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Looking Back At Fashion – The 80s

Jamey Heron-Waterhouse

The eighties may remind you of big hair, aerobics, and neon… and this is absolutely accurate! Looking back at ’80s fashion, you’ll be reminded of crazes and styles that’ll either make you cringe, laugh or shop. Jamey tells us more about some of the most memorable trends.

Cold legs? No problem!

Legwarmers were incredibly popular amongst women in the ’80s with films like Fame (1980) and Flashdance (1983) as well as the popular exercise jazzercise fuelling young people’s desire to incorporate aerobic gear into their daily outfits. Usually being in fluorescent or neon colours, legwarmers were worn over leggings with leotards to add even more colour to the classic ’80s outfits that women wore.

Legwarmers have recently made a resurgence in more neutral tones like black, white, and grey, particularly for Gen Z, adding a functional yet vintage edge to many outfits.

a result of the optimistic outlook of the ’80s in comparison to the doom and gloom of the ’70s

Now you see me:

The neon craze in the ’80s was almost unforgettable, particularly because our corneas are still recovering. The bright neon era is said to be a result of the optimistic outlook of the ’80s in comparison to the doom and gloom of the ’70s, so the flashy colours may have been a projection of hope, though it’s entirely possible that it was also just a bit of fun with no rhyme or reason at all!

Neon was thought to make a comeback in 2019 for the spring/summer runways as brands showcased brightly coloured garments, contrasting the more minimal aesthetics of the previous year.

Well Jell:

Jelly shoes or jellies were a popular form of footwear alongside Reeboks and other trainers – their ability to be made in bright neon colours had them flying off the shelves. Jelly bracelets were also popular amongst kids as they were fun, colourful, and cheap for parents to buy, especially with the creation of the colourful jelly swatch.

Jelly shoes were thought to be making a comeback in 2015, so much so that MTV published an article titled ‘PSA: DO NOT BUY JELLY SHOES THIS SUMMER’, suggesting that their comeback was less than welcomed by some.

Denim, denim, and more denim:

Though double denim didn’t originate in the ’80s, it hit its peak with both the hippies and rockers adorning denim upon denim. Usually a combination of a denim jacket and jeans, double denim was popular amongst men and women – celebrities like Madonna and Jon Bon Jovi were often pictured sporting denim on denim.

Double denim after the ’80s was generally frowned upon as a clash of material, but in 2001 Brittany Spears and then boyfriend Justin Timberlake stunned all with their entirely denim outfits at the American Music Awards, turning double denim into triple or quadruple denim!

Are you playing Lacrosse or going to class?

Alongside The Official Preppy Handbook being released, the early ’80s saw a rise in the preppy style. This was a mix of knitted jumpers and cardigans (often tied around the shoulders), plaid, and polo shirts for a casual, smart and sporty look.

Prep style made a comeback in 2019, though it never really died out amongst students and golfers alike. However, the ‘new preppy’ seemed to be altered by influences from streetwear and other styles in the modern-day resurgence.

standout styles that characterised the ’80s as a decade of crazy and bright fashion

Girl power:

With women increasingly entering the workforce in the mid-80s, power suits inspired by menswear were popular with women. These usually included oversized shoulder pads and longer blazer-dresses to create a feminine yet business-like look.

Though women’s power suits were not in need of a comeback, since they never went anywhere, they eventually became more diverse, with skirts, trousers and jumpsuits entering the offices.

Is it PERManent?!

You can’t discuss ’80s fashion without discussing the perm! Many of our parents will probably have photos in the attic of them with perms which they will cringe and laugh at, but it was a fun and wild hairstyle at the time, totally worth the damage right?

The perm apparently made its comeback in 2021 in the form of the “curly shag”, though it has yet to reach the same size and popularity as the classic ’80s perm.

Keeping it hip:

Championed by black people in the late ’80s, the fashion associated with hip hop consisted of big jewellery, bucket hats, tracksuits and that one giant clock chain that people wore… for some reason. Rappers like LL Cool J and Ice Cube donned these outfits and accessories that celebrated everything large, popularising the style.

Hip hop never died out and is still a large part of pop culture now, being most closely associated with modern day streetwear today.

Though there are many more pieces that were circulating during the eighties that are equally cringeworthy and fun, these are some of the standout styles that characterised the ’80s as a decade of crazy and bright fashion. Who knows, maybe 2022 is the year where we bring back wearing outfits made solely out of lycra!

Jamey Heron-Waterhouse

Featured image by Joshua Rondeau via Unsplash.  Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image courtesy of  @80s_90s_childhood_memories via No changes made to this image.

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