A 1980s fashion trend that ruled the beach were Jam Shorts. These were basically board shorts that were really colorful and made you stand out on the beach.
From bedazzled acid wash jeans jackets to the popular Ray-Ban Wayfarers with a Croakies strap, the fashion of the 1980s was “neon” bright and colorful – “so bright you gotta wear shades”. But when it came to summertime fashions, everyone wanted that perfect beach look. And, in the 80s the only way to achieve that look was with a pair of Jam Shorts (or “Jams” for short).
Gone were the days when boys wore dolphin shorts outside of their sweatpants, and in were the colorful drawstring board shorts and the popular Jams.
Why Were Jam Shorts Popular?
Although popular in the 1980s, Jams were first envisioned by Dave Rochlen in 1964. It was Christmas weekend, and he noticed a group of kids on the Hawaiian beach wearing pajamas. That is when the idea came to him and he decided to cut a pair of his own pajamas into board shorts. The goal was to create a pair of shorts that not only looked good but were comfortable to wear while straddling a surfboard.
Life magazine wrote a story about Jams in their June 1965 issue and within a year, they grew in popularity on the West Coast. But, it wasn’t until the younger generation on the East Coast started wearing Jams as streetwear, that they truly became popular.
For anyone who grew up in the 1980s, whether you lived in Los Angeles or Miami, the beach look was the only way to go. A colorful pair of Jams with a white print T-shirt and a big pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses could be worn day or night – as so aptly declared in the 1984 hit by Corey Hart, “I wear my sunglasses at night.”
Jam Shorts Were Bright
Jam shorts were all about bright colors, and in the 80s that’s what was en vogue. The fashion trends of the 1980s were all about color, and the brighter the color the better. Neon clothing was everywhere, from baseball caps and Kangols, to Vans and British knights. Everything was either made from neon-colored fabrics or printed with neon ink. Even the laces in shoes and strings on various clothing accessories were made of neon, and jam shorts were no exception to the neon craze.
For girls, tight-fitting meant leggings with neon-colored crew socks, and for boys, it meant multicolored spandex shorts. But when it came to the popular, relaxed beach look, the most common choice was a pair of Jams with a T-shirt by Maui, Gotcha, or Quicksilver.
Jams Were The 80s Beach Fashion
Teens in the 1980s wanted color, and jam shorts delivered. They wanted to stand out from the crowd and show just how unique they really were, and this desire didn’t stop at the beach. Jam shorts allowed you to look cool while getting some rays, and all the cool kids at the beach had em.
These days jam shorts aren’t as popular as they were before, but you can still see them from time to time at the beach. The colorful fashion of the 80s eventually faded away, and along with it the popularity of jams. Regardless many of us still have our jam shorts from the 80s, and we’ll always remember the time where bright bold was where it was at on the beach.