How Leisure Suits Worked

By: Julia Layton

Leisure Suits in the 1970s

The Bee Gees, "Saturday Night Fever," Evel Knievel, "Three's Company" -- hardly a single '70s pop-culture standby left the leisure suit from its repertoire. And oh, was that leisure suit something to see.

Bell-bottoms? Check. Massive lapels? Check. Jacket cut to allow for a wide-lapelled, loud-print poly shirt, preferably open to mid-chest? Huge chest pockets? Contrast stitching? Check, check, check!


The '70s-style leisure suit was originally created by designer Jerry Rosengarten in 1970 [source: Fashion Encyclopedia]. He used it to showcase a newly developed type of polyester, and Lee Jeans produced it. Lee put it on the market as, of all things, business attire [source: Fashion Encyclopedia].

The look never did make the cut in the office. It was, however, perfect for the casual, anything-goes atmosphere of key parties, lighted dance floors and just sitting around a fondue pot. For a few years, leisure suits were IT, often paired with gold medallions, sideburns and a complete lack of manscaping. By the end of the decade, though, the suit had somehow gone from fad to joke, finally replaced by the "power suits" of the money-hungry '80s. Hippie culture no more, the leisure suit faded into the annals of bad-fashion history, a non-biodegradable reminder of a swingin' decade.

Not that the leisure suit is entirely gone. Designers still make them today, only they're typically made of natural fibers instead of poly, and they feature narrower lapels, matched stitching and a slim leg suited for a shoe with no hint of platform.

But don't worry -- if you're dying for the poly version, you can always hit the costume shop in the lead-up to Halloween. They usually sell the dancin' boots and chest hair, too.

For more information on leisure suits and other retro fashion, look over the links below.

Related Articles


  • The Evolution of Men's Style. Esquire. Aug. 14, 2008. (Aug. 22, 2011)
  • Goldstein, Lauren. "What We Wore." Fortune Magazine (via CNN Money). Nov. 22, 1999. (Aug. 22, 2011)
  • Leisure Seizure. People. April 20, 1992. (Aug. 22, 2011),,20112466,00.html
  • Leisure Suit. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (Aug. 22, 2011)
  • Leisure Suits. Fashion Encyclopedia. (Aug. 22, 2011)