Some of the most popular shoes of the 1980s would still look cool today. Although a lot of these brands have now gone out of business or just don’t make the style anymore, it’s worth a look to see if you could find something similar to these classics.
Popular 80s Shoes
The 1980s was really when sneakers started to become really popular. Companies like Converse, Nike, and Reebok dominated the scene, but they were smaller players as well.
So what were the most popular shoes of the 1980s?
Here are our top picks for some of the best shoes of the 1980s:
1. Bo Jackson Cross Trainers
One of the biggest sport studs at the time, Bo Jackson played two sports! That was extremely rare at the time, and would be even rarer today considering the levels of performance required by professional athletes.
Bo Jackson Cross Trainers
The cross trainers with the BJ name came with basically two colors- yellow and grey. They were also pretty big shoes, more similar to basketball shoes than anything else. But if you take a look at the old pictures, you’ll see that they really don’t look much different than the cross trainers we wear today.
2. British Knights
Originally launched in 1983 as a casual shoe brand, British Knights became seemingly an overnight sensation when it released its first sneakers in 1985. They were also the first to really recognize that sneakers could make a fashion statement rather than just be shoes you bought for gym class. They were also the first shoe brand to enlist hip hop artists and entertainers to endorse their brand.
British Knights Sneakers
British Knights targeted an urban audience primarily in the inner-cities. And like their slogan said “the shoe ain’t nothin’ without the BK button”, so in the 80’s if you wanted to be cool you had to at least have a pair of BKs.
A timeless shoe style from the 1980s was the Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars. Luckily, these shoes are still around! They aren’t all that popular, but it’s pretty easy to get a pair if you really want.
These shoes are extremely simple. Not many colors, typically just white on the bottom and something like pink or blue on top.
Converse shoes were marketed as basketball shoes, but it wasn’t a really good idea to play basketball in them. They have almost zero ankle support, so you were more likely to twist an ankle or break a leg than to make it to the NBA with these suckers.
Still, wearing them made you feel cool.
4. Air Jordans
If you played sports – or even if you just wanted to look like you played sports- Air Jordans were it.
One of the most expensive shoes of the time, Air Jordans were supposed to make you better at everything. Basketball. Tennis. School. Life.
Thus it’s no surprise they were one of the most popular Nike shoes of the 1980s that everyone had to get their hands on!
Original Air Jordan 1 circa 1985
After all, even though MJ wasn’t a multi-sport star like Mr. Jackson, he is often seen as the greatest basketball player who has ever lived. And considering that the guy didn’t make the high school basketball team for his first tryout, MJ was a big motivational force for young athletes everywhere.
5. Reebok Pump
Though huge in the 1990s, it should be noted that the original Reebok Pump was launched in 1989, thus we want to recognize it here as an honorable mention. The Reebok Pump revolutionized the sneaker world because it had a built in inflation system that allowed users to custom fit their shoe. All you had to do was stick your foot in the shoe, pump it up, and you were locked in and ready to ball.
Original Reebok Pump
6. Jelly Shoes
Jelly shoes were a fad that became hot in the 1980s. What are jelly shoes? Well they are basically shoes made of PVC plastic. The shoe gets its name from the semi-transparent look of the shoe that makes it look like you made a shoe out of jelly. The material used in jelly shoes came in a wide variety of color and often had various patterns and even glitter in them.
Think nice, dressy casual brown shoes.
…with squiggly spiral laces.
These were for the people who wanted to look good and casual, without having to wear nice shoes. The laces told everyone that these weren’t your typical Sunday morning church attire, but the brown leather showed that you weren’t just a kid wearing sneakers, either.
8. LA Gear
Of course no 1980s shoe list would be complete without mentioning LA Gear. These shoes were characterized by their bright colors and bold designs. The sneakers were a big hit with women, and their signature white sneakers would often be trimmed with neon colors like pink, blue, and green which instantly made them a 1980s signature.
Vans was a popular brand amongst the skateboarding community in the 1980s. Known for their stylish designs and thick rubber soles, Vans shoes was a practical and fashionable casual shoe that appealed to the west coast masses.
Probably the most boring, basic shoe ever made. Seriously.
But at the time, just about every female alive had a pair of white Keds shoes. They made your feet look small, unlike most shoes which tend to make your feet look a lot bigger than they really are. Keds were also pure white, so everything showed up on them but women didn’t care. They liked that these shoes could go with just about any outfit imaginable.
Plus, Keds were pretty much the official shoes of cheerleaders everywhere. So even if you weren’t a cheerleader, you wore em to make it look like you were part of that elite group.
So those are our top picks for the most memorable shoes of the 1980s. Did your pick make the list?