The 80s were all about self expression, and 80s neon fashion was one way young adults could do just that. Bold neon clothing was a fashion trend that ran wild through the decade, and it’s no surprise it’s one of the things we most remember from the era.
The 1980s had music artists singing songs about wearing sunglasses at night and about having to put them on because “the future was so bright”. Perhaps they were also referring to all the neon people were wearing at the time.
Some people called the color fluorescent, but they meant the same thing. 80s neon clothes were just so bright. Whether it was neon green, neon yellow, or neon blue, it was still neon, and my god was it bright.
80s Neon Fashion
When it came to 80s neon clothing, the style of bright colored clothes really permeated all walks of life. Whether it was a casual get together at the mall with friends, or going to your gym to get in a workout, being fashionably neon was an 80s trend that you couldn’t avoid.
So what were some of the most popular 80s neon clothing trends of the 1980s? We compiled some of the most noteworthy below.
1. Esprit Clothing
One of the most popular clothing brands amongst the younger generation during the 1980s was Esprit. The Esprit brand was known for their vibrant colors which is likely why it appealed to so many teenagers and young adults at the time.
Esprit made almost every kind of clothes in vibrant red, yellow, and greens that also helped contribute to the neon 80s fashion trend.
2. United Colors Of Benetton
Another popular brand of bright colored clothing in the 1980s was United Colors Of Benetton. Their multicultural advertising campaigns combined with their bold use of colors made the brand perfect for those interested in neon fashion in the 1980s.
3. Neon Workout Clothes
Another place you often saw neon clothing during the 1980s was at the gym. When it came to 80s workout clothes there was no shortage of neon styles that you saw at the gym.
The 80s were really when America started getting big into physical fitness with celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Jane Fonda influencing the masses. So it only makes sense that 80s fashion would spill over to your local gym as well.
Popular neon clothing fashion at the gym during the 1980s included neon headbands and wristbands, neon leg warmers, as well as spandex leggings. If you wanted to go all out, you may have worn a neon shell suit as well.
4. Neon Skiwear
Surprisingly you weren’t safe from the 80s neon fashion trend even if you were high up on the slopes. An interesting trend among skiers in the 1980s was “neon skiwear”. Your favorite ski resort was likely full of people wearing 80s ski outfits that were brightly colored, and if you hit the slopes during the 80s, you probably have some neon skiwear too!
Interestingly enough this neon fashion may not have been a bad idea when skiing. After all bright colors are easy to see, and there was no way you would get lost in the snow, if you were dressed in neon from head to toe!
5. Jelly Bracelets
When it came to the neon trend of the 1980s, it wasn’t just limited to the clothes you wore, people also loved to accessorize in neon as well.
Probably the most common example would be neon colored Jelly Bracelets that were often worn by teenage and young adult women. These were inexpensive bracelets popularized in the 80s by celebrities like Madonna who was often seen wearing them.
6. Bold Makeup
Just as colorful as neon fashion was of course the bold and bright colored makeup that accompanied it. When it came to 80s makeup trends, bright and vivid colors were all the rage. It was not uncommon to put orange, green, and purple colored makeup on your face, and if you had a great neon outfit, you might as well accent it with some matching makeup.
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80s Neon Clothing Popularity
What compelled all those people to wear those loud colors that today, in hindsight, may appear a tad garish? Historians and sociologists have offered different explanations, and many of them make sense.
The Media’s Influence
Undoubtedly, some of the credit (or blame, if you’re not exactly enamored of the neon trend) can be laid at the feet of the entertainment industry. In the movies neon fashion was a big thing. The use of bright colors in the movies was the return of Hollywood to the ideals of innocence and youth.
With John Hughes movies focusing on high school life and innocent travails (will I go to the prom, and with whom?) and movies ending on a happy note, the film industry was veering away from the gritty realism of 1970s cinema, were everything seemed in shades of black and gray, the heroes were really anti-heroes, and everyone had a tragic ending.
Neon was a big part of those movies, and the stars all wore neon, so of course the moviegoers wore neon too. Following movie styles is a recurring trend in any decade.
And then there was TV. Not only were the shows lighter and brighter than their 1970s predecessors, but there was also MTV. The MTV animation was unabashedly colorful, and a new medium called music videos were invading homes all over the country. And since everyone seemed to wear neon in those videos, so did the teens who watched them religiously.
A New Hope For Neon
But it wasn’t just the movies and MTV which were responsible for the rise of neon. It was the people of the 80s themselves. The neon colors just perfectly symbolized the rise of optimism all over the country.
You have to understand just how colorless the 1970s were and how it seemed to dampen the American spirit. The 1970s were characterized by the rise of crime in the cities, the increasing use of drugs, the oil embargo and the recession that followed it, the resignation of Nixon and the resulting distrust of government and authority, and the Carter administration which saw the hostage taking in the US embassy in Iran.
Then suddenly the 1980s came, and everything was changing. Optimism was in the air. Reagan had a more successful foreign policy, the recession was lifting, Wall Street was offering lots of money to investors, and the youth was embracing new music and new styles.
Neon clothing became popular because it was new, it was youthful, and it was certainly bright and cheerful. And you can certainly say the same for the entire decade of the 1980s, when you compare it to the 1970s.
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