability, loss of innocence, and mistrust that led to the surge of protests and political activism from the younger generation. The growing hippie influence and self-expression were iconic in the counterculture of the 1960s. As their style continued to grow in the late 1960s, it sadly carried its “dirty” reputation as well. 

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Montrose Patriot (Public Domain)

CASUALLY SIMPLE

Contrary to the belief that hippie fashion was all about flares and tie-dye shirts, the foundation of what hippies wore in the 1960s was similar to the Beatnik or early Mod fashion. Color palettes were toned down, patterns were basic, and outfits were simple back then. People can be seen wearing their work shirts, drainpipe trousers, mohair sweaters, tee shirts, and canvas shoes.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Daily Express/Express/Brian Duff

THE HIPPIE MOTIFS

The hippie fashion was created from the different perspectives and backgrounds within the movement. To name a few, the hippies took heavy inspiration from the East on its religion and iconography. Even their vices can also spark up designs such as the ‘trippy’ art. Mother Nature had also inspired them to create prairie and flower-power, which was during worn anti-war and environmental protests. 

Image Credits: Getty Images/Popperfoto/Rolls Press

FIELD JACKETS AND BIKERS

When the war subsided between America and Vietnam, many of the Vietnam War veterans returned home and joined the hippie movement. They later introduced field jackets, vests, utility overalls, and patches into the hippie style. The Bikers, who were a fellow counterculture group with a heavy veteran presence, also wore practical clothing and introduced rugged biker boots, leather goods, vests, and jackets. Then came the end of the counterculture movement - and as people matured, things changed.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Mondadori/Mario De Biasi

GETTING WITH THE SYSTEM

Despite all their effort, the various factions of the counterculture movement couldn't stop progress from happening. The technology was advancing, infrastructure was moving forward, and they were getting older. Sooner or later they finally needed to get in on the rat race. That's when the 70s really started to take over.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Popperfoto/Rolls Press

THE RISE OF CORPORATE AMERICA

When the 70s finally started to show its teeth, it became slowly evident that the war effort in Vietnam was a folly one. While it would officially last until 1975, sentiments on the ordeal started to fade when the new decade started. With that, America and many of its citizens focused their effort on something else, developing their homeland into a corporate mecca. So let's see what they did with it, shall we?

Image Credits: Getty Images/Condé Nast/William Connors

OFFICE INTERIOR IN THE 70s

Every era has its own brand of nostalgia and the 70s was not an exception. It was an era where it created a mark in fashion, music, and even in the film industry. The 70s style became a trendsetter that survives up to this day. Like our 70s counterpart, we too opted for sleek, minimalistic modernism in our interior office designs.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Harold M. Lambert

OFFICE INTERIORS WERE DIFFERENT BACK THEN

The 70s interior has indeed undergone a drastic change in the workplace throughout the decades, today we have minimalistic and modern designs but back in the 70s, they have office interiors and spaces that are groovier. The 70s featured its sleek interiors, mid-century style, and modern furnishings, futuristic designs and artwork, wood paneling, an office reception, aviation sculptures, payphones in the waiting area, and conversation pits.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Mondadori/Giuseppe Pino

ECO-FRIENDLY AND ERGONOMIC DESIGN

The 70s style was greatly influenced by the “back-to-nature” movement, which emerged from the hippie rejection of consumerism and materialism. People back then opted to use eco-friendly and ergonomic products and furniture, as people began to become more aware of what was happening to our environment back then. The 70s was also the decade where people adopted energy-efficient technologies and designed houses.

Image Credits: Getty Images/AFP

ADVANCEMENTS IN OFFICE FURNITURE

The 70s created a huge advancement in office furniture. It was also the decade where designers created ergonomic office chairs that were constructed for the sake of the user’s physical health in mind. This piece of furniture later became part of American workplaces and has undergone countless redesigns. Comfort became a great concern, as well as their corporate experience.

Image Credits: Getty Images/sjharmon

DOWN-TO-EARTH DESIGNS

The office design trends in the 70s were something we also use even today in our offices. Geometric patterns and shapes were used in furniture, wallpapers, and even in furnishings. Since the hippie movement was still dominant in this era, they also used colors close to nature and designed their walls and textiles with greens, yellows, and browns. They also used shag carpets that graced lobbies and break rooms.

Image Credits: Getty Images/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank

BOLDER AND BRIGHTER

Aside from its down-to-earth designs and for its ergonomic office furniture, the seventies were also popular for their bolder and brighter colors. Employees were also given larger and more private workspaces. These changes in the 70s corporate office interior have allowed everyone to adjust their seating and desk levels to suit them rather than limiting their work due to the limitations of office furniture.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Fairfax Media/Antonin Cermak

CRAZY-CUBED SPACES

Although the cubicle was conceptualized and popularized in the 1960s, a decade after it emerged, it became widely popular in the 70s. As the American population grew, corporate offices needed more space to accommodate the growing workforce. It would be awkward and uncomfortable if employers would force their employees to work in the four corners of their office and the logical solution that they came up with the crazy-cubed workspace. 

Image Credits: Getty Images/Gado/Smith Collection

JUST LOOK AT THAT TECH

Probably the most off-putting part of seeing an office from the 70s would be the technology they used back then. Desks had giant telephones, typewriters, and whatever "new gizmo" they had back then. Computers were huge too! They would take up whole rooms. Now let's discuss what it was like to work there.

Image Credits: Getty Images/SSPL/Science Museum

OFFICE CULTURE IN THE 70s

Office culture in the 70s was way more relaxed than the culture of today. People back then enjoyed long lunches, water cooler talk, and multiple breaks "to catch some air" wasn’t such a big deal. Men in the 70s still dominated the workplace, but because of the equality laws along with the hippie global movement, men and women were seen as equals in their work more than in any other decade before...

Image Credits: Getty Images/Marisa Rastellini/Mondadori

CORPORATE FASHION IN THE 70S

The 1970s was well-known for the emergence of disco culture which placed heavily on individualism, which was considered as an act of rebellion against the workplace norms that dominated the previous decades. This style eventually found its way to the workplace and had inspired vibrant colors and patterns in the work uniform. The radical change in office attire was eventually accepted in the business sphere.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Sygma/Alain Dejean

WHAT WOMEN WEAR IN THE 1970s

Women in the 70s were expected to wear what men required of them. Another reason why women were seen as too caring to step up in higher positions was that they were forced to confine in the roles of being passive, and being a mother. Women were “othered” in their dresses to give employers an excuse to not give women equal opportunities in hiring and promotions.

Image Credits: Getty Images/ClassicStock/H. Armstrong Roberts

POLITICAL FASHION IN THE 70s

Gender-based roles were prevalent in the Corporate 70s. Women were seen as too caring and soft to step up on a higher job position. While male-dominated offices perceive women as passive and can only do supporting roles, feminists during those times created wardrobe staples versus what women were actually required to wear. What’s their reason? Women were suffering from bad working conditions, unlike their male counterparts.

Image Credits: Getty Images/ClassicStock/H. Armstrong Roberts

WHAT WOMEN WORE - THE BIG WHAT IF

What if there weren’t severe workplace consequences for breaking dress codes (being sent home to change or being fired)? Maybe feminists in the 70s would’ve encouraged women to dress and defy what men dictated them to wear, but instead, a lot of women decided to wear skirt suits, pussy-bow blouses, or feminine pants if they still wanted to keep their job. 

Image Credits: Getty Images/AFP

AN ATTEMPT TO BLUR THE LINE

It was easy back then to dismiss women when they dressed feminine, when the women in the 1970s started to wear pants, the public scrutinized them. The discomfort was everywhere and men thought that women looked bad if they wear pants, dictating them to wear skirts instead because it’s pleasing to the eyes of men. But that didn’t stop them from keeping up with the dominating male workforce back then.

Image Credits: Getty Images/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

A PUBLIC EYESORE

It was easy to dismiss women back then because of what they wear, which is why when women began to swap their skirts for work pants, it became an eyesore to the public. Even a certain President didn’t like the idea of seeing women wearing pants. Feminists had to sew their way because society wanted them to wear the opposite; it was a far-out cry for women.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Mike Powell (CC BY-SA 2.0)

THE AGE OF POWER SUITS

As Women’s Liberation began to spread like wildfire, the male-dominating workforce in the 70s began to slowly accept and open their minds to the changes that feminists were creating for women to be recognized in corporate offices. Suits with shoulder pads and silk bow ties at the neck began to emerge during the 1980s giving women the feminine look to the masculine side of men.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Mirrorpix/WATFORD

WHAT MEN WORE - PRE-BUSINESS CASUAL ATTIRE

Business casual attire dress codes did not exist in the 70s. Back then, men only had a dress code that needs to be followed: daywear and evening wear. Men during the day were encouraged to wear stroller coats or morning coats for business. But after the Hippie movement, things started to change even inside a male-dominated office, where men slowly adapted to the comfortable fashion brought by the hippies.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Alan Light (CC BY 2.0)

STANDING OUT IN FRONT OF THE CROWD

Colors played an essential role in the 70s fashion trend. Simple styles from the 70s were given a transformation by making them look bold with bright colors. These striking hues like yellow, orange, blue, pink, red, purple, and green were utilized across the fashion groups. By using bright hues in a gent’s outfit, they were able to stand out at once and were able to fit into the crowd.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Allan Warren (CC BY-SA 3.0)

ALOHA FRIDAYS

Casual wear was only worn on the weekends while at home. Once you enter the office, everybody is required to wear a suit and a tie. Back then, there was no debate what was the appropriate office attire for men. Casual Fridays, which started with Aloha Fridays, suddenly became a thing thanks to a Hawaiian company who came with the idea which eventually became a trend in Corporate America.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Thomas Tunsch (CC BY-SA 4.0)

THE BOLD AND DARING

During the beginning of the 1970s, there were already existing fashion groups for men. However, these fashion groups also loved to overlap in style. Gentlemen who were either part of these fashion groups such as the hippie subculture or the peacock revolution were most likely wearing bright colors and bell-bottoms regardless of what category they were in. Men back then had an easy time picking what they should wear.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Justso (CC BY-SA 3.0)

THE PEACOCK REVOLUTION

The Peacock revolution became a trend that blurred the lines between gender roles and gender presentation. By letting men wear chiffon and silk, feminine silhouettes, and “flamboyant prints”, the fashion in the 70s slowly began to blur and has broadened the definitions of “masculinity” and “femininity”. It has also paved the way for getting rid of gender binary restrictions.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Ulrich Häßler (CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

THE PEACOCK REVOLUTION FASHION

As jobs starting to get good pay and business boomed in the 70s, young men began to dress in more unconventional ways. Their unique outfits included bright colors and that’s where the revolution got its name as well as the bold use of colors. The Peacock revolution usually included satin shirts, ruffles, tunics, turtlenecks; Cuban heeled boots, bell-bottoms, and braided belts. Suits were also in bright and unusual styles.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/C. Erik Ridderstedt for LJP (Public Domain)

THE MID-1970S ERA STYLE FOR MEN AND WOMEN

As much as corporate America in the 70s may have wanted everyone to conform to their standards and be 'squares.' People still found ways to rebel in everyday life. Naturally, fashion played a huge part in affecting the culture back then. So for the 70s, after the hippies faded away, these stylish rebel movements showed up.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Perry Riddle (Public Domain)

GLAM ROCK

Glam rock was considered to be a return from the revolutionary, political music of the 1960s which later became a more superficial and exaggerated view of style and in celebrities. People who were Glam rockers were inspired by varied sources such as hard rock, science fiction, cabaret, and bubblegum pop. Contrary to punk, Glam rockers were not unified under one social or ideological movement outside their culture.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/AVRO (CC BY-SA 3.0 nl)

FUTURISTIC TRENDS

The predecessor of the Glam rock fashion trend started when David Bowie began to incorporate eccentricity into his wardrobe and wore glittery makeup for his performances in the 70s. The seventies rock style was way too glamorous and has incorporated feminine elements, and a major part of the Glam rock fashion was theatricality. Accessories in glam rock outfits include feather boas and sunglasses. A velvet sports jacket was included in this style.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Helge Øverås (CC BY 2.5)

70s DISCO FASHION

In the late 1970s, Disco fashion circled back in the mainstream fashion return to boho style. The Disco clothing in the 70s gave people a chance to wear their personality, like a costume. This era was also known for its lack of distinction between men's and women’s wear because everyone can wear their personality. Hairstyles and accessories and overall silhouettes became more androgynous in this era.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Revista Pelo (Public Domain)

DISCO CLOTHING

Men and women had the freedom to wear what they want to wear during the Disco 70s. Women can wear very loose, very tight, or a little bit of both. Wrap dresses and Hot pants were popular to women back then as well as leotards and stretch pants while men would wear their ruffled shirts and gold jewelry before partying on the dance floor.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Deutsche Fotothek‎ (CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

PUNK ROCK

Punk rock was known as an aggressive form of rock music that united an international movement from 1975 to 1980. Punk rock was often politicized and full of vital energy which spread as an ideology and an aesthetic approach that became an archetype of teen rebellion and alienation. It was more than a music genre; it was a political movement as well.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Pax (Public Domain)

PUNK ROCK AGENDA AND MOTIFS

The punk culture was considered anti-establishment, which was a response to the declining economy and rising unemployment. They rebelled against both the hippie movement and high society. Punk fashion was inspired by the designs of Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood, and her partner, Malcolm MacLaren, as well as the clothes worn by the members of the Bromley Contingent such as Siouxsie Sioux.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Mantaray100 (Public Domain)

FASHION FOR DISSATISFACTION

Punk rock fashion represented the wearer’s hostile view against the world and their dissatisfaction with the ideals of conformity. Punks cut up old clothing they bought from charity shops, destroy it, and refashioned these garments to attract shock and attention.  These refashioned garments were held together by safety pins and chains. The accessories that Punks often wear were necklaces made from padlocks and chains.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Gilui (CC BY-SA 2.5)

PUNK ROCK FASHION

Customized t-shirts, leather jackets, blazers, ripped jeans, and tartan bondage trousers were part of the Punk rock fashion. Male punks often spiked their hair or shaved the sides to create a Mohawk. Female punks loved to rebel against the stereotypical image of a woman by combining delicate or pretty pieces with masculine pieces such as Doc Martens and spiked leather jackets. 

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Riksarkivet, National Archives of Norway (No Restrictions)

Corporate America in the 70s was indeed an era of transition where fashion styles were diverse and constantly changed one after the other. While there was no predominant style in this decade, the ’70s was more than just a fashion era, it was an era of radical change, voices were heard, equal rights were advocated and people had the freedom on what to wear that took the corporate world on a run for its money. Had fun with this? Check out Amomedia for more!

You May Also Like