F or many girls, 80s fashion meant slipping into a pair of Normandy Rose jeans, an oversized sweater, leg warmers and Keds (without laces of course) meant they were “dressed to impress”.
Add to this a Banana clip for the hair, frosty pink lipstick with baby blue eye shadow and you were, “like”, so cool.
80s fashion gave us Guess jeans, wedgies (Ahh, they were a shoe back then.. Nothing to do with underpants), jelly shoes and bracelets, satin ties, Izod polo shirts (with the collar up), and “Relax” T-shirts thanks to Frankie Goes To Hollywood (a popular band at the time). This era also brought back into vogue polka dots and zebra stripping. Brand names also became important as a fashion statement, making Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein household names, among others.
80s fashion styles for men often included such things as acid washed jeans, parachute pants, Reebok high tops, Converse hightops(chucks), Cotler pants, kamikaze shirts (These shirts allowed you to zip off the sleeves to show off your arms) and jean jackets.
During this era, accessories also needed to have high impact. For this reason, large gaudy accessories were proudly displayed. Earrings were either large hoops or long and dangly. Necklaces’, bangles and bracelets were layered and often had pendants hanging from them.
Whether 80s fashion agrees with you or not, you must admit it showed a uniqueness and freshness that had not been seen for a while. Teenage girls eagerly adopted the styles of Madonna or Cindy Lauper while the guys styled themselves off Wham or the Brat-Packers, Judd Nelson or Rob Lowe. This was the eighties and with it came a new freedom of expression.
The 1980’s were the start of the MTV revolution which would have a major impact on fashions and also bring us a new way of watching TV.
The eighties were not about accessorizing but about EXCESS orizing .
Early 80s Fashion In The UK
With the eighties came bands such as Adam And The Ants, Depeche Mode and Spandau Ballet who, driven by the success of MTV, became major fashion influences. Called New Romantic, this fashion movement started in the UK as a reaction against the punk culture of the 70s.
From the New Romantic movement came fashions such as the “Pirate” look which featured frilled buccaneer shirts, Hussar-style jackets and high-waisted, baggy trousers.
Another “NewRo” style was to wear your shirt collar in the upright, unfolded position against the neck with the top buttons unfastened. This became known as “popped collars”
Doc Martens And The Goths
Doc Martens shoes were worn by girls and guys in the early 1980s as a required fashion accessory for the punk and skinhead subcultures in the UK. Often paired with Laura Ashley- style dresses or mini skirts, they were an important feature of the 80’s Gothic look.
The Gothic look featured pale skin with long, back-combed hair, lipstick, dark eyeshadow, black nail varnish, dog-collars and spiked bracelets. The Gothic look re-emerged in the 1990s and again in the 2000s.
Michael Jackson And Thriller
The Thriller Look Had A Brief Impact On 80s Fashion
Love him or hate him, Michael Jackson was a big part of the eighties. After the release of his record breaking album “Thriller” in 1982, teenagers spent hours in front of a mirror trying to replicate the look.
If you came from the eighties you will know the look – matching red and black leather pants and jacket, one glove (yes, that’s right, you only wear one glove), sunglasses (called “shades” in the 80s), and the jheri curl (a hairstyle that gave a glossy, loosely curled look).
The leather jackets were quite often studded and left undone to create that messy look. 80s fashion was color and energy. Orange leather jackets might not sound fashionable these days but it was in back then. Michael Jackson definitely set many of the eighties fashion trends. From the picture you can also see that blue denim jackets were still a highly sort after fashion item.
80s Fashion Trends – Legwarmers and Flashdance
Leg warmers were around long before the 1980’s, however, it took the release of the movie Flashdance to make leg warmers became part of popular 80s fashion. Jeans, dresses, knit pants or miniskirts – if you were a girl of the eighties, you wore legwarmers with everything. It could be ninety degrees in the shade and there you would be in your Normandy Rose jeans and legwarmers.
For most circumstances, legwarmers were totally impractical, but then, this was the eighties and as far as every teenage girl was concerned… legwarmers were cool!
For Many Girls, Madonna was 80s Fashion
In 1984, Madonna’s “street urchin” look became a fashion sensation with the release of her single “Like A Virgin”. Madonna’s street urchin look was created by designer Maripol and was made up of bleached, unmanaged hair with visible dark roots, layered lace tops, short skirts over Capri pants with fishnet stockings, crucifix jewelry and multi layered bracelets, lace ribbons, beads and fishnet gloves. Madonna also pioneered the craze of wearing a Bra on the outside of your shirt.
Madonna used layering to great effect in her street urchin look. She would often wear a lace shirt over another shirt or a lace skirt over a short skirt which is over leotards.
The Miami Vice Look
In 1984, the American tv series, Miami Vice gave us the casual style of wearing t-shirts under expensive suit jackets. Many young to middle aged men eagerly adopted the “Miami Vice Look” with the inclusion of broad shoulder pads to jackets and the unshaven “designer stubble” look, made famous by Don Johnson (Miami Vice lead man).
Tom Selleck As Magnum, P.I.
Men also started wearing Hawaiian shirts with sports jackets and growing mustaches again thanks to Tom Selleck in the series Magnum, P.I. Gucci loafers also became fashionable as casual, but expensive, footwear after being seen worn by Tom Selleck in a cologne advertisement.
Fashion in the 1980s came alive with Neon
As if fashion in the 1980s wasn’t loud enough, neon colored clothing hit the scene, turning the brightness dial to max. Splashes of hot pink, green, yellow and orange could be seen everywhere on shirts, pants, over-sized sweatshirt s and even sunglasses.
The neon colors even took on a phosphorescent glow when worn at a disco or nightclub. With 80s fashion lighting up the streets, it’s easy to see why Corey Hart wore his sunglasses at night (reference to the hit 80s song “Sunglasses At Night” by Corey Hart).
Acid Wash Jeans
One of the hottest fads of the eighties was acid wash jeans. Acid wash jeans didn’t become trendy until the middle to late eighties and faded out five years later (pun intended). Acid wash jeans and big hair complimented each other and this phenomenon became characteristic of late 80s fashion .
Acid washing was a process that used chemicals to remove the top layer of color from the material, leaving the bare white fabric visible. The color still remained in the lower levels of the cloth thus giving it a faded look.
For many girls of the late eighties, being included in the “It” group required at least a matching pair of acid wash jacket and jeans to be worn. Better still was to wear your boyfriends acid wash jacket.
Late 80s Fashion – Power Dressing And Shoulder Pads
The American soap opera, Dynasty was a huge influence in the way many 80s women dressed. The number of women entering the workplace had increased and many of these women were career driven. To be seen as, at least the equals of their male counterparts in the office, women started adopting the fashion styles of Linda Evans or Joan Collins from Dynasty.
Shoulder pads became almost a requirement for female business attire. Many outfits came with Velcro fitted to the inside of the shoulders allowing for easy attachment of various sizes of shoulder pads to suit your tastes.
Dynasty also encouraged women to openly flaunt their wealth by wearing glitzy jewelry, wool, cotton, cashmere and silk as opposed to nylons or synthetics.
For men, pinstriped business suits became popular again. The three-piece suits from the 70s faded out in the early 80s, with lapels becoming narrow, which was reminiscent of the 50s styles. Neckties narrowed in the 80’s. Skinny leather ties were often worn by guys who followed New Wave music.
Women’s fashion shoes took on the early 1960’s look of pointy toes and spiked heels. While for most of the eighties, brightly colored high heels were the preferred going out shoes, during the mid eighties, the casual and comfortable jelly shoes, or “jellies” as they were called, became trendy
The Preppy Look
Preppies were a group of kids bound for college or “prep” school. These teenagers wanted to succeed and typically stayed out of trouble. In the 1986 film, “Pretty In Pink”, preppies are referred to as “Richies” as seen by the seemingly “well-off” characters Blaine and Steff. Alex Keaton (Michael J. Fox) from the series, Family Ties, was another great example of a Preppie.
The Preppie look included polo shirts, blazers, sweaters, button down shirts, penny loafers, LL Bean, turtlenecks, duck boots, rugbys and dress pants. Girls often wore Tretorn Tennis shoes, Laura Ashley dresses and Keds. To Preppies, appearances meant everything so they avoided the trends of neon fashion, ripped clothing, punk rockers and so on.
More 80s Trends
Ankle Socks and High heels… Hot or Not?
Ankle socks were sexy and seen in all the right places on all the right people. Actresses wore them, models wore them but most importantly, they were seen in MTV videos.
Ankle socks were worn with tennis shoes or low heeled shoes but to get the most out of them, you had to pair them with high heels. So hot, so sexy and so eighties…
ZZ Top in their single “Legs” made ankle socks a hot 80s fashion item.
Easy, affordable and comfortable to wear, jellies are made from PVC and so can come in many, many colors and styles.
Being plastic made them great for anything to do with water, but it also meant they could get sweaty as plastic doesn’t breath like other fabrics.
When the shoes were first released, the only colors they came in were black or white. After becoming a popular 80s fashion accessory, more color variations were added such as pink, red, blue, and green. In their time, these shoes were sooooo coooool that no respectable wardrobe was complete without them.
Converse Hightops (Chuck Taylors)
Whether you were a girl or guy – this 80s fashion crossed the gender barrier. Wearing two different colored Chucks became the eighties style for them shoes as well as personalizing them with pictures, notes and generally writing on them.
Other related 80s fashion links of interest
80s Fashion Trends – Bad 80s Fashion – 80s Clothes – Women Fashion 80s