The Greatest 80s Fashion Trends


The 1980s were such a simpler time. Reagan was in the White House, the Internet was relegated to underground military bunkers, and computers were the size of your living room.

Fashion was also at its most bold.

I mean, high-waisted jeans, permed hair and leg warmers were just some of the styles that were popular in the 80s. In an age of excess, style reflected the zeitgeist perfectly. The 1980s left a fashion aftershock and parents were left cleaning up stuck-on bathroom hairspray for decades. It was worth it for big and bold curly hair, side ponies, man ponies, you name it—they needed extra hold aerosol hair spray. Second to the dues, attire was bright, flashy, and especially tight. Richard Simmons is proof of this—and no one has successfully expunged the memory of him vigorously “Sweating to the Oldies.” 

From your mother’s neon jazzercise clothes, to your little sister’s bright jelly shoes, dressing up in the ‘80s brought a wide range of styles. Some fell victim to parachute pants or the old clock around the neck, but a few items stood the test of time, and even more, are making their comeback in today’s decade. Scrolling through a typical hipster’s Instagram photos is like taking a joy ride back to the ‘80s, complete with slogan tees, fanny packs, washed jean jackets, and the man bun (which, thankfully, has replaced the man pony). 

So, what good came from the 1980’s fashion trends? While we may never revive some of the classic ‘80s hair, like perms, mullets, or the rat tail, anyone who’s been to an ‘80s themed party or ‘80s night at the dance club, knows the decade of wild fashion and dance music still has a stronghold in our culture and in our hearts. Plus, we always love the chance to wear a nice pair of high-waisted genuine snakeskin pants. We ranked the most memorable style choices that helped define the decade. These are The 80 Greatest ‘80s Fashion Trends.


80. Fanny Packs

Before they were instant indicators of tourists, they were practical and stylish. Where else would you keep spare change to use the payphone? Since most of them were made from synthetic fabrics like nylon and ripstop, they were also appropriately trendy. Maybe that's why American Apparel made money hand over fist when they re-introduced them to the general public.

79. Slogan T-Shirts

Every other person remembers these hilarious tees. In the '80s they were ubiquitous, as the graphic tee rose in prominence. Whether they were like Stiles' memorable "What Are You Looking At Dicknose?" tee in 1985's Teen Wolf, or more politically-charged like Katherine Hamnett's 1983 campaign, they became more and more of a fashion staple.

78. Male Ponytails

When it comes to 80s fashion for men, the male ponytail was a stylish choice. And, the two guys to look towards are Steven Seagal and Eric Roberts. Seagal maintained a dedication to the hairstyle for his whole career, while Eric Roberts rocked the coiff in the martial arts film Best of The Best. No other guy has managed to look badass in it ever since.

77. Ski Prep

Prep was huge in the '80s, but where it absolutely reigned was on the slopes. Before snowboarding rose in popularity, every prep bro searched for snow bunnies at the ski lodge. Bright colored ski suits and chunky sweaters were commonplace, as were ski goggles and neon-colored gear. Whether it was tackling the slopes in Aspen or Tahoe, you couldn't avoid running into well-to-do folks ready to face winter in the most garish garb.

76. Jordache

Before Jordache came along, the only jeansmakers were brands like Levi's, Wrangler, and Lee. Jordache paved the way for later designer jeans brands like Calvin Klein, and pioneered racy ads to differentiate its products from its workwear-themed competitors. The resulting demand successfully made Jordache jeans a covetable fashion item. Another thing that made Jordache great? Designers like Tommy Hilfiger cut their teeth working for the brand.

75. Four-Finger Rings

A hip-hop staple, you can thank dudes like Big Daddy Kane for introducing these to hip-hop's sartorial vernacular. Radio Raheem's "LOVE" and "HATE" rings in Do The Right Thing embedded these accessories into our mindsets forever, and they remain a style staple of hip-hop's golden era.

74. Velour

This plushy fabric essentially combined the luxurious feel of velvet with the stretchy properties of materials like spandex. It was everywhere, but especially on tracksuits and sweatshirts. High-end designers like Dior would put out cozy v-neck sweaters made of velour, while athletic brands like Fila made track suits that caught on with young troublemakers and trendsetters alike.

73. Smiley Faces

Smiley faces were designed in the '70s, and by the '80s has connotations with psychedelic drug culture. Still, they were a positive symbol of goodwill towards other human beings, before all the modern day parodies, as well as the advent of emoticons and emojis. They were hugely popular in T-shirt and pin form, the latter of which was satirized when stained with blood and turned into the abstract cover of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' seminal '80s comic masterpiece, Watchmen, as well as being satirized in the film Forrest Gump.

72. Reeboks

Reebok was huge. While every other block in the inner-city had a dude potentially rocking a pair of Reebok Classics, aka Soldiers, the Freestyle and Dance Reebok collections were a hit with the ladies. A memorable Dance Reebok model even had double-tongues.

71. Triple Fat Goose

Triple Fat Goose made a name for itself with its puffy, down-filled leather jackets. It inspired many designers to follow suit, like Ralph Lauren, who made similar parkas. Triple Fat Goose's design influence is still present today, where you can find similar jackets from brands like Supreme.

70. Dookie Chains

The colloquial name for the large, braided gold chains rappers were often seen rocking, you can thank guys like Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie of Juice Crew, and Run DMC for popularizing this look. The thick rope chains made a statement of luxury and power, and chains still play a huge part in modern hip-hop style.

69. Scrunchies

Bolder and louder than the average hairtie, scrunchies took the basic elastic band to the next level. Whether done up in sparkly fabric or just simple solid colors, they not only kept side ponies and long hair in check, they doubled as wrist accessories.

68. Huge Earrings

Door-knockers were everywhere in the '80s, from pop stars like Debbie Gibson and Madonna, to the girl next door. It was the ideal earring for the time of excess, it was loud, clunky, and screamed at everyone within a two feet radius to look at your ears.

67. Shoulder Pads

80s silhouettes were all about power. To evoke that, you needed to look menacing, with broad shoulders and a severe drop down to your waist. Shoulder pads achieved that effect perfectly. While mostly women adopted the trend, some rockers like Prince weren't afraid to make it their own.

66. Vivienne Westwood

Dame Vivienne Westwood is known for really pushing punk style forward. What Sir Paul Smith did for pops of color and dandy-inspired clothing, Westwood did for anarchist style. Part of a design movement called "New Romanticism," she frequently collaborated with Sex Pistols manager and future punk icon Malcolm McLaren. In the '80s, the band Bow Wow Wow was created in a matter similar to The New York Dolls-a manufactured glam/punk band, except their purpose was to sell the clothes Westwood designed.

65. Spandex

Spandex was everywhere in the '80s. From casual pants to rockers who had a thing for animal printed women's leggings, it couldn't be escaped. Those workout videos that you used to stare at lustily? Yeah, full of women in spandex.

64. Silk Shirts

All-over print silk shirts from designers like Gianni Versace were meant to let your body breathe while making you look awesome. Plus, they made you look like royalty thanks to their luxe fabrics and bold prints.

63. Gucci

Rappers like Eric B. and Rakim loved Gucci. Who could forget how everyone went apeshit over Gucci sweatshirts too? Good thing Harlem's own Dapper Dan was busy finding the illest fabrics and putting in countless hours of work to make sure hip-hop's finest stayed looking fly.

62. Skinhead Style

Across the pond, rebellious London youth favored reggae music and adopted a unique style of their own. Consisting of MA-1 bomber jackets, Fred Perry polos tucked into Levi's jeans with suspenders, and Doc Martens shoes, the skinhead style was accessorized with shaved heads and fedoras. Contrary to popular belief, there were many black skinheads-after all, Jamaican Rude Boys had a huge influence in the subculture.

61. Airbrushed T-shirts

Airbrushed T-shirts are the kind you'd find on the beach boardwalk, theme park, or county fair. Even shopping malls had kiosks where you could pay to make a T-shirt immortalizing a moment like spring break, proclaiming your love for your significant other, or just getting a dolphin jumping over an oasis. You could also easily get a bootleg character shirt done too.

60. Muscle Tees

Bodybuilding was as huge as the dudes who were really into it. To accompany that, they often rocked tank tops and muscle tees to show off the guns. Rockstars also hated sleeves, and just cut the sleeves off T-shirts to further their anti-authority look.

59. Lacoste

Before the Polo Pony was everywhere, Lacoste was the go-to prep brand. The crocodile logo was everywhere-not just on polo shirts, but also on cardigans, sweaters, and golf jackets. Tennis was huge in the '80s, and Lacoste outfitted many successful tennis players.

58. Esprit

Esprit's heyday was the '80s, when its "real people" campaign had a foothold in magazines and everyone and anyone had to have the green Esprit tote bag. Since then, it's seen a steep decline in popularity.

57. Sweaters Tied Around The Neck

In the movies, it was a sure sign that the character was a preppy douchebag villain. In real life, it was a sure sign that this person made more money than you, and it probably belonged to their parents. They also most likely used "summer" as a verb.

56. Combed-Back Hair

Countless '80s dudes rocked this haircut. A tousled precursor to Zack Morris' iconic hairstyle, the key was to leave it short at the sides and longer up top, and then make sure it wasn't too done up. Guys like Johnny Depp, Corey Haim, Jordan Knight, and Matthew Broderick wanted to look a little rakish, not totally done up.

55. Iron On-Letters

Before it was appropriated by the OFWGKTA crew, the Cooper typeface was the de facto font for Iron-on letters. You'd slap anything on a T-shirt, a band name, a crew name, or even something funny. All of a sudden black Screen Stars shirts became a humorous statement. But the best part was that these letters, in a way, sort of democratized fashion. They were a precursor to today's cheeky, meme-inspired tees.

54. Miniskirts

Shortly after the miniskirt came into fashion prominence, dads everywhere began collectively asking their daughters incredulously: "YOU'RE GOING OUT LIKE THAT?!"

53. Parachute Pants

Proof that fashion is cyclical: '80s parachute pants have come back as drop-crotch pants.

52. Keith Haring Graphics

Iconic artist Keith Haring literally cashed in on his popularity. After opening his SoHo "Pop Shop" in the '80s, his prints and apparel continue to be popular to this day. Even after his death, his trademark work remains easily recognizable.

51. Perms

The permanent weave-or "perm" as it's colloquially known, achieved its peak of popularity in the '80s, thanks to the trend of big hair. It involved dousing your hair with chemicals and then sitting underneath a machine that did the rest. Celebrities like Morgan Fairchild owe their trademark tresses to this hairstyling technique.

50. Issey Miyake

Highly influential designer Issey Miyake revolutionized pleats forever. By finding a way to make pleats that help movement and are easier to produce, he made a logistical innovation in the fashion industry. Miyake's concepts and visions have a lot to do with innovation, like his A-POC collection, which consists of garments simply made out of one piece of cloth. Miyake is also the designer that defined Steve Jobs' uniform—he's the man behind Jobs' trademark black mock turtlenecks.

49. Dancewear

Leotards, legwarmers, and terry cloth headbands, oh my! Whether you were practicing your Flashdance routine or were an extra in an aerobics video, you couldn't avoid seeing these garments.

48. Ripped Jeans

Bands like The Ramones championed this look, usually topped off with a rad Schott Perfecto jacket. The precursor of the grunge look, this New York spin-off of punk style can still be felt in areas like St. Mark's Place.

47. Animal Print

Name an animal, and chances are its hide has been converted into an article of clothing in the '80s. Snakeskin, zebra print, and leopard were notorious for appearing on pants, jackets, and everything in between.

46. Ray-Bans

Ray-Ban Wayfarers were the de facto sunglasses of choice for anyone and everyone who was cool in the '80s. It is a scientific fact.

45. Frankie Says Relax T-shirts

Frankie Goes to Hollywood was a British band best known for their one hit, "Relax." In 1984 the release of their Two Tribes album coincided with a T-shirt campaign that became popular, of the two shirts, the one more remembered today is the one that says "Frankie Say Relax" on the front and "Don't Do It" on the back. They were also immortalized in Zoolander.

44. Washed Jean Jackets

Jean jackets were an absolute necessity. It needed to be washed for softness, or even treated with an even trendier stonewash or acid wash to make it look super cool. Then you wore the hell out of it until it ripped, you lost it, or modified the hell out of it with pins, patches, and buttons.

43. Rat Tails

Every child who went to elementary school in the '80s always knew that one kid with the rat tail-and he was the shit. He probably even had an ear piercing! What a rebel!

42. Zubaz

Sweaty musclemen rocked these baggy pants on the regular with tank tops and ripped shirts so they could literally flex on you.

41. Penny Loafers

A prep footwear staple, penny loafers were rocked by everyone from celebrities, dads on the weekends, and Ivy League college students. Putting a penny in them was optional. So were socks.

40. Side Ponytails

These always had a kid sister or girl best friend appeal, they were never on the kind of girl you actually had a crush on.

39. Leggings

At some point in the '80s, women decided they didn't really need pants, and leggings would do the trick. And dudes have not stopped staring ever since.

38. Z. Cavaricci

Jim Cavaricci launched this Italian-themed lifestyle collection in the '80s, where it became the go-to purveyor of high-waisted pants and jeans. Despite its European-sounding name, the brand was actually based in Los Angeles. The pants were known for their long waist and tapered silhouette that got wider around the thighs and narrower at the knee again.

37. Down Vests

Marty McFly wore it well in Back To The Future, but we look back fondly at the puffy vests with multi-colored yokes at the shoulder or chevrons at the chest. Rocky Mountain Featherbed made some great leather-yoked versions, vintage vests from this company can even fetch a pretty penny on sites like eBay.

36. Cazals

These big-eyed eyeglasses and sunglasses were all over the place, and also on famous faces like DMC.

35. Miami Vice Style

Crockett and Tubbs set the trend for dudes in light colored suits with pastel T-shirts underneath. Also, can't fault Crockett's penchant for loafers, or Tubbs' affinity for double-breasted suits.

34. New Wave

New Wave music took punk and mixed it with aspects of mod culture and glam rock. Musically, it was more experimental and incorporated the use of electronic synthesizers. Fashion-wise, it was a hot mess. Dudes in make-up, skinny ties, and all manner of weird tailored gear characterized the quirky style of the genre.

33. Lace Accessories

All-lace everything was pretty normal. Lace gloves, lace headbands, and yes, lace details on dresses.

32. Puffy Shirts

A style staple of flamboyant dressers like Prince and Liberace, no other man has pulled it off as well as Prince, ever. Now, the sight of a puffy shirt only brings to mind a certain episode of Seinfeld

31. Keyboard Neckties

If you survived the '80s without ever getting one of these, then consider yourself lucky.

30. L.A. Gear

Before they made the shoes that lit-up with each step, L.A. Gear enlisted athletes like Joe Montana, and more famously, Michael Jackson to rock their kicks. The result were some memorable ads, and of course, shoes getting sold.

29. Headbands

Going with the whole "rockstar/pirate" trend of the time, many dudes would tie a headband around their head, or in the case of Steven Tyler, also around the mic stand while performing. Let's just hope this trend doesn't come back.

28. Ocean Pacific

This classic '80s brand was easily recognized by the stylized "Op" logo. What it got huge for was its polo shirts, which came in surf-inspired colors and featured the logo embroidery on the chest or sleeve.

27. Croakies

Useful for keeping your shades on your face, while also turning them into a cool necklace. Ideal for making you look way chill.

26. Bucket Hats

LL Cool J's style staple, besides often going shirtless, was a bucket hat. Other rappers were up on the trend too, but it really got adopted by the burgeoning skate and street culture scene. Even the Beastie Boys picked up on it.

25. Sneakers With No Laces

Another trend pioneered by Run DMC, adidas Superstars often went completely unlaced, with the tongues popped for extra swagger. It wasn't the most practical trend, but if you rocked it right, you were dope.

24. Power Suits

After Wall Street came out, everyone wanted to be Gordon Gekko. The dark, chalk-striped suits, the banker's collar, wide-ties, and suspenders. He just looked so damn intimidating. That's why men opted for brand name "power suits" from Italian companies. Another great advocate of the power suit? Patrick Bateman.

23. Kangol

The progenitor of hip-hop headwear, before snapbacks and fitteds were ubiquitous, you could see the Kangol kangaroo on rapper's heads for miles. Slick Rick, LL Cool J, Fab 5 Freddy, all of them rocked it.

22. Highwater Pants

Today, pants with no break are considered a sign of style. In the '80s, they were a signifier that you were totally a virgin. And possibly a nerd. They were also called highwaters.

21. Surf Brands

Gotcha, Maui and Sons, and Lightning Bolt were all surf brands that channeled the easygoing California lifestyle in their apparel. For surfers, it was a way of supporting the people who also made your board, for non-surfers it just looked cool.

20. Fat Laces

If you didn't wanna go laceless, then you went for the complete opposite. How did you trick out your Puma sneakers or adidas Superstar shell-toes? A pair of fat laces, duh.

19. Big Hair

Remember all those hair bands from the '80s? Bon Jovi? Poison? Huge hairdos were so popular that they classified a musical genre. How crazy is that? Men weren't the only ones who did it, women regularly got huge perms and teased the hell out of their hair too. The name of the game was turning up the volume.

18. Sperry Topsiders

Originally launched in the 1930s, the Sperry Topsider boat shoe achieved newfound prominence in the '80s thanks to a surging prep trend. Going out on the yacht for a party with your rich white friends? These were the de facto footwear choice.

17. Pegged Pants

Today may be all about cuffing your jeans past your ankles, but back then it was all about the tight roll. Also known as pegging your pants, the result was a clean, crisp look that perfectly accented your high-tops.

16. Tracksuits

From Run DMC to The Beastie Boys, and countless b-boys in New York and beyond (including the Rock Steady Crew, pictured above), all of the best-dressed hip-hop crews in the '80s had tracksuits.

15. Mickey Mouse Clothing

Disney World is the happiest place on earth, but in the '80s, it was also the freshest. Mickey Mouse gear was seen everywhere, whether it was on sweatshirts, T-shirts, or even those classic watches with his hands telling you the time.

14. Michael Jackson Style

Meet the guy that taught a young Alfonso Ribeiro a thing or two about dancing. Drake also alludes to his classic red leather jacket, which we also paid homage too on our Jonah Hill cover. Mike's custom Gieves & Hawkes military jackets further cemented him as a style icon, and so did the cropped pants and black loafers with white socks, the studded glove, and well, L.A. Gears too.

13. Stüssy

In 1980, Shawn Stüssy and Frank Sinatra Jr. started the now-iconic clothing brand. It totally blew up in the '90s, but the '80s saw its full transition from small California surf brand to downtown New York lifestyle collection. After opening up its SoHo store in 1988 thanks to a partnership with future Supreme founder James Jebbia, the brand went from cool guy secret to global phenomenon, and it's still a hugely relevant label today. From the high-fashion logo flip to dope collaborations, Stüssy is definitely here to stay. Also, that pointy "S" thing everyone drew in elementary school? Yeah, you can trace that back to Stüssy too.

12. Jheri Curls

Yo... when you think of Jheri Curls you can't not think about Eric La Salle in Coming to America. Invented by Jheri Redding, who is actually a white dude, the Jheri curl was also famously seen on Michael Jackson in his prime. The downside of this hard-to-maintain hairstyle is that it essentially killed your hair. Oh well, gotta suffer for fashion right? Just let your SOUUULLLLL GLOOOO.

11. Swatch Watches

Swatch watches were affordable enough that you could buy more than one. So most people did, and they rocked them all on each arm. At least, that's what the cool kids did. The crazy artist collabs and colorful faces also inspired a series of biters and knock-offs, but you always could tell the kids who had the real thing.

10. Mullets

When you think of mullets, two great names come to mind: Andre Agassi, and Angus MacGyver. These two alpha males proved that a tennis racket and a paperclip could easily be a deadly weapon. Their wild manes flew untamed on the tennis court and television screen, and their locks became the thing of legend. Far from the trashy connotations the hairstyle has today, they made the mullet respectable, and for that, we'll never forget their contribution to timeless '80s style.

9. Bally Shoes

Swiss shoe company Bally received plenty of love from the hip-hop world in the '80s from guys like Rakim and Slick Rick. The latter not only rocks a pair of red suede Ballys on the cover of his debut album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, he also says he "threw on the Bally shoes with the fly green socks" in the track "La Di Da Di." Doug E. Fresh also wears a pair of Bally sneakers on the cover of Oh, My God.

8. Carrying Around a Boombox

Two words: RADIO RAHEEM. Walkman Raheem just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it? Also, remember when boomboxes were banned from public transportation? Way to kill that, iPod.

7. Acid Wash Jeans

Contrary to the name, acid washing actually involved pumice stones and chlorine and not acid. You can thank Italy's Rifle company for inventing the process, and outfitting rock bands and '80s throwback cover groups ever since.

6. High-Top Fades

Whether you had a high-top fade, box fade, or opted for a Gumby like Bobby Brown, these hairstyles were everywhere. Kid from Kid and Play became famous for his mile-high hairdo, but dudes like Big Daddy Kane preceded him.

5. Jams Shorts

These brightly-colored shorts featured all-over print, Hawaiian-inspired floral patterns. They were also pretty short on the leg. They are fondly remembered for their amazing collaboration with Converse, which combined the brand's trademark crazy patterns with the shoe company's awesome canvas kicks.

4. Coca-Cola Clothing

Coca-Cola Clothing came about as a result of a merchandising deal between the soda company and the parent company of Jordache. You can read Gary Warnett's rather comprehensive history on the brand. We just knew it because of Heavy D, and the fact that the coolest kids on the block had a sweatshirt or beach pants emblazoned with the soft drink's logo.

3. Vans

As the skateboard scene came into prominence, people started paying more attention to the sneakers these dudes rocked. While Nike got a lot of play, nothing quite embodied the spirit of California cool like Vans did. The classic checkerboard slip-on gained prominence thanks to Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, while the Authentic and Sk8-Hi are just timelessly dope.

2. Members Only Jackets

No one really knew what kind of club the Members Only jacket represented, we just knew that they were awesome. Whether you had the nylon khaki version like grandpa, or a hardy leather jacket for badass street cred, everyone remembers what they looked like. A cross between a British Harrington jacket and a café racer motorcycle jacket, vintage versions can now be found being rocked by every other fan of indie rock music.

1. Neon

Come on, act like you didn't see this coming. Every other thing that was cool in the '80s was even more awesome because you could see it from a mile away. Even when '80s retro became cool, it was because fluorescent day-glo colors were involved. There was hardly anything in the '80s that wasn't reinterpreted into a color just a hair lighter than toxic waste, and we loved it.

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