The 1980s were a whirlwind of fashion experimentation, producing iconic styles that define the decade. However, not all trends from this era are worth revisiting. In this list, we’ll explore the eccentric, outrageous, and occasionally questionable fashion choices of the ’80s that should remain firmly in the past.
Who remembers shoulder pads?
In the ’80s, shoulder pads were the unsung heroes of fashion, transforming ordinary blouses into runway-worthy battleships. They made you look like you could conquer the world, or at least take on the doorframe without hesitation. These puffy props were the ‘armor’ against ordinary shoulders – the bigger, the better!
Let’s keep them as a memory
Shoulder pads, a relic of the past, should never stage a triumphant return. Who needs to look like they’re smuggling spare tires in their blouses? We’ve evolved past this “block the doorway” trend, aiming for comfort, not a cardboard cutout silhouette. Let’s leave the ’80s power struggle where it belongs – in the past.
Acid wash denim was once a badass staple
Who remembers pulling on their acid wash jeans with a band tee and a leather jacket and feeling like a total badass? Although they were once the staple of a cool 80s look, is acid wash still a thing? The environment would frown upon this trend as it requires a fair amount of chemicals to pull off, but it certainly was a cook look back in the day.
Maybe not now, though
Acid wash jeans, the rebellious offspring of fashion and a chemistry experiment gone awry, should stay locked in the ’80s vault. They were like a Jackson Pollock painting on pants, but less classy. Let’s avoid the “I spilled bleach on my jeans” look and spare future generations from perplexing laundry mishaps.
For when regular pants just won’t do
In the colorful ’80s, stirrup pants had their moment in the limelight. They were like the superhero of legwear, rescuing your pants from bunching up in your boots! A style that combined comfort and convenience, stirrup pants were the go-to choice for any aspiring fashion-forward equestrian. Giddy-up, fashionistas!
In recent times though, we have a found a different way to stop our pants bunching at the ankles; just wear skinny jeans that are so tight that you can barely get them on. Both of these trouser trends are a little odd, but stirrup pants take the ugly cake. Who needs a smooth, uninterrupted leg line when you can have an awkward strap hugging your ankles?
In the ’80s, neon clothing was the fashion equivalent of a dance party on your body. It’s like wearing a neon sign that screamed, “Look at me, I glow in the dark!” These electrifying colors could make a dark alley look like a disco, so you could dance your way through life, whether it was to work or to a roller rink. Neon: because subtlety is overrated!
Practical, but ugly
Do you think that there were less pedestrians that were hit by cars in the 80s because everyone looked like a walking traffic cone? Although the neon trend is definitely safer than the ‘all-black’ trend for people who like to walk around at night, it really is a sign of the past, and one that we should reserve for 80s themed parties.
A little throwback…
They conquered chilly ankles with the power of funky stripes and a dash of ‘Flashdance’ flair. Like stylish sausage casings for your legs, they added a pop of color while promising you were ready to bust out some spontaneous aerobics at any moment. What a time to be warm-legged.
These have got to go down in history as the most useless piece of fashion ever. Not only are they ugly, but what are they for? Have you ever wished that your calves are wearing gloves? Whilst there are some trends from the past that should make a comeback, please, please, don’t let it be leg-warmers.
In the ’80s, fanny packs were the ultimate multitasking accessory. They served as a purse, snack dispenser, and stealthy ninja utility belt all in one! Fashion’s way of saying, “I’ve got your back (and front) – and some snacks too!” They were the superheroes of convenience!
Okay, okay, fanny packs are acceptable sometimes. Those times are either if you are attending a music festival or travelling… but that’s it. If you wear one of these any other time, you are guaranteed to look like a pensioner on vacation in Arizona, especially if you team it with a Hawaiian shirt. Try using a regular backpack.
Mullets have been making a bit of a comeback as of late, thanks to a recent TikTok trend. And, why wouldn’t they make a comeback? Who doesn’t love a business in the front, party in the back kind of situation? From John Travolta to Billy Ray Cyrus, this hairstyle swept the world in the 80s with it’s truck stop chic.
If you’re doing a mullet, do it right.
Not only are mullets hard to maintain, they are definitely an acquired taste. If you have the bone structure to pull it off, good for you. Even Miley Cyrus has taken some hairstyle inspiration from her dad in recent years. All in all, though, modern hairstyles deserve more of a balanced lifestyle.
Spandex gained popularity in the 1980s due to its unique combination of comfort, stretch, and style. Spandex perfectly catered to the aerobics craze of the era, providing flexibility and enhancing the body’s contours. Additionally, their vibrant colors and bold designs mirrored the flashy fashion preferences of the ’80s, making it a staple for many.
Please leave it in the past
Let’s face it, spandex should stay in the past, like parachute pants and mullets. The ’80s had its fun with this clingy fabric, but we’re not ready for a spandex revival. We’ve all seen enough of our “jelly bellies”, and the last thing we need is another stretchy reminder of the past. Let’s keep our wardrobes stretch-free, for the sake of fashion and our egos!
Scrunchie socks, popular in the 1980s, were a fashion trend featuring socks that bunched-up near the ankles. They were made of various materials, often lace or cotton, and came in a wide range of colors and patterns. These socks were favored for their ability to add a playful and stylish touch to outfits, perfectly complementing the bold and vibrant trends.
Let’s just stick to regular socks
Although we all love a novelty pattern pair of socks for Christmas, that’s about as far as we go with eccentric sock these days… and we should all keep it that way. These socks are reminiscent of the sort of thing that a haunted doll would wear and definitely have no place in today’s fashion world. Where can you even buy those things anymore?
Members only jackets
For any kids reading this, no, these are not jackets that make you part of a special club. Unless it’s the ugly fashion club. The men’s outerwear brand famous for its tablecloth-like fabrics, ribbed bottoms, and shoulder epaulettes was one of the biggest success stories in 1980s fashion. But that doesn’t mean that they should make a comeback.
Creepy guy chic
Although these jackets were once donned by the most stylish of men, they are now the sort of thing that you see a creepy guy wearing outside a bar, or, in the bargain bin at Goodwill. The ’80s had its moments, but we don’t need a revival of these snugly zipped time capsules. Our closets have evolved, and let’s keep them free from jacket nostalgia.
What teen didn’t want a T-shirt that changed color when in contact with heat, allowing you to make thermo prints of your hand all over your outfit? When paired with matching slouch socks and a killer scrunchie you felt as though you were literally the coolest kid at school. If you didn’t have one, you probably wished that you did.
A true relic of the past
In 1991, the company that made these shirts profited $50 million from t-shirts alone. However, the company went bankrupt the following year – presumably because they were too overwhelmed by their huge success and spent all their time high-fiving their own T-shirts and watching them turn from blue to pink.
In the ’80s, perms were the ultimate hair adventure! It was the era of embracing those bouncy, curly locks with unapologetic enthusiasm. Perms provided a low-maintenance, time-saving option for achieving luscious waves. Pop icons like Madonna and Whitney Houston made it a sensation, encouraging us all to embrace a little ’80s volume and sass.
Or maybe it’s already back?
Yes, ’80s curls are back, but the modern perm looks more natural and is less damaging than the OG version. “Believe it or not, there’s lots of young men and women professionally perming their hair and then straightening their hair to get a ‘surf flip;’ it’s all over TikTok,” says Harry Josh, Kerasilk Brand Ambassador. This one could be an exception to the rule!
The expanding size and weight of earrings meant that clip-ons were extremely popular. Huge polymer crosses hung from punk rockers’ lobes, while the pop teens wore anything from large fluoro hoops, to bright plastic polka dot buttons, wild neon geometrics and fabric animal prints.
Save your lobes
Whilst this trend was a lot of fun for teenagers whose moms didn’t allow them to have their ears pierced, clip-on earrings brought a different kind of pain. On top of that, they were often embellished with over-the-top plastic jewels that would just look tacky with today’s fashion. Opt for minimalist jewelry for a timeless and classy look.
Acid wash strikes again
This fashion crime wasn’t just exclusive to jeans. The process of acid-washing is rooted in 1960s California surf culture, when salty-haired surfers grew tired of fading their jeans in the sun and turned to chlorine bleach instead. The practice exploded in the ’80s punk scene and this then translated over to everyone’s favorite band t-shirts.
This time, on band t-shirts
There’s nothing cooler than a band t-shirt to show everyone that you have elite music taste, no one is disputing that. But, there’s no need to acid-wash it. This also goes for tie-dye band t-shirts but that is definitely more of a 70s crime against fashion.
Sorry M.C Hammer
“U can’t touch this.” And you shouldn’t touch this fashion trend ever again. Don’t call them parachute pants. “I detest the term,” Stanley Kirk Burrell, better known by his stage name of M.C. Hammer, told Racked in 2016. “They’re called Hammer pants.” Whatever you want to call them, please don’t bring them back.
It’s the pants
These pants were flashy at the time, and only really cool people could pull them off. Nowadays though, no can pull them off, because they are wholly unfashionable and gaudy. No one needs to make a statement with their pants. You won’t get any “fly girls” in parachute pants.
Jelly shoes were marketed as an affordable and stylish alternative to leather shoes, and they quickly became popular with women and girls of all ages. The shoes were available in a wide range of colors and styles, and they were often worn with matching jelly accessories, such as bracelets and necklaces.
Replaced by crocs?
Jelly shoes were a lot of fun, and brought a childlike fun to everyday fashion. Although jelly shoes definitely have no place in the 21st century, that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with our footwear! Try out a pair of crocs for some impractical, yet whimsical, plastic footwear vibes.
Cher started this one when she and Sonny wore embellished, acid-wash denim jackets on the cover of The Two Of Us. From there, an embellished jean jacket was a pretty cool thing to wear to concerts; extra points if it had the sleeves cut off or so many rhinestones that wearing it for too long gave you back pain.
Let’s just leave denim alone, okay?
Although this may have been a staple look for any glam-rocker worth their salt in the 80s, can we just leave denim alone from now on? There have been some denim crimes in the recent past too (we’re looking at you, overly distressed jeans) but a classic jean jacket is a timeless look that’s hard to go wrong with, as long as there’s no jewels on the back.
A classic prom look
Ruffled shirts were worn by everyone from David Bowie, to Prince, to nerdy guys at prom who wanted to emulate the New Romantics musicians’ looks. This unisex fashion trend was very popular during the 1980s, although now, it looks more like something from The Pirates Of The Caribbean…
Ruffle shirts, popular in the past, should stay in fashion’s archives. While they added flair in the ’70s and ’80s, they risk overwhelming modern styles with excessive frills. Today’s fashion embraces simplicity and comfort, making ruffles seem out of place. Let’s leave these flamboyant fashion relics behind and opt for more timeless and versatile clothing.
Punchy graphic prints were part of a popular design movement of the ’80s, but now, the look is just distracting. Vintage stores are riddled with shirts that come in the ugliest patterns you’ve ever seen, and whilst some hipsters might try and pull these off, they really should only be worn in an ironic way.
That were a little too punchy
An article from Gizmodo pinpoints the colorful, pop art-infused design movement apparent in fashion, furniture, and pop culture of the ’80s as “Memphis,” named after a furniture design group of the same name. Bright colors and geometric patterns were often paired together in the ’80s, but now those busy combinations make for an eyesore.
In the 80s, we toyed around with lots of fashion trends in attempt to look hot, hot, hot – but the things that we did to blazers and shirts were truly unspeakable. Whether it was the shoulder pads, the nylon, or the gaudy patterns, there was no need for our fashion statements to be that bold, and one trend was a top-offender…
Pastel colored shirts and blazers were particularly popular with men at the time. Although it might have been very cool at the time to look like you’d just walked off the set of Miami ice, an outfit like this nowadays would just make you look like you’d walked straight out of a time machine…