Hot pants, along with mini skirts, might well be the 1960s greatest fashion gift to men. Launched by British fashion designer Mary Quant during the “Swinging London” scene of the mid-1960s, these super short shorts were fashionable until the early 1970s. They’re most glorious moment arguably came in 1971, when at the end of the year LIFE Magazine summed up the trend this way: “Hot Pants: A short but happy career.”
Hotpants sell seats
By then they’d became such a mainstay of fashion stewardesses working for Southwest Airlines of Texas in the 1970s had to be able to carry off hot pants and leather boots or they didn’t get the job. In accordance with the airline’s motto, ‘sex sells seats’, girls were selected on the strength of their legs and looks. Hardly surprising then that in-flight drinks had names such as ‘Passion Punch’ and ‘Love Potion’.
The long and short of it
There are many reasons why 1971 was the perfect moment for a hot pants explosion. New fabric technology, like polyester, allowed for tiny, stretchy shorts ideal for the dance-floor. The form fitting garments fed into and came out of new dieting trends, as women were increasingly obsessed with “watching their figures.” And the sexual revolution opened the door for more revealing clothing, and, more skin. Sadly like many fashion fads, the skimpy shorts (maximum inseam of two inches) were not destined to become a mainstay. Yet the pants, which were hot until they were not, made a long, lasting impression.
And happily, they weren’t Quant’s only triumph as can been seen by this wonderful 1967 broadcast showcasing her newest project, thigh length boots. Now that’s what we call a kick ass combo.