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Like a disco beat, ‘70s style stays alive

Times Staff Writer

If ‘70s nostalgia were a religion, and it’s beginning to feel that way, devotees would certainly make a pilgrimage to Silver Lake, where the boutiques are almost shrines to the time, Farrah Fawcett and Scott Baio are rendered in iconic oil paintings, and weathered vintage T-shirts are handled like precious artifacts. Men here are most reverential, wearing a look of studied “unkempt” with bushy sideburns or several days’ beard growth, aviator sunglasses, shaggy hair with severe side-parts, and tight jeans. They speak lovingly of the 1970s, a decade they cherish as the last era of authentic cool.

“It was the tail end of good times,” says musician Ramfis Diaz, 42, who wears a Fu Manchu mustache and carefully sculpted sideburns that snake around his jaw.

While ‘70s nostalgia has been building for years, its influence in film, music and fashion has reached a new level, turning up everywhere -- on high school campuses and Hollywood red carpets, inspiring $400 vintage Levis at stylish boutiques, $14.99 reproduction rock T-shirts at Target and the revival of brands such as Lacoste and Jordache. Its pastiche is inescapable in films such as “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Napoleon Dynamite,” in the music of Damien Rice or the Kings of Leon, even in the earth tones and handmade “happy chic” pottery of designer Jonathan Adler.

Now 15-year-old boys at Fairfax High School sport Ramones T-shirts with matching bowl cuts, and stylists in Beverly Hills wear well-manicured scruff and $240 jeans with frayed cuffs.

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Suddenly, if it’s hip, it’s ‘70s.

Some say this trend, like grunge in the early 1990s, is a response to the overly groomed celebrities now ubiquitous in mass media. Beverly Hills hairstylist Guy Romeo credits the paparazzi shots that dominate celebrity journalism, perpetuating the look of the “undone” star with a few days’ stubble and comfortable clothes. Others suggest young men’s fashions are just catching up with the Bohemian styles in women’s clothing, most famously perpetuated by the Olsen twins. Then again, maybe it’s just nostalgia for childhood on behalf of the so-called Generation X, the oldest of whom are now in their 30s and early 40s.

“It’s rebellious,” says New York hairstylist April Barton, whose clients include Elvis Costello, U2, Adrien Brody and Jake Gyllenhaal. “It says, ‘I’m bored with the way society is going. I don’t believe you anymore.’ ”

The most conspicuous ambassadors of the style, often young rock musicians and their entourages in Silver Lake and Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, emulate the shaggy scruff of Pete Townshend, the T. Rex afro, even the hairy and disheveled mien of Neil Young. Some sport bushy mutton-chop sideburns and handlebar mustaches. Some -- evoking what one hairstylist calls “the dirty ‘70s” -- look as if they walked off an Allman Brothers album cover, circa 1973. Their jeans drag the ground. Their boots are square-toed. Their rock T-shirts are weathered. And they devote an inordinate amount of energy, not to mention income, to look as if they spent a whiskey-fueled night in the back of a tour bus.

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“The vibe is to look like you put no effort into your look,” says Audrey Moshier, the manager of Goodform hair salon on Fairfax Avenue and lead singer of the band Wifey. “But that’s the best kind of look to have. It’s like paying homage to the pot smokers of the ‘70s.”

The die-hards tend to their overgrown coifs with visits to hair salons such as Goodform, which is popular with L.A. musicians, and Rudy’s Barbershop on Sunset Boulevard near Silver Lake. They use an array of pomades, “waxes” and “grooming creams” designed to give hair that limp, unwashed look. They spend weekends looking for vintage Op shirts or jeans with just the right fade and flare, scouring vintage stores such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store near downtown L.A. Others search EBay for cut-rate vintage boots and over sized and ornate belt buckles.

“It’s just cool to look like a Sweathog,” says Guy Romeo, a hairstylist at the Prive hair salon on Beverly Boulevard.

If they’ve got the cash, they’ll go to the Lo-Fi boutique on Fairfax Avenue and drop $200 on a Pink Floyd concert shirt from the 1977 Animals tour and $200 more on a pair of weathered vintage Levis with a beat-up leather belt to match. They might stop by the Silver Lake shop Dean. for an $85 studded leather belt or a $150 wideband leather wristwatch. Or they’ll visit a “barber-spa” such as the Art of Shaving or the Shave to refine their high-maintenance look.

“Guys want to look like they’re rock and rollin’,” Moshier says, “like they’re part of the band.”

Shaggy, but well-groomed

Inside Kelly Cole’s Lo-Fi boutique, a poster of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust greets visitors at the door, the air smells of the scented candle burning in one corner, the music is vintage Rolling Stones and there are racks of expensive rock tour T-shirts and others that feature Cole’s retro inspired designs -- psychedelic images of guitar players, a surfer catching a wave, phrases such as “Turn it on” and “High on life.”

Cole, a longtime DJ in New York and Los Angeles, opened Lo-Fi three years ago with partner Gary Wagner. He says “That ‘70s Show” has often featured his merchandise, and clients include Winona Ryder, Ben Harper and Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen.

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For him, the boutique helps memorialize an era of creativity and freedom. By comparison, he says, today’s culture seems anxiety-ridden and restrictive.

“Man, it was so glamorous,” says Cole, 35. “It was so perfect. I idealize it in a big way.”

Across town, at the Lab hair salon in Beverly Hills, the mood is decidedly less nostalgic. Personal flat-screen TVs entertain clients with “Montel.” A lithe, blond receptionist greets each client brightly as 25-year-old salon owner Danny Moumdjian and stylist Jessica Saija catalog the high-end brands that define retro chic among their friends. The jeans must be True Religion, Seven for All Mankind or Frankie B. The silver jewelry must be Chrome Hearts or Royal Order and the facial hair must be wild, yet well-manicured.

Moumdjian shows off his Chrome Hearts silver necklace, bracelets and rings, of which a single piece can cost as much as $1,200, and his $240 True Religion jeans with frayed cuffs. His look is finished with a pair of square-toed boots, a carefully sculpted five o’clock shadow and a vintage-style collared shirt, open to the fourth button.

“It’s more cleaned up ... but you still have the rough look,” he says. “Some guys wear it because they want to look older. It kind of will throw off the age. Not too many older people can pull off the look.”

Among celebrities, Johnny Depp is perhaps this style’s elder statesman, with his gypsy jewelry and his Vandyke facial hair. Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Tobey Maguire periodically flirt with longish hair and bushy beards, what Goodform hairstylist Justin Conlon calls straight-out Charles Manson style.

“They fully bust out a beard with messiah hair,” he says.

In fact, facial hair is a way for some men to participate in the trend without fully committing to it.

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There are several variations on mutton-chop sideburns, and mustaches are often worn as statements of irony. The more outrageous, the better. The Fu Manchu is a mustache that hangs below the chin, and the Vandyke is defined by a mustache and a pointed spot of hair on the chin.

At Madame Matisse cafe in Silver Lake, student Gavin Raders stands with his sisters, awaiting a table. He sports a full beard, long ponytail, jeans and T-shirt. From a distance he looks like an aging hippie, far more wizened than his 22 years. He blushes and shrugs when asked about his personal style.

A woman standing next to him, who appears old enough to be his mother, looks up from her newspaper, gives Raders a once-over and quips, “Haven’t we seen this before?”


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