Leisure suits are one of the most memorable fashions from the 1970s. Consisting of pants and a matching shirt-like jacket, the leisure suit was typically made from double knit polyester. It often included features such as wide lapels, contrasting stitching, bell bottom hems, and bold geometric print fabric.
Since the suit was relatively inexpensive, comfortable, and easy to care for, it quickly became a favorite among men who hated the stuffy formal wear associated with the previous generation. It was quite common to see men from all walks of life wearing the suits while working, dating, shopping, or playing golf. In the 1970s, every mall in the country carried the suits for adult men, as well as smaller versions made for children and teenagers. Macy’s even ran a series of television commercials urging doctors, lawyers, and businessmen to adopt this revolutionary fashion trend.
The leisure suit reached the height of its popularity in 1977, when John Travolta wore a white version of the suit for his role as Tony Manero in the hit movie Saturday Night Fever . The movie made Travolta one of the most talked about stars in Hollywood and led millions of young men to try to emulate his look.
Leisure suits fell out of favor in the early 1980s when the business environment began to demand more formal attire. In many industries, the polyester suit was replaced by power suits with wide shoulder pads and stiffer cuts.
The suit earned its place in popular culture by making frequent appearances in popular television shows as an iconic reference to the 1970s. These suits are also prominently featured in the Leisure Suit Larry video game series in which a balding, slightly dorky middle-aged hero tries to seduce young and attractive women.
Today, it’s quite difficult to find a genuine leisure suit available for purchase. If you want to own this piece of fashion history, you’ll need to get one from an older relative or sort through the merchandise at garage sales, thrift shops, consignment stores, and auction sites such as eBay. However, you may have difficulty finding a vintage suit if you wear a larger size. In the 1970s, most men’s clothing was designed to accommodate a 30 inch waist and would be considered small by today’s standards.
If you are lucky enough to find a leisure suit that fits your needs, you can show off your new outfit at the annual convention in Des Moines, IA or one of the many other 1970s inspired events held regularly throughout the United States.