Of all of the unique trends that were popular during the 1980s, spandex biker shorts could be found near the top of the list. They were comfortable, form-fitting, and fashionable. Everyone wanted to wear tight-fitting spandex biker shorts, leotards, and bodysuits as casual wear in the gym and on the streets.
Interestingly enough biker shorts during the 1980s went with a wide variety of outfits. You could wear them for a workout at the gym, or combine them with other garments to create a sheik look for a formal event (yes really).
So why were biker shorts so popular during the 1980s?
History Of Biker Shorts
The biker shorts that were popular during the 1980s were made from a magical fabric known as spandex. This fabric was not created by a fashion designer, rather it was a development by a chemist known as Joseph Shivers. It was back in 1958 when Shivers developed the fabric as a replacement for latex rubber.
The goal was to create something that the lightweight and stretchable, something that would be perfect for use in bras and girdles. The fabric itself was capable of stretching to more than 600 times its original size. It was both durable and strong and was the perfect fabric to represent the 1980s.
Biker Shorts In The 80s
To understand the popularity of biker shorts in the 1980s, we need to recognize they were first meant for cyclists. When the Tour de France first started, the cyclist wore wool garments that were not very comfortable to ride in. Nevertheless, as a result of the formality of dress during the Victorian era, the original cyclists were stuck with wool until cotton fabrics gained in popularity. From there, cyclists continued to wear cotton-based shorts up until the 1970s when spandex began to grow in popularity.
From bicycles to marathons, and finally, to the gym, spandex continued to grow in popularity throughout the late 1970s and into the early 1980s. As the exercise craze began to blossom, people were on the lookout for fashionable workout clothing and spandex fit the bill.
Before you knew it, men were wearing bike shorts as a form of casual wear, and women were wearing leotards on the street. Even Sarah Jessica Parker, Madonna, and of course Princess Diana were known to wear bike shorts and other spandex outfits when out on the town.
Princess Diana’s Influence
When it comes to setting trends, nobody did it better during the 1980s quite like Princess Diana. While the popularity of bike shorts grew throughout the early 1980s, it was Princess Diana who helped the athletic wear to become a popular form of casual wear. On a number of occasions, Princess Diana was known to sport a variety of ensembles that featured spandex shorts.
Sarah Jessica Parker’s Biker Shorts
Interestingly enough biker shorts weren’t just meant for the gym, and eventually they spilled over into pop culture. During the 1980s, it was fashionable (some would argue) to wear biker shorts for a night out on the town.
Demi Moore’s Oscar Disaster
One of the most infamous sightings of biker shorts was when Demi Moore wore them with a formal ensemble to the 1989 Academy Awards. Demi Moore at the time was one of the most visible starlets of the day, and accompanied by Bruce Willis, she was seen by millions wearing black biker shorts to the most prestigious Hollywood event.
Though her outfit was widely panned by fashion critics, nevertheless it showcased how far biker shorts had come in the world of fashion.
Biker Shorts And Spandex
As the popularity of spandex biker shorts continued to grow throughout the 1980s, its appearance in popular culture was inevitable. When spandex was first created, its sole purpose was to replace the rubber in undergarments. But demand for the stretchable fabric resulted in the development of shorts, costumes, dancewear, jerseys, and a wide variety of different getups that were worn by musicians throughout the 70s and into the 80s.
Jane Fonda was well-known for wearing spandex leotards in all of her popular workout videos. But the popularity of spandex in popular culture expanded beyond the traditional workout videos.
Christopher Reeve’s Superman outfit was made of spandex. David Lee Roth from the band Van Halen was known to wear a variety of different outfits composed entirely of spandex.
Virtually all of the most popular 80s professional wrestlers in the WWF wore some form of spandex outfit. And of course, who could forget Olivia Newton-John’s use of spandex in the movie Grease, as well as in the “Physical” music video.
Are Biker Shorts Still Popular?
Despite being created many decades ago, we still see biker shorts as a popular fashion today. And not just for working out, but also for casual fashion as well. It’s just one of those comfortable and functional clothing items that we seem to can’t get enough of.
Though their popularity exploded in the 1980s, we don’t expect biker shorts to go anywhere anytime soon. It’s just a great piece of clothing, and the utility and fashionable nature of the garment makes it a great candidate for a trend with strong staying power.