Why I Miss The Days When People Hated Flares

Photo: Courtesy of Free People.
There's a special kind of vindication that comes from having the trend you never stopped loving catch on again. I'm speaking, of course, of flares, and their slightly more costume-y cousins, bell-bottoms. Both come in and out of style, like clockwork, every 10 years: After their '60s and '70s heydey, they were embraced in the late '80s by rave kids, and Lisa Bonet/new bohemian types. The early aughts saw another revival, and by 2005, a pair of bootcut jeans were required leg coverings for any woman not wearing a prairie skirt. 

But, there's something about flares that inspire a special kind of rejection when they're "out." People don't simply retire them to the back of their closets — they violently reject them, swearing they'll never go back. Conventional wisdom placed flares condescendingly in the "regrettable" category — Buzzfeed even featured them in listicle form, as one of 31 items '00s kids will never wear again (given that list's inclusion of off-shoulder tops, tattoo choker necklaces, and other trends currently raging back to life, you can safely use it as your handy guide to being ahead of the aughts-revival curve).

But for me, my flare love never came with a flip side of flare hate. That's partially because the '70s, in all of their garish glory, are my eternal fashion happy place (I blame growing up in the '90s, and taking Gen Xers at face value when they waxed ironically nostalgic about their childhoods). But it's also because flares are, quite simply, one of the world's greatest silhouettes. The slim-through-the-thigh cut, combined with the balancing, full leg is certainly more flattering to a wider range of body types than the default shape of the past ten years: The skinny pant — a shape closely associated with waifs like Audrey Hepburn and Kate Moss for a reason.
Photographed by Sunny Shokrae.
I'll never forget the day I slid into the black Joie flares shown here and discovered that my tall, solid, and resolutely un-skinny frame could look slinky  — a descriptor I'd previously associated only with paleo-adherent, Brazilian supermodels. Or, when I pulled on my J Brand sailor jeans that gave me the apple bottom that, as a Puerto Rican girl, I'd been led to believe was my birthright. I discovered, wore, and loved these pants during the height of the world's flare-phobia — but let 'em scoff, I figured. No matter how un-trendy they were at the time, I refused to reject any garment that made my ass look that good.

There was another, more complicated side to my flare love, though, and that had everything to do with their status as passé. When you proudly, regularly rock something as maligned as flares once were, you're making two statements about yourself: One, you aren't beholden to fashion whims, which makes you feel like a badass. And two, it marks you as part of this secret sisterhood of vintage-lovers. When our editor in chief saw me stalking the halls in my black flares, she used to call out "Hey, Gucci!" — a double reference to the brand's louche '70s look, and its '90s revival by Tom Ford, both of which we loved. I met one of my best girlfriends in a bar because she complimented my flares, and we got to talking vintage fashion. There was a time when flares were a shibboleth — a symbol of your belonging to a certain tribe. Like being a Smiths or Nick Drake fan in my pre-internet high school days, finding someone else who loved this kinda-unpopular thing was a reliable indicator that you probably had all sorts of other stuff in common, too. Kindred spirits ahoy!

Now that flares have officially made a comeback, they're a much more common sight in the halls of R29, and on the streets. Now, when you hear the click-clack of a pair of monster wooden platforms, and the swish of flares, and a filmy blouse, you can't be sure if you're dealing with a bona fide vintage freak — or just a girl who shops at Reformation. And yes, I can't help but nurse a delicious sense of smugness as I witness the "my first flares" crowd finally come around to the shape they snubbed for years. I also can't deny that, long-time believers and new acolytes alike — they all look pretty damn good in their flares. Even if they just popped the hang tags off.

So, the flare as fashion shibboleth is dead. But, long live the flare, and all the women newly discovering its beauty. I'll keep wearing mine with pride, no matter how trendy, then basic, then passé again they become. If I want to feel like a fashion contrarian again, I'll always have Uggs.
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