80s fashion is fondly remembered for introducing quite a few unusual clothing trends, complete with shrill hairstyles and countless neon accessories. However, there is more to the decade than perms and shoulder pads – it was the heyday of several unique subcultures, most notably the Preps, Jocks, and their polar opposites the Punks. In addition, if we delve deeper into 80s fashion archives, we will find Skinheads, Surfers, Miami Vice Stylers and many more. Add the various unique trends introduced by the celebrities of the day, and you have one colorful fashion hotchpotch on your hands. Curious? If so, keep scrolling to find out more about some of the biggest styles in 80s fashion.
80s Fashion – Carrot Pants Were a Must
80s clothing represented a new, more dynamic way of life. In stark contrast to the earthy and pastel tones popular during the 70s, the 80s brought in an extravagant explosion of color. If you like to try an 80s-inspired look for yourself, take a look at the many photo ideas we have compiled. Why not plan a retro disco party? You can dress up as one of the decade’s most popular stars and prolific fashion icons – the Queen and King of Pop, a.k.a. Madonna and Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper or Billy Idol. Choosing a Madonna-inspired costume leaves a lot of room for creativity, just don’t forget the bright red lipstick! If you decide to go as Michael Jackson – make sure to remember his signature white glove which he always wore on stage.
Madonna – the Punk Rock Fashion Icon of the 80s
This video will give you some great ideas for your 80s-inspired party:
If we have to describe the 80s in one phrase, it would have to be “Lust for Life.” The clothes, shoes, hairstyles and accessories of the decade emphasize the desire to have fun and experiment, which was prominent among the younger generations at the time. Consequently, the most popular outfits were designed to be eye-catching and scandalous, and were made from comfortable, colorful and shiny materials such as nylon or spandex. Inevitably, this led to a string of unforgettable fashion disasters which still makes us smile. Words alone are not enough to describe the unbelievable styles of the 80s, so we have compiled a list of the 20 most memorable 80s fashion items. If you think we’ve missed anything or have any comments – feel free to get in touch with us on Facebook and let us know. We are looking forward to your questions and comments!
- Iconic 80s Fashion Trends
- Huge Shoulder Pads
- Oversize blazers
- Silk blouses
- Sheer mesh tops
- Swimming suits with tropical print
- Nylon tracksuits
- Distressed/ripped jeans
- Carrot pants
- Ballet skirts/dance wear
- Mini skirts
- Off the shoulder dresses and tops
- XXL Sweatshirts
- Oversize fluffy knitwear
- Acid wash jeans
- Leather jackets
- Neon/bright colored windbreakers
- Denim jackets/vests
80s Fashion – the Definitive Video Guide
Those who didn’t own a ripped denim jacket, leggings, shoulder pads and at least one pair of carrot pants were considered tragically uncool. Everyone was striving to express themselves through their fashion choices and stand out from the crowd, so bigger, brighter and shinier was always better. For punks this meant rebelling against the norm with exaggerated hairstyles and aggressive looks. Preps and jocks, on the other hand, enjoyed openly displaying their wealth with luxurious fashion items and designer brands. However, the end goal was the same for all – to project a unique, stylish and cool persona to the world. What is the style you would choose?
However, 80s fashion was not all about the clothes. While they definitely helped to express the wearer’s individuality, it was essential to pair them up with the right hairstyles and accessories. If you are striving for an authentic 80s look, here are some ideas:
- Adidas Allround
- Cowboy boots
- Over the knee boots
- Sneakers without laces
Skates were also an essential 80s fashion item
- Feathered blonde hair
- Ponytails (for men as well as women)
- The high top fade
When I think of 80s hairstyles, it’s hard not to picture women getting a helmet perm at the hairdresser’s. This seemed to be the favorite pastime of Peggy Bundy from the sitcom “Married with Children.” The series itself is a hilarious example of 80s life, including fashion, hairstyles and popular culture.
- Accessories – the more colorful and bizarre – the better!
- tennis headbands
- shiny and colorful opaque tights
- Ray-Ban Sunglasses
- Rolex watches
- chunky gold chains
- heavy make up in bold colours
- fanny packs
- fishing hats
- bright neon bangles and hoop earrings
Many a fashion disaster could have been avoided if the clothes, shoes and accessories of the 80s were color coded. However, this was against the style rules of the decade – the objective was to mix as many different colors as possible. Clothes in bright neon colors paired up with red nail polish and metallic accessories, for example, were a regular choice among young party goers. Even choosing a differently colored eye shadow for each eye was a commonplace look.
If you’d like to try making your own 80s outfit, here is a great tutorial to get you started:
- Animal prints
- Shiny and Metallic
- Bright solid colors
- Pastel colors
Back in the 80s, it was not uncommon to see all of these colors in one outfit, which is very hard to imagine today (unless it’s Halloween, perhaps).
Ready for workout!
- Vivienne Westwood
- Fred Perry
- Polo Ralph Lauren
- Jean Paul Gaultier
Jean Paul Gaultier’s fame sky-rocketed in the 80s when Madonna wore one of his creations – a corset with cone-shaped bra – at a concert. Another designer who enjoyed immense popularity during the decade was Vivienne Westood, who avidly supported the 80s’ punk scene and is still a widely known alternative fashion icon. Elsewhere, brands such as Fred Perry, Levi’s jeans and Doc Martens were immensely popular with members of the skinhead movement.
The US television series “Miami Vice” also played an important role in shaping the 80s fashion scene, offering a more formal look, contrasting to the largely casual looks of the decade. The protagonists of the show wore Armani jackets paired up with T-shirts, Rolex watches and Ray-Ban glasses. As a result to their popularity, brands like Hugo Boss and Versace became more and more sought after.
The Miami Vice Style
80s clothing was largely a product of the younger generation’s need for self expression. While this has been the case with many other fashion decades, the 80s really broke the mold with their emphasis on solid, contrasting colors, unique hairstyles and neon accessories. Recently, 80s fashion and has been making a come back, as people of all ages fondly look back to this eccentric and fun period of history. One thing is certain – the 80s will remain a source of inspiration for designers and there will always be nostalgic 80s fans sporting carrot pants, acid wash jeans, scrunchies and other vintage items.
Shoulder pads’ popularity peaked in the 80s
Personally, we are relieved that scrunchies are no longer a popular fashion item
80s fashion with a modern twist:
The King of Pop himself
Grease’s story takes place in the 50s but Olivia Newton-John’s big permed hair and glamorous outfit became iconic for the 80s generation.
Can you guess the celebrity?
This is what Sex and the City would have looked like if it were filmed in the 80s…
Elegant 80s outfits
Ross and Chandler rocking the Miami Vice style
80s business style for women
The more colors the better!
Sunglasses have always been a popular fashion accessory
The 80s were probably the only decade when you could get away with this outfit
Carrot pants are coming back in a big way. You can see many a teen sporting them in combination with cropped tops and vintage accessories.
Awaken your inner rebel
Pink skates – the dream of every 80s’ girl
Shiny windbreakers in solid colors were a staple item for every fashion diva’s closet…
…as were denim overalls which have been enjoying a surge in popularity this year.
Clothes featuring animal prints have stood the test of time…
Similarly to bomber trench coats
Show your lust for life (and sense of humor) with this mix of clashing colors
Madonna is the undisputed fashion queen of the 80s
This leather jacket and acid wash jeans combo is a classic look that always looks great
Needless to say, other denim combinations have been far less successful…
You could get really creative and experimental with your hairstyle back in the 80s… as long as you used plenty of hair gel, that is
There was nothing cooler than carrying your boombox around
Punk meets office clerk in this original style combo
80s working out clothes were eye catching and fun
Glam rockers of the 80s were a source of fashion inspiration for trendy kids
The side ponytail was also an 80s favorite.
Ah, the mullet…Andre Agassi might have gotten away with it back in the day, but we really hope this infamous 80s hairstyle won’t be making a comeback anytime soon!
While misfits, punks and rebels had Madonna to look up to, the conservative, demure, and sophisticated ladies of the 80s had their own fashion icon – Diana, Princess of Wales.
Some of the combinations which were perfectly normal in the 80s will most likely make us raise our eyebrows today
Mullet and a pale pink shirt with scribbly geometric pattern – classic 80s style