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1970s / Polyester leisure suit
The ultimate men's fashion statement from the 1970s: the much-maligned polyester leisure suit! Polyester was first developed by British researchers during the Second World War. It became a consumer item in 1963 when an Illinois chemist named Delbert Meyer came up with a better way of producing the material. The new threads were blended with natural fibers to create clothing that almost felt like cotton or wool but was washable and wrinkle resistant. Cut from rolls of spongy double-knitted polyester, leisure suits came in all variety of colours: earth tones, blues, racing green, maroon, and the entire spectrum of pastel hues. Airless and horribly uncomfortable in hot and humid weather, polyester leisure suits clung to the wearer's arms and legs. The highly flammable synthetic melted when it burned and stuck to its wearer like napalm. Upper-class men were not impressed, and preferred to stick to their genuine wools, silks and cottons. One fashion writer declared, 'Leisure suits were just too democratic. They made everybody look like a bus driver.'