8 Funky Fads of the 1970s

A blurred motion image of a 70s couple at a roller disco.
After the political upheaval and social reform of the 1960s, the 1970s was a time for cultural and political change and lots of discos. powerofforever / Getty Images

In the wake of the political upheaval and social reform of the 1960s, the 1970s may seem fairly frivolous. Sure, there were discos, polyester suits, and gold chains, but there was much cultural and political change happening as well. The second wave of feminism, the end of the Vietnam War, Roe v. Wade -- many ideas that are de rigueur today were introduced in the 1970s. Read on to learn about the crazes that made this decade so far-out.

1. Disco

In the 1970s, disco arrived armed with keyboards, drum machines, sugary lyrics, and extended dance breaks. Artists such as the BeeGees, ABBA, and Donna Summer crooned their way into the hearts of people in America, Europe, and beyond. Bell-bottom pants, feathered hair, and big sunglasses were all disco accessories. Most people knew the lyrics to "Stayin' Alive" whether they liked it or not, thanks to disco movies like Saturday Night Fever. Disco music, disco dancing, and disco culture usually get a bad rap for being frivolous and over the top, but today's pop, techno, and club music all have their roots in disco.


2. Afros

The Black Power movement of the late '60s and early '70s claimed the mantra "Black is Beautiful," and the Afro was one way to show solidarity among black people. Rather than continue to straighten their hair, African-Americans let their textured, kinky manes grow unhindered. The effect was a kind of halo or ball shape around the head resembling a dandelion puff and sometimes growing disproportionately large. Anyone with curly hair could achieve this style, made popular by '70s stars such as Angela Davis and the Jackson 5, but it was generally reserved for the "Black is Beautiful" set.

3. Roller Skates

Back in the 18th century, people were hip to the idea of attaching wheels to their feet to get around faster. But not until the 1970s did roller-skating become enmeshed in American culture. As materials and technology advanced, wheels and skates became slicker and faster, and roller-skating became more fun. By the mid-1970s, thousands of roller rinks had opened across the United States. Most rinks combined disco with skating, so patrons could skate under the mirror ball and groove to the music of K. C. and The Sunshine Band while they strutted their stuff.

4. Pet Rock

California entrepreneur Gary Dahl was joking around with friends one night in 1975 about the perfect pet. It wouldn't eat, make noise, or need to be potty trained. Dahl joked that a rock would fit the bill. Everyone laughed, but within two weeks, he had written The Pet Rock Training Manual and marketed the idea at a trade show. A story in Newsweek and an appearance on The Tonight Show followed, and, within a few months, a million pet rocks had sold for $3.95 a piece. Dahl made a dollar for each rock sold, making him an instant millionaire.

Read on to learn about the funkiest fads of the '70s on the next page.


8 Funky Fads of the 1970s, 5-8

What does your mood ring say today? Relax in your leisure suit and read the last part of the funkiest fads of the '70s list.

5. Leisure Suits

If you were a with-it kind of guy in the '70s, you had at least one leisure suit. Made popular via television shows such as Charlie's Angels and movies like Saturday Night Fever (yes, that one again), suits made of polyester were marked by flamboyant colors, wide pockets on the legs, and winged collars. Bands like the Bay City Rollers used satiny fabric in their suits, too, a trend that trickled down into the mainstream -- for better or worse.


6. Mood Rings

Who knew a thermochromic liquid crystal could foretell the mood of humans? Joshua Reynolds didn't really believe it could, but he did figure that he could sell the idea to the general public as a novelty. That's exactly what he did in 1975 with the mood ring, which was invented in the late 1960s by Marvin Wernick. Heat from the wearer's hand would cause crystals in the ring to warm up, making the face of the ring change from black to green to blue to purple. Reynolds sold more than a million dollars worth of mood rings within three months of their debut, and everyone checked in with their mood rings with nearly religious fervor.

7. CB Radio

Before chat rooms, there were CB radios. Citizens' Band radios were (and still are) largely used by truckers on the road to communicate with other drivers in their range. However, in the 1970s and into the early 1980s, people across the United States, the UK, and Australia took back the meaning of "citizens' radio" and began to use the low-frequency radio waves to chat with other CB users. They had their own special slang terms and nicknames, and First Lady Betty Ford even got into the action. She was known by the CB handle "First Mama" when she crackled over the airwaves. That's a big 10-4...over and out.

8. Punk Rock

Not everyone in the '70s was feeling the love. Across the pond, disillusioned youth in the UK were forgoing the Hustle for the fast, hard, raw power of what they called "punk." Bands such as the Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and The Clash showcased their anger, frustration, and disregard for authority in songs such as "God Save the Queen," "I Wanna Be Sedated," and "London Calling." Just as disco laid the groundwork for later dance genres like techno and house, grunge and heavy metal are rooted in the riotous sounds of punk rock.

Helen Davies, Marjorie Dorfman, Mary Fons, Deborah Hawkins, Martin Hintz, Linnea Lundgren, David Priess, Julia Clark Robinson, Paul Seaburn, Heidi Stevens, and Steve Theunissen