80s Style: The Top 5 Best Fashion Trends of the 1980s

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The 1980s are often remembered for their bold fashion experiments, which, in retrospect, can seem like a collection of the era’s most daring missteps. Shoulder pads towered, hair reached for the heavens, acid-washed jeans reigned supreme, and neon colors brightened the streets, all reminiscent of phrases and trends as fleeting as valley girl slang.

Yet, a closer look at your parents’ prom and high school snapshots or the iconic imagery of 80s pop stars might initially invoke a desire to “gag yourself with a spoon,” but it also reveals a deeper truth. Not all of the 1980s fashion choices were regrettable. Amidst the decade known for its extravagance, certain trends have proven to be timeless, continuing to influence our wardrobes even in the 21st century.

Here are five examples of 80s styles that not only defined the best of the era’s trends but also continue to inspire fashion enthusiasts today.

Leggings

Women wearing neon and colorful printed leggings in 80s style

Leggings emerged as a fashion essential in the 1980s, transitioning from exercise attire to a staple in everyday wear. Made from spandex and other stretchy materials, leggings were appreciated for their comfort and versatility. They were often worn under oversized sweaters, miniskirts, and even with the iconic leg warmers, embodying the decade’s playful approach to layering and style.

Hats

Man wearing a fedora hat

Hats in the 1980s ranged from the whimsical to the downright bold. Fedora hats made a comeback, partly thanks to their association with pop culture icons like Michael Jackson. Meanwhile, the beret became a symbol of chic, effortless style, often worn slightly tilted for an air of mystery. Hats were not just functional; they were an integral part of the fashion statement, adding a final touch to the eclectic looks of the era.

Jumpsuits

Woman wearing a stripe jumpsuit

The jumpsuit became a fashion-forward option for both casual and formal occasions in the 1980s. With variations in fabric, from denim to silk, and designs that included both fitted and loose silhouettes, jumpsuits catered to a wide range of styles and preferences. They were celebrated for their simplicity and ease of wear, providing a complete outfit in a single piece. Jumpsuits often featured bold patterns, vibrant colors, and, in true ’80s fashion, shoulder pads.

Bright Colors

Women wearing bright-colored exercise outfits

Perhaps no trend better encapsulates the spirit of the 1980s than the era’s love for bright colors. Neon hues and saturated tones dominated the fashion landscape, appearing in everything from athletic wear to evening gowns. This trend reflected the decade’s optimistic outlook and its embrace of individual expression through fashion. Bright colors were not just popular on clothing but extended to accessories, makeup, and hair, creating looks that were impossible to ignore.

Ray-Ban Sunglasses

Colorful Ray-Ban sunglasses

Ray-Ban sunglasses, particularly the Wayfarer and Aviator models, became iconic fashion statements in the 1980s. Their popularity was boosted by appearances in films, music videos, and celebrities, making them must-have accessories. Ray-Bans embodied the cool factor of the era, blending style with functionality. The brand’s distinct frames and lenses appealed to a wide audience, solidifying their place as timeless pieces of fashion history.

Who Inspired These Fashion Trends?

American musician Prince in a press photo dated to 1984

The 1980s fashion scene was heavily influenced by a mix of musicians, actors, and cultural icons whose styles defined the era’s aesthetic and continue to inspire fashion trends today. Here are some key figures who were fashion style inspirations in the 1980s:

  • Madonna: The Queen of Pop was a major fashion icon of the 1980s, known for her layered jewelry, lace gloves, fishnet stockings, and crucifix necklaces. Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” look, along with her ability to constantly reinvent her style, left a lasting impact on the decade’s fashion.
  • Prince: Known for his eclectic and flamboyant style, Prince pushed the boundaries of gender norms with his wardrobe choices. His use of vibrant colors, sequins, and high-heeled boots made him a fashion icon.
  • Michael Jackson: The King of Pop influenced fashion with his signature styles, including the red leather jacket from “Thriller,” his single white glove, and military-inspired outfits. Jackson’s impact on fashion was profound, with his unique blend of glam rock and luxury.
  • David Bowie: Although Bowie’s influence began in the 1970s, his continued reinvention throughout the 1980s with personas like the Goblin King in “Labyrinth” kept him at the forefront of fashion. His androgynous and avant-garde style inspired a generation to experiment with their own looks.
  • Cyndi Lauper: Lauper’s eclectic style, characterized by her colorful hair, quirky makeup, and mix-and-match approach to clothing, embodied the fun and freedom of ’80s fashion. Her motto seemed to be “more is more,” reflecting the decade’s penchant for excess.
  • Boy George and Culture Club: With his androgynous look, Boy George blurred the lines between male and female fashion, incorporating hats, braids, makeup, and colorful outfits into his style, influencing fans worldwide to embrace their individuality.
  • Joan Collins and the Cast of Dynasty: “Dynasty” was more than just a TV show; it was a fashion phenomenon. Joan Collins and her co-stars popularized power suits, shoulder pads, and glamorous evening wear, making high fashion accessible to the masses.
  • Brooke Shields: Starting the decade as a teen model, Shields became a fashion icon with her all-American girl style, epitomized by her Calvin Klein jeans ads. Her wholesome yet sophisticated look influenced everyday fashion.

We Love ’80s Style

Couple in colorful '80s fashion

The 1980s style remains a source of fascination and inspiration, blending bold fashion choices with unique expressions of individuality. Embracing elements of ’80s fashion doesn’t mean adopting the decade’s trends wholesale but rather incorporating select pieces or influences that add flair and vibrancy to contemporary outfits. Whether it’s through the addition of neon accents, the casual throwback of an oversized blazer, or the statement-making power of vintage accessories, the essence of ’80s style can invigorate your wardrobe in exciting ways.

Mental Itch celebrates the enduring appeal of the ’80s, offering a treasure trove of content that explores the decade’s impact on pop culture, fashion, and beyond. Our dedicated section to the 1980s serves as a deep dive into the era, presenting insights, retrospectives, and a celebration of its unmistakable vibe.

For those intrigued by the iconic accessories that defined the quintessential ’80s look, our detailed article on the subject sheds light on the pieces that were quintessential to the decade. From the unmistakable charm of Ray-Ban sunglasses to the ubiquitous presence of chunky jewelry and leg warmers, we cover the accessories that captured the spirit of the ’80s and continue to influence fashion trends today. You may also read this post to learn more about the impact of the 80s on pop culture.

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