If you worked out in the 1980s, chances are you owned a shell suit. These were a popular 1980s fashion trend that spawned itself as an offshoot of the popular tracksuit designs of the day, and it is one of the 80s fashions that really defined the fitness craze at the time.
The 80s was known as a time of great change in both the music and fashion industry. When it came to fashion in the 1980s, it was all about synthetic fibers, bright colors, and sparkling looks. While today some of these fashion trends might be considered a bit tacky, for those who grew up in the 80s, these trends were seen as an artistic expression of one’s individuality.
Shell Suits In The 80s
Casual athletics had already become popular by the end of the 1970s, but the 1980s saw an increased desire to improve one’s personal fitness levels, which ultimately led to the popularity of the velour tracksuit at the time.
Prior to the development of synthetic fibers, tracksuits were nothing more than a pair of sweatpants and a zip-up sweater jacket, like the style worn by Sylvester Stallone in the popular Rocky films.
But the development of synthetic fibers changed everything because they made tracksuits lighter and more comfortable.
The fitness craze of the 1980s and the subsequent 80s workout fashion trends saw an increase in demand for synthetic shell suits. Dance studios were popping up everywhere, and countless suburbanites began attending fitness classes on a regular basis. As a result, it was commonplace to see people walking down the street as well as in the local parks wearing brightly colored shell suits.
A Colorful Fashion Statement
Shell suits like many popular fashion trends in the 1980s were not manufactured in single colors. They were available in a wide array of multicolored options that ranged from plain to outright gaudy, and they mimicked the bright neon fashion trend of the era.
Even people who didn’t even partake in the 1980s fitness craze could be seen sporting a tracksuit as if it were part of their casual attire. It was fairly common to see siblings as well as couples wearing matching shell suits at the malls or walking through the neighborhood.
By the mid-80s, synthetic manufacturing processes allowed clothing to be produced in a wide variety of fluorescent and neon colors. Thanks to the popularity of geometric patterns at the time, shell suits were commonly assembled with a mixed and matched selection of bright colors and interesting designs.
The Shell Suit Design
Prior to the development of synthetic fibers, a tracksuit was simply a pair of sweatpants and a zip-up sweater jacket. To distinguish them from the traditional tracksuit, the newer synthetic designs were commonly referred to as shell suits.
Most of the shell suits available during the 80s were designed primarily the same way, and were sold in the sportswear section in sets with matching jackets and pants.
The collars were small and rounded and featured a full-length zipper that ran all the way down to the elasticized waist. The arms of the jacket were commonly oversized and also featured elastic around the wrist to prevent the sleeve from riding up the arm during a workout. Even the pants featured an elastic waistline and ankles which kept them in place during high-intensity workouts.
Are Shell Suits Still Popular?
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) shell suits are no longer popular today. A lot of that has to do with the change in fashion away from bold neon colors to more conservative choices.
While the shiny shell suit of the 1980s may have been rad back then, it’s considered more of an eyesore these days. However if you were alive in the 1980s you know that these were some of the coolest workout gear out there, and it will always be a fashion that we have fond memories of.