Classic 80s fashion is one of the greatest things about the 80s era. The styles were unlike any decade we had seen before. If you grew up in the 80s, this isn’t going to be news to you. Anyone that didn’t grow up than, will find this post a bit crazy. When you actually sit down to talk about the fashion from that time, it is almost hard to believe some of these designs and styles were real.
The fashion of the 80s boiled down to many things, but the biggest I would say is the belief that anything goes. There was a big “No Holds Barred” feeling towards fashion. Basically, nothing was off limits. I am going to take a trip down 80s fashion runway to give you some highlights that was the 80s.
To get started with the 80s fashion, I thought it best to start at the top. THE HEAD!
When it comes to fashion for your head in the 80s, there were a few trends that really stick out. One is the famous bucket hat. A bucket hat was pretty much like it sounds; it was a hat that when turned upside down looked like a bucket. It usually had a sloped down rim, that was meant for protecting your head from the rain. The rain was meant to just roll off.
Often worn by rappers like L.L. Cool J. Of course, in the 80s all it took was one celebrity to wear something and instantly it was popular. This was totally true for the bucket hat.
Next up for hats, is the plastic snap back ball hat. Anyone from that era will remember the snap back hat. What made it different from a regular ball hat, was the closure at the back was made of plastic and could be adjusted to your particular size.
The hat also had more of a 90-degree brim on it, rather than the traditional ball hat brim. This gave it more of a square look. The top part of the hat, was usually made out of 6 panels that were sewn together to make a cap. Often called the 6-panel hat.
In some cases, the panels at the back of the hat could be made of mesh. That way it was actually breathable and completely see through. The funny part about this hat is that this is now a popular hat once again.
The trip down hat memory lane would not be complete without the visor. They were generally made of plastic but could also be made of fabric and were only a half hat. The top of the head was exposed and open when wearing the visor. Usually, they came in bright colors like red, blue, yellow etc. Completely adjustable to fit any head, they were one size fits all. Initially a cheesy plastic that eventually was made in fabric by companies like Ralph Lauren Polo and quickly became the more expensive visor fashion trend.
Making our way down to the top half of the body, we stop at the shirt. The 80s styles for shirts, was eclectic, and super unique to that time.
Some more popular styles of shirts, were things like:
First up is the turtleneck. Yes, this was truly a thing. The turtleneck was a tight-fitting shirt that had a long neck that was meant to be folded over. Turtleneck the name came from the UK shirt that was called a “Polo Neck”. In the states, they decided to rename it the Turtleneck as it looked a lot like a turtle’s neck coming out of the shell.
A popular shirt option, especially in the winter simply because it actually did keep your neck warm. The other thing that made it so popular, was the tight-fitting design that made it perfect under a blazer or jacket as a fashion statement. Anyone who was anyone back than had a turtleneck in their closet. I was no exception. I loved the turtleneck.
The love of denim was huge in the 80s. Even to the point that they decided to make into a shirt. Yes, a “DENIM SHIRT”. There was really nothing that they couldn’t make denim out of in the 80s.
Often the denim shirt was worn as an over sized button up shirt that would be worn undone. Without the buttons being done up, it was a great over the top shirt, that you could than wear a tighter shirt underneath. Truly just for fashion purposes. I mean I guess you could say that wearing layers would keep you warmer, but the reality is, it was just for a look.
Not everybody wore the shirt this way, some actually buttoned it up and wore it just like that. I guess it boiled down to the fashion statement that you were trying to portray by wearing it. What was the look you were going for exactly? LOL!
Big Slogan Tees
Awe the 80s…. What a great time for the t-shirt. Typically, t-shirts back than were over sized and had large in your face slogans on them. We all remember the Frankie Goes to Hollywood “Frankie Says Relax” or just “Relax” t-shirt. Or better yet, the Wham t-shirt from the video “Wake Me Up Before You Go” that said “Choose Life” on the front.
The designs just exploded from there to include anything that was big bold and made a statement of some kind. It could just be something simple, but the bigger it was on the t-shirt, the better. Most often, the words and shirts were bright colored and very loud, but honestly, I think that was the whole point. The 80s was all about standing out from the crowd.
In my opinion, this t-shirt style is another one of those things, that is once again a popular item. T-shirts slogans and bold statements are just as popular now as they were than.
Other Popular Shirt Styles
The list for popular shirt styles in the 80s could go on for days. There were just so many shirt styles that were only popular in the that era.
Here are a few more of the fashion shirts styles:
- lacey blouses
- frilly collars often also called the “Tuxedo” blouse.
- off the shoulder shirt where one side was literally situated off of your shoulder
- crotchet top
Just looking at that list, makes me shake my head and think, “What the heck”. How and why did these designs ever become popular. C’mon the crochet blouse. Yikes!! That is a time stopper for sure.
Moving down to the 80s fashion in pants. Well, this era for pants also had some pretty strange designs that became VERY POPULAR!
The very cool and unique stirrup pant. These pants were either tight-fitting or loose, it didn’t matter. What made them special was the added fabric at the bottom of the pant that looped under your foot. Then when you put your shoes on, your pants would of course never ride up. This was such a unique and crazy style. Boy were they popular.
A tight stirrup pant was often wore with an over sized longer t-shirt that covered your bum. This look was one of the most popular and most iconic looks of the 80’s. Not to mention you would top off the look with a big pair of boots that I will get to a little further down.
My sister Carey didn’t find a pair of stirrup pants she didn’t like. She absolutely loved them.
And yes, this style of pants is also becoming popular again in this decade with them now hitting the runway at some fashion shows as of late. See something unique like this isn’t lost forever Carey. HAHA!
Next up is the very dreaded Acid Wash. You all remember the awful style of Acid Wash. This look was one of those strange and weird looks that was popular in the 80s.
Acid wash jeans are a pre-washed jean that is splatter with bleach everywhere. This gives a very distinctive look to the jean when dried.
The process started of course by accident and dates all the way back to the 60s. Surfer dudes got tired of leaving their jeans out in the sun to fade, so they took matters into their own hands. Simply by spraying bleach from a spray bottle on their jeans and letting them dry, they could get a funky new-look to their jeans. The punk era took the style and by the 80s made it a huge trend.
What’s funny about acid wash is that to date it is one of those trends, that you were almost embarrassed to be a part of. Just AWFUL! Of course, though I did have a pair. Got to be in style right!
When it comes to pants that I still remember fondly from the 80s, it had to be the “overalls trend”. It didn’t matter if they were jean overalls, cloth ones or whatever. Everyone that was anyone had a pair of them.
That means girls and boys of all ages were wearing them. There was just something about the comfort they brought when you put them on. Almost like a sense of freedom that no other pair of pants gave us.
I myself practically lived in mine, much like a uniform. LOL! But seriously the overall was always more a work type of clothing, until the 80s stole it for everyday fashion. From that point on it was a huge fashion statement.
I think if you look around fashion now, you can still see it present. I am not sure you would say that it came back, but it certainly has made an appearance from time to time.
There were many popular pant styles in the 80s, so here is a list of some other ones:
- ripped jeans
- high waisted jeans
- white pants
- parachute pants
- jeans with zipper all around the crotch
- pleated pants
- rugby pants
Wow this list still disturbs me today! HAHA! Yikes the rugby pant and the parachute pants still give me that horrible thought of WHY WHY WHY did we need these styles. LOL!
Well, we made it to the bottom to the feet.
Shoe styles of the 80s were in some respects excessively big, loud and normally was the tipping point to every style you put on. Your shoe back than always made an entrance.
Doc Martens are still around today, but the Doc Marten shoe craze truly began in the 80s. They absolutely exploded into fashion. Popular for giving us the big chunky army style lace up boots or shoe that we couldn’t live without. Their popularity sky rocked to include every style, color, and fabric that you wanted.
I was completely obsessed with this brand. Purchasing was a big commitment back than, because they were pretty expensive, so it often meant saving up to get a pair.
For the athletic person of the 80s, there was no shoe, runner more popular than the high-top shoe. Much of it we owe to the Air Jordan movement that gripped every household that had a teenage in it. Boys or girls, it just didn’t matter. Owning a pair of “Jordan’s” as they were called was a huge get to help establish your fashion statement.
This runner was made like any other runner, but the shoe was taller hence the name “High Tops”. They were comfortable, colorful and the must have shoe of the 80s. Much like the Doc Martens, these shoes were not cheap, so you know if got a pair it was quite an accomplishment.
There were many shoes that were a huge part of fashion in the 80s. Some of them are:
- Converse sneakers
- white Reebok sneakers
- suede shoes
- black leather boots with tassels on the back
- muk luks
- Van runners that were slip on and checkered
Many of these styles were synonymous with the styles that existed in the 80s.
Reflecting back on the 80s style still makes me laugh out loud today. There were just many styles that were totally outrageous and crazy. I am sure that people that didn’t live it must look back at us and think ….WOW YOU GUYS WERE NUTS!!
As I started writing this post with all my notes and research, I quickly realized that there was absolutely no way that I could fit everything about the classic 80s fashion in one article. This is than the article that I am calling Part 1.
If you have enjoyed my trip down the 80s fashion runway than stay tuned, as I have a lot more to come in the Part 2 edition. There is a heap more unbelievable fashions to come out of the 80s like sweaters, hair, accessories, jackets and more. Stay tuned.