70s Fashion On The Get Down

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Baz Luhrmann's resplendent cinematography and the deliciously retro 70s wardrobe are front and centre through the directors kaleidoscope lens. Showcasing prints, flares, glitter dresses, classic trainers, cat-eye sunglasses, and copious amounts of denim - the shows abundant in spectacle and sparkle so were taking a look at the classic 70s style and the significance of appreciating our clothes across lifetimes.

Words by Kirsty Lee

The style in the 70s hip hop series The Get Down is just as considered and influential as the highly-documented disco looks over in Manhattan at the infamous Studio 54 nightclub, which also opened in 1977. In the world of Hip-Hop, authenticity is everything. Your status, your street cred, revolves around adhering to the rules and demands of that ineffable code "Keep it real". Everything from your social alliances to yes, your look, is sized up and analysed under a micro scope. Which is why the just released Netflix series attention to detail of the eclectic and vibrant 70s Hip-Hop is uncanny. The rhymes are fresh, the language is killer and the clothes are spot on due to the production aided by musical legends Grandmaster Flash and Nas. The Get Down is set to be one of the most exciting small screen fashion moments of the year.


For Flash, seeing that the period was accurately represented was paramount. "It's a period that journalists never cared to ask about. Now, this time that all the kids should know is on this huge platform and it's becoming a topic of discussion. When we were kids, that's the one thing we didn't do; we didn't record it, film it, so there was nothing for these guys to reference. Baz has cracked open this vault, and it is time for people to take a look."


Being rich with inspiration and set in a time where there was this big bang of culture, the former Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll costume designer Jeriana San Juan joins forces with Luhramann's wife and creative partner Catherine Martin re-creating the sartorial expression of a world that was on the brink of cultural dominance. Everything in the show is displayed through a heightened perspective, in the same way everyone thinks about their own childhood - things are always bigger and more colourful than you remember them! Set in a graffiti-strewn 1977 Bronx tableau about a gifted poet Ezekiel who finds himself drawn to the underground block parties, and is wrapped up with the Angelic priest's daughter Mylene. The series tells a historically inspired 'mythical tale' showing the birth of hip hop in the late 70s at the hands of wide-eyed teenagers living in the gritty, dangerous South Bronx.


What were B-boys' favourite shoes? What made a pair of Suede Pumas in 1977 really desirable?

Even in the very early days of hip hop culture, a pair of trainers could elevate someone to legendary status, and so the red Pumas and customised jackets flashing across the screen in every episode are just as integral to Luhrmann's story as the epic soundtrack and central love story. The boys in the series idolize Shaolin Fantastic, the graffiti artist and dealer for the gangster Fat Annie, who parkour leaps between Bronx high rises in pristine, red suede Pumas. 'We hear, he has over 100 pairs,'- Just like in 2016, trainers signified status, and Martin worked with brands to reproduce the exact styles the kids were wearing in 1977. There were three shoes - Converse, the classic American sports shoe, Pro Keds, which are just about to be relaunched in the States, and the Puma. The suede Puma was the top of the top and certain colours were more difficult to get.


As for why Shaolin Fantastic wears the electrifying red suede Pumas, Martin explains: "We gave a list to Baz of the colours that you could get at the time and he picked the red because it's so iconic and looks so good on screen, but you would always try and get the most unusual colours. It was all about keeping your shoes immaculate and clean which is why they talk about him having 100 pairs. People carried around toothbrushes to clean their shoes - sometimes even today in the Bronx you still see people putting plastic bags over their shoes so they don't get dirty."

The Get Down Girls

The show perfectly conveys how the forerunners of hip-hop wore their passion for music on their sleeves - In the world of hip-hop, authenticity is everything! The Get Down is fiction, but it tells the story of "real" people and what they wore, which coincides with the current interest in streetwear and clothes that are more down to earth. While the eccentric flares and bold sideburns are period touches, the halter crop tops and high waisted bloc colour shorts are on point!


Diane von Furstenberg, Halston and Gucci opened up their archives to the show. All three brands were powerhouses in the hybrid era of disco and hip-hop. DVF provided archive photos of actresses in her clothing from the 70s and archival pieces were used as templates for a lot of the patterns seen throughout the show. Ossie Clark was a huge influence for the prints and patterns and Diane von Furstenberg, with wrap dresses. Adele Kipling wears a wrap dress in the pilot, and that wrap dress is actually from Diane von Furstenberg's archives. The silhouettes from the 70s were stunning and San Jaun would adapt pieces directly from Gucci or use elements like making the sleeve or collar, or adding a hem, or manipulating the clothes so they would be more authentic.


A show about the birth of hip hop could easily be male-dominated, but The Get Down also shows strong, ambitious women, from formidable gangsters to girls defying their evangelical parents. The showstopper sensational dress that mylene, an aspiring disco singer steps out in is a stunning old lame dress which takes direct inspiration from the Halston archives. The young Latina girl, Regina is the voice of the trends that were happening in Seventeen magazine in 1977, rocking a tied up western blouse and roll up short shorts like Pam Grier wore on the cover of Jet magazine.


The Set

The task of transforming the streets of Manhattan and bringing the Bronx back to the burned out shell it was 40 years ago fell to the dynamic trio Martin, Murphy and San Juan. DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa contributed oral histories for reference whilst high school yearbooks and private archives from OG NYC street photographers Joe Conzo and Jamal Shabazz provided a visual blueprint.


For the authentic exterior shots, the original street graffiti artists including Crash, Daze and Lady Pink - who is the first lady of graffiti, consulted with Martin. One of the things that was signature for a graffiti artist to do at the time was to customize their own denim jackets. Each graffiti artist wore their own jacket like a walking museum. Lady Pink created original pieces for the character Dizzee played by Jaden Smith - It's an original Lady Pink; there's only one in the world!