The 80s gave us quite a few memorable fashion trends, but none are more iconic than the bangle. Also known as “chunky bracelets,” these accessories can be spotted in nearly every vintage fashion catalogue, family photo, and even 80s reboots.
So why were “bangle bracelets” such a popular 1980s fashion? Let’s explore the history and phenomenon behind this beloved pop culture icon.
Bangle Bracelets In The 80s
One dynamic and long standing feature of 80s fashion was layering. Layering was a often used tool to create contrast, add volume, and elevate looks, a trend which left the bohemian chic, flowing neutrals of the 70s far behind. Layers could be seen anywhere from the catwalk, to the red carpet, to even cult workout studios.
The bangle quickly became the most versatile and dependable method for adding layers to an outfit. The added width of a bangle, compared to an ordinary bracelet (one might recall the thin jelly bracelets that were also popular during this time), could effortlessly add dimension and texture to a style.
Color Blocking Craze
Another feature that dominated 80s fashion was color blocking. The 80s color palette often consisted of bold neons or other juxtaposing colors, and it was not uncommon to accessorize with contrasting colors. A teal jumper might be paired with several yellow chunky bangles, for instance.
One popular combination seemed to be pink and green. A pink leotard, complete with lime green leg warmers, a green neon headband to hold back freshly permed hair, and several lime, mint, or chartreuse bangles is a look sure to bring a sense of nostalgia to anyone.
Department Store Debutante
Of course, you couldn’t answer the question “why were “bangle bracelets” such a popular 1980s fashion?” without talking about the mega technology boom that happened during this time. During the 70s and early 80s, resin, injection molding, and other new techniques in plastics were developed and quickly put to use (you might recall the tupperware craze of this time).
In particular, plastic was lightweight, could be vividly colored, and relatively inexpensive. This made it ideal for making costume jewelry, and given that “the bigger, the better” was the MO of the decade, the chunky bangle bracelet was born.
Are Bangle Bracelets Still Popular?
Some trends of the 80s managed to fade out of popularity and back in again (ie the scrunchie). However, it looks like the bangle’s glory days are behind us. Minimalism is the dominating trend of the 20’s 2.0, and bangles have been replaced by delicate gold chains and other discrete pieces.
It’s interesting to note, however, that stacking and layering has remained part of the fashion algorithm. With smaller pieces, though, it’s much easier to avoid overwhelming the balance of an outfit. What do you think about the bangle bracelet trend? Will it be our next nostalgic comeback kid? Only time will tell, but we are hopeful they return as a popular fashion accessory soon!