Ah the 1980s! If you lived through the era and saw the pictures, your reaction is most likely a mix cheerful nostalgia and slight mortification. “What was I thinking?” is a question you’re probably asking, except you may be trying to hide a smirk too. That’s especially true when you see yourself sporting a shiny neon headband.
The neon headband is a meeting of two different trends. First came the headband, which started as a trend in earlier decades. But then it became neon, because neon was simply big in the 1980s. Just about everything—including drinks—came in neon.
The headband is actually an old style of apparel, as they were worn by the ancient Greeks using wreaths. But it was during the 20th century when it made its modern incarnation, starting in the 1920s during the Flapper movement when it was used to get the hair out or the way or as a fashion accessory with sequins or feathers.
In the 1960s, the bandanna headbands became the popular among girls because of Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn. Soon the flower child headband became a sports accessory sported by such legends as Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. Soon it became a fixture in sports, as it can be printed on with the name of the team. It helped get the hair out of the way, and it absorbed sweat as well.
Why neon became popular in the 80s is a topic of contention among sociologists, but some of the more popular explanations center on the decade’s comparative optimism. The 1980s seemed to promise a better life, and an improvement over the drab and gritty 1970s. It seemed things were looking up.
On TV the shows were in high color and were more upbeat, and the good guys were good unlike the anti-heroes of the 1970s. And so neon, the ultimate color of upbeat-ness, became popular. Gone were the drab browns and grays, and here came the bright neon colors as MTV and music videos came into the picture. Who can be gloomy when wearing bright fluorescent neon colors? Even seeing these colors can brighten anyone’s day.
The fad reached its heyday with the dance and aerobics booms, heralded by the rise in popularity of Olivia Newton-John, Jane Fonda, and even John Travolta. They all used these neon accessories in their aerobics videos, and the masses just loved it.