The decade we proudly refer to as the “Eighties” is a decade which took popular culture by a storm. Legends like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Whitney Houston dominated the music industry. The decade also witnessed the arrival of some major rock bands contributing some major trends to the decade, like Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Metallica, etc. The hip hop scene, electronic dance music and house music emerged and evolved remarkably throughout the decade.
But music wasn’t the only highlight of popular culture in the ‘80s. The film industry saw the rise of “high concept” films where the plots were narrowed and the dialogues and cinematography was intensified. For the most part, the “Brat-Pack” dominated the film industry with their coming-of-age comedies ‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’, ‘Weird Science’, etc., which gained not only immense popularity, but a certain cult following.
And while we thank the eighties for the legendary tunes and the avant-garde films, there’s nothing we’re more thankful for than the swell fashion trends that were given birth in the decade, in which both music icons, and film actors (and costume designers) had a major role to play.
There were some trends that were a phenomenal hit and that people draw inspiration from even now; some of the best trends of the ‘80s consisted of slogan t-shirts, huge earrings, miniskirts, penny loafers, Ray-Bans, and Vans. But where there’s good, there’s always bad. Some of the terrible trends like mullets, rat tails, and fanny packs ceased to see the light of day. But some of them, you can’t suppress forever, no matter what. This list consists of the 15 seemingly worst fashion trends of the 1980s that are rocking the world today. They’ve got only one thing to say to you – Sorry, not sorry!
Along with the mullet and the rat tail (thank God they didn’t make a comeback), perms dominated the hair culture back in the eighties. It was easy to get done, and iconic. There was also the fashion of big hair, so perms were all the more popular. Actress Meg Ryan donned the perm look in the movie ‘When Harry Met Sally’ and pop icon Cher rocked it as well, among many other celebrities.
And the hairstyle wasn’t just limited to the ladies. Justin Timberlake, during his N’Sync days, rocked the perm look just as well.
The hairstyle though invented sometime in the 1930s, screams eighties. Even today a lot of celebrities get perms. During her country music days, Taylor Swift was always seen with a perm. And if our beloved Jon Snow (Kit Harington) can don a perm in ‘Game of Thrones’, then it’s definite that the trend is here to stay.
14. Animal Prints
The animal print “roars” eighties. Since wearing the skin of real animals was a big no, the eighties saw a lot of people slipping some animal print on. The prints consisted of the uber famous leopard print, cheetah print, zebra print, etc.
The animal print was considered to be “out of the box” and slightly obnoxious because it was very different from the other designs that dominated the eighties. But that never stopped the pop and the rock stars from donning the leopard print jackets or dresses from time to time.
This was one trend that never truly declined, no matter how ridiculous it was considered. Even today it’s as popular as it was in the eighties and only a tad less obnoxious.
13. Ripped/Pegged Jeans
Let’s admit it, we all own at least one pair of ripped jeans, and those of us who don’t, want to. It’s one of the most funky and popular fashion trends today. But this wasn’t the case back in the day. Jeans was usually worn by the working class and the ripping initially happened due to natural causes like abrasion; but soon it became a sign of teenage rebellion, and people started experimenting with their jeans by ripping it, adding pins and paint, and what not.
Ripped jeans were popularized in the late 1980s with the emergence of punk/hard rock bands. Mostly the popularization is credited to the punk rock band, The Ramones. Of course back then, it seemed absurd to people but now it’s all everyone seems to want.
Another absurd trend was the pegging, or tight-rolling up of pants, which is again, a major trend now.
12. Popped Collars
If you’ve watched ‘The Breakfast Club’ and you didn’t have a crush on Judd Nelson’s character, the rebellious John Bender, then you’re definitely lying. Everything about him, from his “IDGAF “attitude to his outfit made us swoon. But he wasn’t the only character to don the upturned or the popped collar. Tom Cruise also donned it in the 1983 film ‘Risky Business’, and so did punk icon Joan Jett. Celebrity influence was a major source of trend setting even then.
The trend mainly helped one acquire the “preppy” status symbol. A lot of characters in film and TV and musicians in the industry, along with the common folk practiced it until the mid-1990s, after which the trend gradually died.
But like many other trends, it resurged and looks extremely “preppy” and cool. One of the finest examples would be of the character Dean Winchester portrayed by Jensen Ackles, in the TV series ‘Supernatural’. Now he sure is pretty cool, isn’t he?
11. Denim Over Denim
Eighties is when the trend of acid wash jeans and denim jackets made their mark on the world. Every other person would wear them with pride, whether a layman or someone famous. Denim was a symbol of rebellion and soon thereafter people thought, the more, the better. That’s when the trend of denim over denim started. Acid wash jeans, which are washed with pumice stones and chlorine, were teamed with similar or a little different looking, perhaps stone washed, denim jackets. To give it an overall kind of appearance, people wore denim jumpsuits and sometimes teamed them up with denim jackets.
Let’s admit it, it looked hideous and so the fashion of denim over denim ceased to exist. But that surely wasn’t the end of it. A lot of people in the 2000s brought the trend back with a few modifications to offer like – teaming it up with a black top, or decorating the denim jacket with pins.
Seems like denim’s never going to go out of style now, is it?
With all the big hair and the perms, the girls obviously needed something just as trendy (and somewhat tacky) to tie their hair. And along came the scrunchies. The fabric-covered elastic tie was a particular hit among the masses in the eighties. Music icons like Debbie Gibson and Madonna wore them regularly.
And remember the movie ‘Heathers’ with the red scrunchie? If the scrunchies weren’t heavily popular enough, this movie definitely made them.
You’d think something as flashy as a scrunchie could only survive during the 20th century, but you couldn’t be any more wrong about it. Scrunchies, to this day, come in all colors (including the shiny neon ones) and sizes and are fairly popular.
There was a ‘Sex and the City’ episode once that mocked the fashion of scrunchies but apparently no one learned anything from it. *sigh*
9. Fingerless Gloves
Every time I think about the fingerless gloves, I find myself asking, “What’s the point?”
It was somewhere during the mid-80s that the fingerless gloves fashion surfaced. Punk/Rock musicians donned leather fingerless gloves but there were also the romantics who wore fingerless lace gloves.
Two major musicians who wore them were Madonna (who donned almost every major 80s trend) and Billy Idol. Billy Idol mostly wore only one leather fingerless glove for the poses. Madonna on the other hand, on the cover of her album ‘Like a Virgin’ (1984), wore fingerless lace gloves along with a wedding gown and other lace accessories.
But soon thereafter people adopted this trend of wearing fingerless gloves (mostly leather) no matter how much it made their hands sweat.
Such a shame that fingerless gloves made it to the 21st century but the bohemian headbands didn’t.
8. Side Ponytails
Some exclusive ‘80s hair trends are just really hard to digest. The side ponytail is one of them. Teenagers in the ‘80s started brushing their hair to one side, using tons of hairspray to keep the hair intact, and tying high side ponytails. Some people even donned the hairstyle with huge bangs. The Tanner family girls Stephanie and DJ from the show ‘Full House’ rocked the hairstyle.
Debbie Gibson was one of the most influential celebrities during the eighties, and her wearing the side ponytail only encouraged more people to follow.
The side ponytail was a symbol of toughness. If you wore it, your message to the world was not to mess with you.
The fact that the hairstyle can never be as popular as it was in the 1980s (thank God!) does not deny the fact that the trend is still rocked by many celebrities and following their lead, the common folk.
7. Sweater Around Neck
I can never quite wrap my head around why people would want to wrap their sweaters around their necks. Apparently they did so because they had no idea where else to put it since tying it around the waist made the sleeves stretch. It’s absurd how most trends start out because of absolute cluelessness.
The trend for the most part, was popularized by the 1984 movie ‘Making the Grade’ starring Judd Nelson, where the young men wore sweaters around their necks.
This is when the trend started being associated with the rich class. It was clear that only the rich guys wore their sweaters around their necks to display class; and also that they were jerks. It soon became the fairly easy way for people to look and pretend to be rich, just like Judd Nelson did in the movie.
Today, the scene has shifted a little, and women are the ones practicing the trend. Hopefully it won’t be as popular as it was during the ‘80s.
The picture above says it all; as if acid washed denim jacket over an acid washed jeans wasn’t enough to make someone look hideous, add the fringe.
Fringe was mostly leather and the fashion was restricted to women. For the most part, they came in jackets and dresses back then. Tina Turner donned a fringe dress at one of her concerts during the 1980s.
But thankfully today, the fringe fashion isn’t as hideous as it was back in the ‘80s. People over the years have experimented with the fashion, expanding it to tops, bags, and shoes, and it even somehow looks really cool. The music festival Coachella is one place where even the celebrities wear fringe clothing and they actually wear it good.
5. Pastel Suits
Remember the police drama ‘Miami Vice’ that lasted for only five seasons but the impact of which can be seen even today? Not only did the excellent detectives from the show become the most famous ones in television history, but their style inspired many. They wore flashy suits of white and pastel hues and for the most part they rocked it well.
But people failed to understand that what looks good on the screen wouldn’t necessarily look good in the real life. And that gave rise to the pastel suits trend. Men started wearing white suits with black inside and black suits with pastel colored shirts inside. Other than that, the detectives were also famous for wearing double breasted jackets and relaxed trousers.
Today, the trend is back and somehow it’s just as hideous. I mean, it’s alright as long as it’s on screen, it looks artistic. But imagine showing up to an interview in a pastel pink suit in real life. If you do, your chances of getting employed will lower by at least 15% for sure.
4. Mirrored/Reflective Glasses
If you thought the Rayban Wayferers, which Tom Cruise playfully donned in the movie ‘Risky Business’, were the only sunglasses that dominated the market in the 1980s, you are terribly wrong. There was another sunglasses style, one which was rather peculiar. But hey, peculiarity is often the first step to something trendy.
The mirrored/reflective glasses received but two major reactions during its course in the ‘80s – people were either intrigued or they were repelled.
Those glasses symbolized the “cool” quotient of a person. It was majorly popularized by actor Michael J. Fox in his 1985 movie ‘Back to the Future’.
These glasses are not only available today but have taken over the world with their popularity. Everyone wants to own a pair and everyone gets complimented on them. Of course with the passing time people figured out what the glasses went best with and started teaming them up with proper ensemble. Well, it’s much better now than it was in the ‘80s, that’s for sure.
3. Stirrup Pants
Adding a strap at the bottom of a pair of pants is possibly the most hideous thing to have ever happened to pants. Sure, they were secure and helped the pants stay put, but like I mentioned earlier, what’s peculiar becomes a trend and a trend soon starts to dominate. The craze for the stirrup pants was humongous back in the ‘80s. Teenagers wore it all the time, and so did some adults. Some people wore it strictly for exercising purposes like spandex (another hideous pants activity) but some wore it as a fashion statement. Stirrup pants were hugely popular during the ‘80s.
But much to our horror, the tradition is back. A lot of people have started wearing stirrup pants again and now Zara, one of the leading fashion brands in the industry, has started a whole range of stirrup pants. If Zara’s selling it, people are obviously buying it. Why, Zara?
The eighties seemed to have been all about flash. Neon became an inevitable part of everyone’s wardrobes during the decade. Eighties was one of the most significant decades for the punk rock music genre. And anything that wasn’t very natural or conventional was considered a sign of rebellion, a sign of eccentricity. Neon, as it does even today, screamed confidence in the ‘80s. If you were confident enough to wear neon, you were confident enough to do anything. And it was alright initially when the concept was restricted to clothing items like jackets. But soon, it spread like wildfire. There were neon scrunchies, for God’s sake!
I can’t really decide if the neon scene today is better or worse. It’s still very popular, people even get their hair dyed a neon color. But the fashion has been taken too far now, we can’t give it up no matter how hard we try.
1. Shoulder Pads
The shoulder pads trend is just as ridiculous as it sounds. Shoulder pads are fabric covered padding used to give an illusion of broader shoulders. Makes no sense, right? It was one of the most popular trends during the ‘80s. Both men and women wore shoulder padded suits and dresses. Wearing shoulder pads was highly regarded as power dressing. It symbolized power and made the one to wear it look successful and iconic.
It was heavily popularized by the TV series ‘Dynasty’ where the women wore shoulder pads and made their way to the top of the corporate world.
The shoulder pads trend unfortunately never rested. It’s popular even today, and the celebrities are only making it more popular. Music icons like Lady Gaga and Rihanna, who are known for their bold fashion statements, wear 80s’ style jackets with shoulder pads and since their fan following is tremendously huge, people follow.
The ghost of fashion past must be very, very happy.