What Accessories Defined the Quintessential 80s Look?


The 1980s were a time of bold fashion choices, vibrant colors, and unmistakable style statements that continue to influence trends today. It was a decade that celebrated excess, individuality, and the art of standing out. Among the defining elements of 80s fashion, accessories played a pivotal role, transforming simple outfits into iconic looks that captured the essence of the era. From the whimsical charm of leg warmers to the undeniable cool of Ray-Ban sunglasses, each accessory added a layer of complexity and flair that defined the decade’s aesthetic.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the colorful world of 80s fashion accessories, exploring the pieces that were not just add-ons but integral to creating the signature styles that still resonate with us today. Join us as we take a nostalgic journey back to a time when more was more and discover the accessories that made the 80s truly unforgettable.

Popular Accessories in the 1980s

Below are some of the most popular accessories used by people in the 1980s. In fact, many of these are still being used today.

Leg Warmers

Person wearing a pink leg warmer

A hallmark of dance studios, leg warmers leaped onto the fashion scene, breaking free from their practical origins. In the 1980s, they were not just for warmth or muscle protection but emerged as a bold fashion statement. Worn over leggings or jeans, leg warmers contributed to the layered look that became synonymous with the decade’s style. Their adoption by fashion-forward youth and celebrities alike helped cement their place as a quintessential 80s accessory.


Colorful scrunchies

The humble scrunchie transcended its functional role as a mere hair tie to become a vibrant emblem of 80s fashion. These fabric-covered elastics served dual purposes—keeping hair securely in place while adding a pop of color and texture to any outfit. Whether matching or contrasting with the wearer’s ensemble, scrunchies became a ubiquitous accessory, emblematic of the era’s playful approach to fashion.

Big Earrings

Woman wearing a big yellow earring

In the 80s, earrings were anything but subtle. Large, dangling pieces and oversized hoops became staples of the decade, often adorned with bright colors and bold designs. These statement earrings were not just accessories; they were conversation starters, adding a layer of drama and flair to even the simplest of outfits. Their popularity underscored the era’s penchant for excess and individual expression.

Neon Colors

Man wearing neon and glow in the dark accessories

The 80s had a unique language of color, and neon spoke the loudest. Neon accessories—bracelets, belts, socks, and more—were essential for anyone aiming to capture the decade’s look. These vivid hues were more than just colorful additions; they were the embodiment of the era’s vibrant energy and relentless optimism, making every outfit stand out.

Fanny Packs

Woman wearing a fanny pack around her waist

Beyond their practical appeal, fanny packs became a fashion phenomenon in the 80s. Worn around the waist, these convenient pouches were both a statement in utility and style. Available in an array of materials, including eye-catching neon and bold patterns, fanny packs were embraced by all, from tourists to trendsetters, further proving the decade’s love for functional fashion.

Bangles and Bracelets

Wearing a colorful bracelet

Layering was a key concept in 80s fashion, and this extended to jewelry, with bangles and bracelets stacked high on wrists. This trend embraced a mix of materials, from the metallic clinks of metal bangles to the soft stretch of rubber bracelets, often worn to support a favorite band or cause. This accessory ensemble added a personal touch to the wearer’s outfit, showcasing their individual style and affiliations.

Ray-Ban Sunglasses

Person holding Ray-Ban sunglasses

Iconic films like “Risky Business” and “Top Gun” turned Ray-Ban sunglasses into must-have accessories of the 80s. The Wayfarer and Aviator models, in particular, became synonymous with cool, offering a blend of style and mystique. These sunglasses weren’t just about shielding eyes from the sun; they were a statement of attitude embraced by celebrities and fashion-forward individuals alike.

Fingerless Gloves

Person wearing red fingerless gloves

Championed by music icons such as Madonna, fingerless gloves transcended their practical origins to become a symbol of edge and rebellion. Whether crafted from lace for a touch of elegance or from leather and fishnet for a punk vibe, these gloves added a unique texture and interest to any ensemble, embodying the decade’s eclectic fashion sense.

Headbands and Bandanas

Woman wearing a yellow headband

Worn not just for their practicality but as fashion statements, headbands, and bandanas captured the casual and athletic spirit of the 80s. Whether tied across the forehead or around the head, these accessories were often chosen for their bold colors and prints, adding a distinctive touch to both sporty and casual outfits and highlighting the era’s love for expressive and versatile fashion.

Chunky Belts

Person wearing a chunky belt

The 80s were about making statements, and chunky belts did just that. Used to cinch in waists on oversized shirts or dresses, these belts added shape and contrast to outfits. Their bright colors and large buckles were not just functional but served as focal points, embodying the decade’s flair for the dramatic in everyday fashion.

Statement Necklaces

Mannequin wearing a colorful necklace

The era celebrated boldness, and statement necklaces were a direct reflection of this. Featuring large, chunky designs and often adorned with bold pendants, these necklaces were central to the 80s aesthetic. Worn to stand out and add a focal point to any outfit, they were emblematic of the decade’s fearless approach to fashion.

Mesh and Lace Gloves

Wearing mesh gloves

Adding a nuanced touch to the 80s fashion landscape, mesh and lace gloves were versatile accessories that straddled the line between elegance and punk. Depending on their style and how they were worn, these gloves could elevate an outfit with a touch of sophistication or edge, showcasing the decade’s diversity in fashion expression.

Swatch Watches

Swatch watches were more than just timekeepers; they were a fashion statement. Known for their colorful designs and interchangeable bands, these watches allowed for personalization and became a favorite among those looking to express their individual style. Their popularity underscored the 80s theme of mixing practicality with playful design.

Impact of 80s Fashion Accessories

A senior woman in 80s style outfit and accessories

The impact of 80s fashion accessories extends far beyond the decade itself, leaving a lasting influence on fashion, culture, and individual expression. These accessories were not just about adornment; they were integral to the identity and attitude of the era, embodying the spirit of innovation, rebellion, and a break from traditional fashion norms. Here’s a closer look at the impact of 80s fashion accessories:

  • Cultural Significance: 80s accessories played a pivotal role in the cultural landscape, closely tied to the music, movies, and celebrities of the time. Icons like Madonna, Prince, and Michael Jackson didn’t just influence music; they set fashion trends, with their choice of accessories becoming symbols of their unique styles. Movies like “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Top Gun” further propelled accessories like lace gloves and Aviator sunglasses into the mainstream, blending pop culture and fashion in unprecedented ways.
  • Influence on Modern Fashion: The bold and experimental nature of 80s accessories has continued to influence modern fashion. Trends like neon colors, oversized earrings, and scrunchies have seen resurgences, reflecting the cyclical nature of fashion but also the enduring appeal of 80s aesthetics. High fashion runways and street style alike borrow from the 80s playbook, remixing its most iconic accessories with contemporary design elements, proving the decade’s innovations are still relevant.
  • Personal Expression and Identity: Perhaps the most enduring impact of 80s fashion accessories is their emphasis on personal expression and the celebration of individuality. The eclectic mix-and-match approach to accessories encouraged people to create their own unique styles, a trend that has only grown in subsequent decades. Today, fashion continues to be seen as a primary mode of self-expression, a sentiment that was significantly bolstered by the 80s embrace of diverse and distinctive looks.
  • Technology and Innovation: The popularity of accessories like Swatch watches highlighted the intersection of fashion and technology, a relationship that has only deepened with time. The 80s showcased how fashion accessories could incorporate technological advancements, not just in functionality but in design and personalization. This paved the way for today’s wearable tech, which combines practical tech solutions with fashion-forward design.
  • Sustainable Fashion and Vintage Revival: The resurgence of 80s fashion accessories has also contributed to the rise of vintage and sustainable fashion. As people seek out original 80s pieces, there’s a growing appreciation for the quality, history, and uniqueness of vintage items. This interest not only celebrates the designs of the past but also aligns with current movements towards more sustainable fashion practices, as reusing and repurposing clothing becomes increasingly popular.

If you are putting together a 1980s-inspired outfit, you may also check out our list of the best clothes of the 80s for more ideas.


The 80s fashion accessories were more than just ephemeral trends; they marked a significant turning point in how individuality and style are expressed through fashion. These vibrant, bold, and innovative accessories not only defined the aesthetic of a decade but also laid the groundwork for future fashion movements, emphasizing personal expression and the fusion of culture and style.

Today, the legacy of 80s accessories continues to resonate, influencing modern fashion and reminding us of the power of accessories to transform and define our look. The 80s taught us that fashion is not just about clothing; it’s a canvas for self-expression, a statement of individuality, and a reflection of cultural moments.

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