If you grew up in the 1980s you know that 80s fashion was big, it was bright, and it was loud! You might have worn some bright neon clothes, very large tops, had larger than life hair, and chances are you would have felt good about it too.
The 1980s was really a golden age for music and movies, and along with that came all of the iconic looks that we know today as 80’s fashion.
Celebrities like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Molly Ringwald, and Cyndi Lauper heavily influenced the masses when it came to what they wore. And even though it has been decades since the 1980s, we still look fondly back at the crazy (and cool) fashion trends of the time.
Why 80s Fashion Was Iconic
When we look back at the fashion trends of the 80s, we can recognize it to be almost a renaissance of fashion. Prior to the 1970s fashion was quite conservative and subdued. Eventually with the hippies of the 70s, fashion started to open up and become more daring. Peace, love, and rock n roll was all the rage, and fashion began to become more provocative.
Fast forward to the 1980s and fashion was kicked into high gear. The 80s built upon the sexual revolution of the 70s, and a cultural transformation began to take hold. People were no longer afraid to be who they were, and that mentality was reflected in their fashion choices. Bold colors, more skin, and unique accessories ushered in an era of fashion that many consider to be the best of the 20th century.
Your 80s Style Defined You
Probably no other decade of the 20th century defined society with fashion like the 1980s. The fashion choices you made really revealed who you were, and people used clothing and accessories to create their own identities.
If you were a rebellious young adult you might have wore neon clothing. If you were a spoiled rich kid, you may have just stuck to preppy fashion. No matter who you were, your fashion let society know what you were all about, and this fact is probably something more true to the 1980s than any other decade in recent memory.
80s Neon Fashion
Fashion in the 1980s was all about making a statement, and you often made that statement with 80s neon fashion which let the world knew that you were hip and trendy. Typically a popular choice among young adults, neon clothing seemed to be ubiquitous in 1980s society.
Something neon green or bright orange made you stand out in a crowd, and being bold was something 80s fashion was all about. So it’s not surprising how popular neon fashion was during the 1980s, and also how it remains one of the most memorable fashion trends of that era.
Neon fashion also wasn’t just restricted to pants and tops. Neon accessories were also quite popular too. Everything from jelly bracelets to sunglasses came in neon, and you could just about find anything you wanted in a bright color during the 1980s.
80s Workout Fashion
Building on neon clothes, oddly enough 80s workout clothes was also revolutionary. The 1980s was really when people began caring about what they put in their bodies, and fitness and exercise were becoming really mainstream.
Celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Jane Fonda made people want to get physically fit. Movies like “Perfect” (1985) also highlighted the fitness craze that was storming the nation.
And in the 1980s fashion wasn’t only considered when going out, if you were hitting the gym, you needed to look good too. Spandex, leggings, and leg warmers were popular trends for women getting their workout on. For men muscle tees and short shorts were popular, and of course unisex accessories like headbands and armbands kept you cool while working up a sweat!
80s Preppy Fashion
If you weren’t fond of the bright colors and gaudy designs of 80s neon fashion, you probably fell on the other end of the spectrum with the subtle “I’m better than you” 80s preppy fashion trend that was also quite popular during the 1980s.
Companies like Lacoste and Ralph Lauren catered to the sophisticated preppy folk, and there was no better way to let people know you had money by dressing up in these brands during the 80s.
80s Fashion And Music
It should come as no surprise that 80’s fashion was heavily influenced by popular music artists of the time. People wanted to be like their favorite singer or musician, and this of course meant emulating the way they dressed as well.
Whether you wanted the material girl look of Madonna, or the hip hop swag of Run DMC, entertainers of the 1980s really had a big influence on a generation of people that just wanted to be cool and fit in. Thus the 80s created a generation that really found its fashion identity based around the music they loved.
80s Pop Fashion
If you were into pop music in the 1980s, there’s no doubt that superstars like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper influenced what you wore. 80’s pop fashion really heavily influenced what women wore more so than men. Everything from the big hairstyles, fishnet clothing, and glitter makeup were emulated by teenage girls (and women) across the country.
Female pop stars also popularized the use of fashion accessories. Things like big earrings, bracelets, scrunchies, and fingerless gloves were very popular in the 1980s. And when it came to fashion accessories, typically the bigger the better!
For men, fashion icons like Michael Jackson and David Bowie made it ok to wear sequined clothing and even makeup to accentuate your features. Leather anything was also a popular choice when it came to men’s pop fashion in the 80’s, and any stylish man of the day at least owned a leather jacket and some leather pants.
80s Rock Fashion
The best decade ever was also a big decade for 80’s rock fashion. Legendary bands like Def Leppard, Motley Crue, and Guns n Roses set the tone with a lot of leather, even bigger hair, and accessories like leather bracelets and gloves.
Denim jeans and tops were also popular when it came to rockers of the 80s. Often they were acid washed or ripped, and they were usually paired with some sort of sleeveless top that showed off some cool tattoos.
Rock fashion in the 80s often showed a lot of skin, and the wild fashion choices definitely matched the rollercoaster lifestyles of the rock bands of the day.
80s Hip Hop Fashion
The 1980s was also the golden era of hip hop, and with the emergence of superstar groups like Run DMC and N.W.A. so gave birth to what we know today as 80’s hip hop fashion.
80’s hip hop fashion was all about looking cool but at the same time letting people know you weren’t meant to be messed with. It had a underground feel, but also some flashy and over the top features.
For men Starter Jackets was a must have, along with accessories like a big dookie chain, four finger rings, and a trucker hat of your favorite sports team. Bucket hats were also popular along with some fresh white Adidas or Reebok sneakers to complete your 80s hip hop fashion look.
For women denim jeans and jackets were in, but they also wore starter jackets as well (unisex fashion). Also accessories like dookie chains, big gold earrings, gold rings, and gold bracelets were necessary to accentuate the 80s hip hop look. Hip hop superstars like Salt n Pepa heavily influenced hip hop fashion for women in the 1980s.
80s Punk Fashion
For the more rebellious folk, the 1980s also was a time for great punk fashion. This was for the most daring and un-conforming in society. 80s punk fashion was bold and outrageous, and it let people know you didn’t care at all about society’s rules or what other people thought!
For men black leather pants and jackets were in. Often these had metallic features or sequins on them, as well as patches or other loud designs. Torn jean pants were also popular, as well as any tartan clothing. Sleeveless shirts were also often worn under these jackets, and the outfit was topped off usually with some Doc Martens leather boots.
For women tight fitting tops and leather jackets were fashionable. Also anything fishnet (tops or leggings) were popular, as well as mini skirts that were often made of leather. Black leather boots were also very popular, along with fingerless gloves and loud makeup to complete the look.
As for 80s punk fashion hair, just like other genres of 80s fashion, generally the bigger the better. Men often sported mohawks or variations of mohawks that were often dyed loud colors like pink, orange, or red. Women also had large mohawk type hairstyles, though many also preferred large perms as well.
80s Women’s Fashion
Women’s fashion during the 1980s also ran the spectrum from cute and conservative, to bold and loud. Many would say that 80s women’s fashion was much more daring because they could take their looks a lot further. Unlike their male counterparts, women could take their 80s style to greater heights with the plethora of accessories and makeup available to them.
However despite their wide latitude of choices, they also had core fashion items that helped define women’s fashion in the 1980s.
For example oversized tops was all the rage which was made popular by many celebrities like Jennifer Beal in movies like “Flashdance”. The oversized poorly fitting top let people know you didn’t play by society’s rules. These tops often could be neon colored if you were going out with friends, but they could be stylish as just grey like it was in the movie when lounging at home.
On the flip side business fashion was taken to new heights in the 1980s with the popularity of Power Suits. When it came to suits, traditionally we thought of it as a fashion being reserved for men. However the 1980s saw the empowerment of women, and we saw powerful women like Princess Diana, Nancy Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher all popularizing this fashion trend.
In the 1980s women were no longer relegated to the home, they were front and center in the world of business and politics, and Power Suits was a fashion that let the world know you were a serious player.
Another popular fashion trend for women in the 1980s were Jumpsuits. These were one piece outfits that went from head to toe that could be worn both casually or for formal occasions. These came either with or without sleeves, and typically were cinched at the waist with a belt. They also were sometimes worn with a jacket for a more formal look.
Though Jumpsuits started off as a unisex fashion, by the time the 1980s rolled around it was typically worn more by women.
Puff Sleeve Dress
A unique fashion for women in the 1980s was the Puff Sleeve Dress. These were basically dresses with inflated sleeves, and they were typically worn for special occasions like prom or weddings.
However puff sleeves were also available for casual wear such as blouses, though when we think of the fashion we typically imagine the dresses that worn by celebrities like Joan Collins, Linda Evans, and Brooke Shields.
An interesting women’s fashion of the 80s were Bubble Skirts. These were skirts that basically “poofed” out at the bottom and formed a bubble look. These were typically seen as a part of formal dresses, though they were sometimes seen in casual wear as well.
Iconic women like Princess Diana and Naomi Campbell were just a couple of women who made the fashion popular in the 1980s, and it is a look that is definitely unique when compared to contemporary fashion trends.
High Waisted Jeans
Another 80s fashion trend popular with women were High Waisted Jeans. These were sometimes referred to as “Mom Jeans”, and they are so named because they button high over the waist. This was a popular trend among women in the 1980s because the style was both comfortable and made their legs look longer.
Dolfin Shorts (aka Dolphin Shorts) were a brand of thigh high shorts that were popular with women in the 1980s. These were great for leisure wear and perfect for basically any outdoor athletic activity. However the short length of Dolphin Shorts made them controversial, with many schools banning them in the late 1980s.
However despite the controversy, they still remained a popular choice among teenage women and young adults as a way to keep cool during summer months.
Animal Print Clothing
Animal print clothing was another popular 1980s fashion trend for women. Of course we are not talking about real fur, but rather faux animal prints that made you look stylish and a bit wild.
When it came to animal print, you could literally find them on any item out there. From tops to pants, to purses and hats, during the 80s animal print clothing was everywhere.
Another popular women’s 80s fashion trend was “Polka Dots”. This pattern of clothing whether it was in a skirt or a blouse was a way for women that were more on the conservative side to add a little edgy flare to their outfits. Fashion icons like Princess Diana made polka dot clothing en vogue, and women across the world took notice.
Crop Tops And Mini Skirts
In contrast 80s women’s fashion could also be bold and loud, and many pop icons like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper wore crop tops and mini skirts often accompanied by an excessive amount of jewelry.
Furthermore 80s women’s fashion trends of the day include using bold colors and glitter for their makeup choices. When it came to 80s makeup looks subtlety was something often left behind by the women of the 1980s, and along with your crazy outfits and excessive jewelry, your face needed to match your oversized personality.
For the ladies when it came to pants, during the 1980s stretch stirrups were quite popular. These were pants that would hook your heel at the bottom, and women liked them because they believed it made them look taller and slimmer.
Of course we couldn’t talk about 80s women’s fashion unless we mentioned spandex. In the 1980s spandex was everywhere. You could wear it casually going to the mall or for your workout at the gym.
And lets not forget every hip woman’s 1980’s fashion go-to leg warmers that despite looking odd today, was quite common to see anywhere from the gym or at the mall.
80s Men’s Fashion
When it came to 80s men’s fashion we need to realize it was a different era. In the 1980s men were macho and masculine. Celebrities like Tom Selleck, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and John Travolta were examples of a very alpha male culture that men wanted to imitate.
If you were a man in the 1980s, chances are you had a thick 80s moustache and grew chest hair that peaked through your shirt, or you spent all day at the gym trying to get jacked. Skinny and lean men are much more celebrated today, but back in the 1980s things were different.
In the 1980s men were big, hairy, and macho. Many today would consider this culture to be “toxically masculine” but that’s just how things were back then.
That being said men’s fashion in the 1980s was also quirky and sometimes bordered on the ridiculous.
Here are some of the most notable men’s fashion trends from the 1980s.
The 1980s was all about self-expression, and what better way to express yourself than with a Slogan T-Shirt. These were t-shirts that basically had large bold letters on them. Typically featuring a slogan or support of some political cause, they were a very popular way to be fashionable and heard in the 1980s.
Lacoste Polo Shirts
Not everyone in the 1980s subscribed to outlandish and bold neon fashion, there were quite a few who preferred the popular and much more conservative “Preppy Look” at the time. And a staple of this look was the Lacoste Polo Shirt. These polos let people know that you came from money, and they were a core staple of any rich person’s wardrobe.
The Lacoste Polo Shirt went well with khaki pants and some Sperry Top-Siders, and was perfect fashion for the yacht club to the tennis court. And if you were feeling extra feisty, you could wear them with popped collars for an even more rebellious look!
Sweaters Tied Around The Neck
And we couldn’t mention Lacoste polos and not mention the infamous Sweater Tied Around The Neck fashion trend. If you wanted to take your preppy look to the next level, you rocked this style to make sure everyone knew you came from money. Simply wrapping a sweater around your neck while wearing a Lacoste polo unleashed your maximum preppy superpowers.
Miami Vice Suits
When Miami Vice hit the air in 1984 the show would change fashion forever. Every week viewers would turn in to see Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas in their Miami Vice Suits taking on the criminals of South Beach.
These suits typically had matching blazers and pants, and they were paired with a pastel undershirt. Besides being great for fighting crime, it was a stylish way to dress for a night out on the town.
Likewise in the 1980s the Miami Vice lifestyle was all the rage, and with that also came the rise in popularity of silk shirts. Though not the most practical style of clothing to own (they were notoriously difficult to maintain), the look they gave you was unlike any other piece of clothing out there.
Silk shirts of the 1980s often had bold and wild patterns, and it was a popular choice for fashionable men when it came to a night out on the town.
The 80s was all about masculine male culture, and along with the rise in popularity of health and fitness during the 80s, we saw the biggest and buffest among us wearing Muscle Tees. These were made popular by celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, who were the biggest action movie stars of the 80s.
If you had a buff bod and wanted to show it off, the best way to do it was to workout in a muscle tee at your local gym.
Bomber Jackets have been around since the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until movies like Top Gun in the 1980s where these jackets became massively popular. Men in the 80s saw movie stars like Tom Cruise rocking a Bomber Jacket while saving the day, and the rest as they say is history!
The Bomber Jacket is not only a fashionable choice, but it is comfortable and protective as well. It’s no wonder that it was such a popular 80s fashion trend for men at the time.
An unlikely but popular fashion in the 1980s were Hawaiian Shirts. Though their roots can be traced back all the way to the 1920s, it wasn’t until the 80s where stars like Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. put these floral shirts front and center.
These shirts were typically bright colored and short sleeved, and also featured patterns like flowers or trees, as well as various tropical activities such as surfing or sailing.
In the 80s Parachute Pants were big, they were baggy and they were what you had to wear if you wanted to dance and move easily. They came in many different colors and even had fake zippers and pockets that added something special to the outfit.
80’s Fashion Trend: Parachute Pants
Zubaz pants was also a thing due to their popularity amongst the fitness and pro-athlete community. The Zubaz Pants trend flourished in the 1980s because it was the heyday of big muscle movie stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. People were starting to take fitness more seriously, and thus the fashion that came along with that lifestyle.
If you wanted to look and feel great at the beach, you needed a pair of Jam Shorts (or Jams for short). These were the preferred choice of fashionable men when it came to beachwear in the 1980s.
Jam Shorts stood out from the crowd because they featured bright colors and quintessentially 80s designs. They were also great to lounge around in, making them a good choice when you were away from the beach as well.
If you were a high school jock a popular men’s 80s fashion was the Letterman Jacket which let your classmates know you were one of the popular kids. You earned your way onto the football team, and you needed to remind everyone (often daily) that you were a superior physical specimen.
Members Only Jackets
Another popular 80s fashion trend were the hugely popular Members Only Jackets. If you had one of these, people knew you were serious when it came to your clothing. It gave the wearer status as the jackets were far from cheap.
80’s Fashion Trend: Members Only Jackets
If you were into fitness and wanted to showoff your washboard abs, another fashion trend in the 1980s popular among men was the Crop Top which was basically a cut off shirt that showed off your midsection. It may seem odd today, but during the 1980s nobody batted an eye when men walked around wearing these, and if you were fit, it was probably a turn on for the opposite sex.
If you were really feeling yourself as a man, another 80s men’s fashion trend were uncomfortably short shorts which were also perfectly acceptable at the time. These were shorts that probably used half the material that they should’ve, but was made socially acceptable because macho celebrities like Tom Selleck, Sean Connery, and John Travolta made them cool to wear. I mean if Magnum P.I. wore them, they must be perfectly masculine right?
80s Clothes Needed Accessories
No matter what 80’s fashion trend you followed, no outfit was complete without the right accessories. There were numerous must-have 80s accessories that were key to being en vogue, and the 1980s may be the decade where fashion accessories were the most emphasized.
What was also prevalent when it came to 80s accessories was not just the types, but also the amounts. For example you didn’t just wear one bracelet, you might have worn 5-7 of them on each arm.
Same with necklaces, one wasn’t enough, and it was quite common to wear 3-5 necklaces with your outfit. It wasn’t uncommon to wear anywhere from 10-15 accessories at a time which seems quite outlandish by today’s standards, but perfectly normal during the 1980s.
Besides the quantity, 80s accessories were often very unique to the decade, and even to this day we recognize these to be synonymous with the era.
Huge shoulder pads let people know you were serious, and it wasn’t uncommon for people to wear two pairs of shoulder pads at any one time. Any time you wore a suit, it wasn’t complete unless you had shoulder pads, and they gave you the confidence you needed to tackle whatever it was you were dressed for.
80’s Fashion Trend: Shoulder Pads
Another popular 80s women fashion trend was to accessorize outfits with beaded jewelry. During the 80s beaded jewelry whether it was bracelets or necklaces were quite popular. They were stylish but also inexpensive, and the latter point made them explode in popularity since they were easily accessible especially to a younger demographic.
Again with this accessory quantity was key. Often women would wear multiple beaded necklaces and bracelets to create a misfit vibe that would add some chaotic flare to their 80s fashion ensemble.
During the 1980s cross necklaces were big. They were a way that you could express your religious beliefs, but in an edgy and provocative way. Madonna made cross necklaces mainstream during the 1980s as she often wore them and utilized religious symbols in her music.
Another 80s fashion must have accessory for the ladies were large and often gaudy earrings. Wearing huge earrings meant you had status and you wanted to be noticed. Some were so large they were nicknamed ‘Door knockers’ and would be so big they were shoulder length.
Another women’s 1980s fashion accessory that was often seen were fingerless gloves. These gloves became increasingly popular thanks to the large number of pop and punk stars who were seen wearing them during performances or in print media.
Music icons like Michael Jackson and Madonna were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to celebrities that rocked them during the 1980s, so it’s not surprising that they became trendy amongst the youth as a must have 80s fashion accessory.
80’s Fashion Trend: Fingerless Gloves
A uniquely peculiar fashion accessory during the 80s were Slouchy Socks. This was a look by taking 3 or more pairs of socks and layering them over each other. If you wanted to go the extra mile, you could match the colors of the socks to the outfit you were wearing.
This trend was popular among teenagers and young adults, and it is a fashion trend that is definitely uniquely 80s.
If you were on the go and didn’t have time to fix your hair, you could just plop on a Trucker Hat and be on your way. These hats had mesh backs and typically featured your favorite logo or slogan prominently on the front.
They were a popular 80s casual fashion that was both unisex and functional. They looked great and protected you from the heat, and often came in a bunch of colors and designs you could match to any outfit.
And of course your 80s fashion outfit wouldn’t be complete without a cool set of sunglasses. When it came to 80s style, there was nothing more iconic than a fresh set of Ray-Ban Sunglasses (either Wayfarers or Aviators) that made you look too cool for school.
Celebrities like Tom Cruise wore them in legendary 1980s movies like “Risky Business” and “Top Gun” and they would instantly become an 80s fashion classic.
And while the mainstream were flocking towards Ray-Ban Wayfarers and Aviators, there were those that preferred Cazal Sunglasses or “Cazals”. These were luxury boxy sunglasses that were popular among the growing hip hop crowd in America.
Popularized by famous wearers like Run DMC and Spike Lee, if you had Cazals people knew that you had made it, because these sunglasses though fashionable, were not cheap.
And of course if you had a nice pair of Ray-Bans or Cazals, you needed a fashionable way to keep them from falling, and for that the 80s gave us Croakies. These were neoprene straps that you could attach to the frames of your sunglasses so they would stay securely on your head.
They often came in bright neon colors and dazzling prints, and they were just another way to combine convenience with fashion.
Of course in the 80s you needed to also have a fashionable watch, and a popular choice during the time were Swatch Watches (or Swatches). When these came out in the early 80s there was really nothing like them out there. The colors were bright and the designs were bold, and they were an immediate hit.
The Swatch Watch was fashionable and also affordable, and they often came with interchangeable faceplates so you could change the look of your watch to match the outfit you were wearing.
Popular 80s Hairstyles
Of course when we talk about 1980s fashion we have to talk about the epic hairstyles. Just as iconic as the clothing were the hairstyles of the 1980s.
The 1980s was all about big hair for both men and women, and it wasn’t uncommon for people to sport puffed-up hair styles that were almost as wide as their shoulders. Men and women spent millions of dollars on hair products of the 1980s like Aqua Net and Mousse to create larger than life hairstyles that could withstand hurricane force winds!
So what were some popular hairstyles of the 1980s?
One of the most popular hairstyles for women in the 80s was the “perm hairstyle”. The perm hairstyle was one that was quite tedious to do as it involved chemicals and curling irons, but women did it anyway because it was in style and all the rage. Celebrities like Barbara Streisand, Meg Ryan, and Cher were all women that helped make this hairstyle popular during the 80s.
Another popular women’s hairstyle during the 80s was the side ponytail. Basically it was just a ponytail you tied with a scrunchy or other hair tie that lopped off to one side of your head, and the ease of creating this look added to its popularity. The side ponytail was a favorite of younger women, and the hairstyle showed off your fun and quirky side.
Although a unisex hairstyle, 80s feathered hair was more popular among women than men. The hairstyle got its name because of the very airy “feathery” look, and it remains one of the most memorable hairstyles for women that we think of during that time.
Celebrities like Farrah Fawcett and Heather Locklear helped popularize the hairstyle during the early 80s, and it was a great choice if you preferred a more “conservative” hairstyle over your more daring counterparts.
Another popular trend for women during the 1980s was the crimped hairstyle. Women would use hair crimpers to create this wavy zigzag look, and it was particularly popular among younger women.
Celebrities like Alyssa Milano and Jodi Foster were just a few of the prominent women that rocked this hairstyle during the 1980s.
Though it did take a bit of work, the hairstyle looked cool and matched a lot of groovy fashion of the day.
While ladies had the perm hairstyle, men were also big hair fans as well during the 80s. Rock bands and celebrities made larger than life hairstyles en vogue for men during the time.
It was clear the 1980’s was a decade where ‘The bigger the better’ was king, and hair was no exception. Big hair bands like Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, and Def Leppard all contributed to the big hair trend for men during the 80s.
Another big hairstyle for men was the 80s mullet haircut. These days we usually stereotype mullet haircuts with country folk, but back in the 1980s the mullet was fairly mainstream. The “Business in the front, party in the back” hairstyle permeated American culture, and many celebrities like Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe rocked this hairstyle legitimately as sex symbols!
The Jheri Curl
However no discussion of 1980s hairstyles would be complete without mentioning the Jheri Curl and all it’s glistening glory. This hairstyle was popular in the black community, and was rocked by prominent black celebrities like Michael Jackson and also featured in hit 80s movies like “Coming To America” where Eric LaSalle’s character sported the style for millions to see.
Is 80s Fashion Coming Back?
From time to time we all spot 80’s clothing in a high street clothing store, or on a catwalk model, but while this style of clothing is not as big as it once was, it is making somewhat of a comeback.
Because we now love all-things retro, more and more people are finding an appreciation for 80’s fashion, which means those huge earrings, big tops, leg warmers, Members Only Jackets and shoulder pads could find their way into your wardrobe once more.
Also more and more people are beginning to throw 80’s theme parties and events, and 80’s fashion is always popular during the Halloween season. So if it’s 80’s fashion tips you’re after, please check out the rest of this site for more in depth information on 80’s style as well as the rich culture that was in our opinion the greatest decade of the 20th century.