Bell-bottom pants didn’t simply co-evolve with the polyester leisure suit. They were first all the rage in the early 1800s, specifically among sailors. That’s no exaggeration, either, because even uniforms change with the fashions, and this was the first time that an American-born fashion trends was picked up by the Royal Navy and other navies across the pond. At that time, the flared pant legs were no mere decoration. They were favored because the shape allowed them to be rolled up to the knee, making it easier to scrub the deck or climb up in the rigging unimpeded. It is also rumored that a knotted pair of bell-bottoms could hold enough air to act as a makeshift life preserver, but that may simply be an attempt to explain why the style keeps bobbing back to the surface of popular fashion every decade or so.