From Rock and Roll to Saturday Night Fever

In the 1950s, the postwar generation brought a new form of dance into the nightclubs. Rock and roll—derived from African American rhythm and blues—and stars such as Elvis Presley and Bill Haley immortalized the image of the rebellious teenager and also influenced fashion and hairstyles well into the 1960s. Social dance moved away from couple dancing, and new freedom was expressed in checked shirts and tight-fitting denim jeans for young men, while teenage girls wore petticoats and backcombed their hair. By the end of the 1960s, a particular dance form no longer existed, and young people moved their bodies to the music in whatever way they wanted. The disco scene emerged and exerted a crucial influence on the fashion world. DJs combined records, encouraging dancers to stay on the floor for a long period. Fashion designers took advantage of the en vogue disco style and immortalized dance film stars such as John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (1977). His white disco suit in the movie acquired iconic status, establishing disco as part of mainstream culture until the 1980s, when the public had lost its interest in it, and punk and new wave style challenged its dominance.

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