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All You Need to Know About 80s Fashion Trends

Shoulder pads and hammer pants
Shoulder pads and hammer pants

Updated February 10th, 2020

My first introduction to '80s fashion trends was seeing the way my older siblings dressed. Looking back, those were some of the strangest and coolest outfits I've seen.

There's a funny phenomenon in the world of fashion; no matter what style of clothes we currently wear, we always feel like our outfits are more fashionable than the outfits of previous decades. Clothing from the '70s may seem like a strange mess of disco influence, but it was all the rage at the time.

This is what makes fashion so special. Trends are constantly evolving, and there are tons of influencers who help decide what's in and what's out. Style captures a moment in time and preserves it forever. A great example of this is the feeling you get from watching a movie where early 20th century costumes were done just right.

Although it's not everybody's favorite era in fashion, the 1980s brought a lot of unique looks to the table. '80s fashion trends were an experiment to many people, and a lot of the outfits look like they'd be right at home in a strange science movie. Still, we reflect fondly on this period in fashion for its adventurous spirit and the contributions it made to modern fashion.

The 1980s: A Wild Time

The 1980s were both a special and tumultuous time. While the world was advancing quickly and technology was poised to continue getting better, there were societal problems that plagued inner cities throughout the country. Ronald Reagan was president, and the crack epidemic was in full swing.

Many people turned to various forms of art, including street art, music and fashion. This was as much an escape as it was the pursuit of a passion.

Computers, which had previously taken up tons of space and were only really used by military and government agencies, were now something that millions of people in America owned. As many people were going through hard times, the world experienced a second age of enlightenment.

What Is 1980s Fashion

 While there are certainly fashion trends that you can credit the 1980s for, it's hard to pin down what 1980s fashion trends were, exactly. The most important parts of 1980s fashion were creativity and pride. People were turning inward for inspiration and support, and '80s fashion was a way of expressing those inner feelings. That's why it's stood the test of time.

At its core, 1980s fashion was about bright colors and bold statements. Bright sunglasses, big jewelry and teased hair gave women of the time a strong look, while men wearing bright colors became preferred rather than simply accepted. The 1980s were also the early days of athletic sneakers, when brands like Nike and Adidas became the powerhouses they are today.

What Made '80s Fashion Special

You may be wondering what it is, exactly, that makes '80s fashion trends so different from other eras of fashion. The 1970s had a lot of very experimental fashion, so why is '80s style looked at as one of the most thrilling times in fashion history? A large part of this is because of the climate of the times and the fashion icons who were influencing the decade's style.

Madonna was one of the original rule breakers when it comes to '80s style. Women's style was pretty reserved prior to the 1970s, and naturally, some of this attitude carried over into the following decades. Still, Madonna broke every barrier and silenced every doubter with tons of unique outfits, from rubber bracelets and colorful clothes to all black leather outfits.

Michael Jackson was also big at the time, and his influence on fashion was almost just as big. His famous red jacket with the ever so pronounced shoulders became one of the staples for fashion during the 1980s, and it didn't stop there. During the 1980s, it seemed like every time you saw Michael Jackson he was experimenting with some new style.

Perhaps the most interesting of all the 1980s fashion icons was Boy George. He went far beyond simply experimenting with oddly shaped clothing or bright colors; Boy George turned himself into a walking canvas on which to display the art that was his fashion sense. His bold, colorful style helped set the tone for an era that made its name with loud, colorful clothing.

For someone like me who's not incredibly fashionable, the '80s represent creativity and unique qualities. Those who were different were celebrated, and it gave the fringe style a booming voice in the fashion industry.

Learning More About the '80s

If you want to learn more about fashion in the 1980s, there are a variety of great websites, documentaries and YouTube videos with more information. You can also look up photos of 1980s fashion to get an idea of how people dressed.

I personally enjoy watching many of the fashion documentaries the BBC does. There are documentaries about brands, fashion icons, and famous designers. For a really unique dive into '80s fashion, read about Dapper Dan's boutique store in Harlem; this store was responsible for much of the fashion in hip-hop during the '80s and early '90s.

Learning about fashion is a great way to take a trip back in time, and sprinkling old style into new outfits can be a great way to get a unique look. We encourage you to learn all you can about the fashion of the 1980s and beyond.


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