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The hottest back-to-school fashion of 1973: Plain jeans

Boys and girls want plain blue jeans and mothers want good value for new school clothes.

'A boy can dress as far out or as conservatively as he likes'

Boys and girls want plain blue jeans and mothers want good value for new school clothes. 1:38

In 1973, shortages in wool and limited supplies of synthetics were driving up the price of new clothes in Canada, and that had bargain-minded mothers on the prowl for deals.

Annie Hall was still five years away when this menswear look went down a Mississauga runway in a 1972 back-to-school fashion show. (CBC Archives/What's New?)

CBC reporter Norman DePoe was gauging their response, as seen in the news report above. Among shoppers, "There was no real indignation" over the increased prices, he said: "Grim acceptance is more like it."

DePoe says the elevated clothing prices are due to "Nixonomics." Imposed by then-U.S. president Richard Nixon, this economic policy sought to curb inflation in 1971 by setting controls on wages and prices. After the policy was withdrawn, inflation increased once again, boosting the price of basic goods — including clothing. And the effect was felt in Canada too.

You like colour? Blue is your option

Plaid pants were not just for the golf course, as this 1972 fashion show demonstrates. (CBC Archives/What's New?)

But what did the kids want? Dresses were becoming more popular for girls, along with pantsuits and slacks, said DePoe.

"A boy can dress as far out or as conservatively as he likes," said DePoe, adding that for both sexes, plain blue denim would outsell everything else.

In past years, clothing manufacturers tried improving denim with appliques, different coloured denim, and different fabrics, but plain jeans are the most popular.

"You can get any colour you like, so long as it's blue," said DePoe. 

A year earlier, in 1972, the CBC-TV youth-oriented program What's New? reported on a back-to-school fashion show seen in the video below. Bell-bottomed slacks, a checkered tie and red vest made for a distinctly menswear-inspired look on one model, while polyester plaid pants made it off the fairway and onto the runway.  

Kids interviewed by CBC say they don't wear what they see in fashion magazines. 1:40