By the late 1980s, the sartorial craziness of the decade seemed to mercifully fade away. Fewer people were wearing neon, everyone’s tennis shirt collars were turned down, and the suits for men and women stopped looking so boxy with the oversized shoulder pads.
But the zaniness of 80s fashion had one last gasp. Before grunge appeared over the 90s horizon and swept away all the glitz and glamor, the Zubaz would become all the rage. They would disappear eventually in the early 90s as the spirit of Nirvana cleansed the music and fashion industry of color. Still, for at least a few years, there was some fun to be had in the fashion world.
How Zubaz Came To Be
When Bob Truax and Dan Stock in Minnesota first created the Zubaz pants, foremost on their minds was practicality. The 1980s saw the increased popularity of bodybuilding, but weightlifters had one practical problem. They couldn’t find pants or shorts that could comfortably fit their massive thighs.
So Stock and Truax designed new pants which were comfortably baggy and had elastic waistbands. The bodybuilders tried them out and they worked well with their workouts.
Zubaz Pants Were Popular Among 80s Bodybuilders
The designers formed their company with the slogan “Dare to be Different”, and in that spirit they made their pants with crazy designs (the distinctive zebra design was one of the early prints) and Day-Glo colors. They named the outfit Zubaz pants, as a take on the slang term “zooba” which meant “in your face!” back in the 1970s.
These pants were certainly badass, because the designers had two famous buddies working out in the gym they owned. They were Michael Hegstrand and Joseph Laurinaitis, but the public knew them as Road Warrior Hawk and Road Warrior Animal. They were professional wrestlers who wore face paint and spikes on their shoulders, and the crazy zebra prints fit right in.
The Zenith of Zubaz
To add to the badass reputation, the designers also had some correction officers as buddies. The designers were selling the shorts and trousers out of their gym, and they could produce them fast enough. So the corrections officers had the inmates do the work. Yep, the early Zubaz were the products of prison labor.
Then a J.C. Penney manager saw a fan wearing them at a hockey game, and thus the Zubaz was distributed nationwide. Pretty soon, every professional athlete was wearing them and so did their fans. Dan Marino was an endorser, and to get some female customers Claudia Schiffer also became a spokesmodel. At its height of popularity, 50 thousand pairs of Zubaz pants were sold per week.
The End of Zubaz…Or Is It?
By 1993, people were becoming sick of it. It was the beginning of the end. Inside Sports ran a survey to discover what people thought was the “Worst Thing to Happen in Sports”, and Zubaz pants placed third on the list. First place went to Jordan’s retirement to play baseball in the minors, and second place was the death of Dino Bravo the wrestler.
Still, every now and then you see people wearing them, even today. While the original company that made them died out in 1996, Stock and Truax bought back the rights to the trademark in 2007.
They’re intentionally tacky, so you have to have the guts to wear them. That’s why professional athletes and bodybuilders sometimes wear them still. You can laugh at them, but you better do it behind their backs or else they’re going to pound you to dust.