The 80s should be remembered fondly for much of its fashions, but let us not forget the outlandish trends best left forgotten. While we are reliving the nostalgia of the days of Flash Dance shoulder pads and scrunchies, it's important to remember the fashion flops that were the worst and wackiest of the decade.
From MC Hammer pants to leg warmers, take a trip down memory lane to revisit some of the lewdest trends of the 1980s that thankfully have been left behind.
Crop Tops For Men
Crop tops were an item before the 80s but became one of the biggest fashion fads of its time. Stores could barely keep up with sales of their short T-shirts and tops. Men and women flaunted their exposed midriff to all who could see it.
Instead of inspiring people to get in shape to wear these cut-offs, all shapes and sizes raided store shelves and filled their closets with shirts that were not designed for their figures. Confidence was the only thing not short back then.
Flipping through images of hairstyles from the 80s, one evident thing was that big hair was the way to go. Long flowing locks, teased and treated to stay in as high of a position on the head as possible.
Look no further than actress and 80s TV star Farrah Fawcett and her infamous coiff. Fawcett, the star of the 80s hit show Charlie's Angels, and her layered strands started a craze for men and women who rushed to salons and hairstylists to duplicate the trending style.
Typically, when people paint their homes, they do not want to get any on their clothes. Old shirts and pants are worn because if they get stains, it is of no concern to them. In the 80s, a fashion idea on the rise was wearing clothes with fake splashes of bright colors.
Bodysuits and tees marked with artificial blots and spots of paint reigned supreme in aerobics classes and classrooms everywhere. An extreme effort to coordinate these outfits was moot because they matched almost everything else in wardrobes.
Wearing turtlenecks and mock neck sweaters was popularized in the 80s and has resurfaced from time to time over the years since. There was some irony to wearing them under layers or on by themselves with an obstructed view when the idea is to cover necks.
The turtleneck craze made it acceptable for men to wear blazers without the need to strap on a tie or nearly choke from a buttoned-up dress shirt. Sweaters in every tone and color the mind can imagine were combined to revive and breathe life into stale clothes.
Sheer Tops And Shirts
Credit for a fashion style in the 80s that became a fad was typically given to a Hollywood actor, actress, singer, or celebrity making waves with their popularity. See-through clothing like dresses or blouses with exposed undergarments and skin was a look actress Kim Basinger took and ran with.
Basinger was already an 80s symbol of beauty to fans, but when she was seen anywhere wearing her sheer outfits, the scene resembled more of a fashion shoot than a public appearance.
Friends Wearing Matching Outfits
Fashions from the 80s were not only specific and brightly colored, they strategically matched among besties. Whether the outfits were plaid, polka-dotted, or plain, best friends were often seen in public together wearing identical clothes with maybe a slight variation.
One might wear red plaid, while the other may alter things slightly and have the same thing on but in another color or pattern. Women coordinated makeup, hairstyles, accessories, and clothing to look like sisters instead of friends.
Shoulder Pads Fit For Linebackers
Big, broad shoulders from pads under clothing was a look typically reserved for football players. In the 80s, blazers, blouses, dresses, and suit jackets were out of style unless they included plenty of padding on the shoulder.
Men and women of all types achieved the illusion of spending hours working out in the gym to get puffy and swollen upper bodies when they were slipping pads underneath their clothes to accomplish it. The trend did not last long as the notion of women with shoulders like football linemen decreased in desire.
Tracing back to the 17th Century, corsets were first designed to keep women's bellies and extra weight in the torso compact. Health problems caused by wearing the apparatus all but ended the popular fashion idea and paved the way in the 80s to introduce corset belts.
80s singers like Cyndi Lauper bedazzled and covered their belts with unique objects and accessories, attempting to distract eyes from the typically troublesome area. The craze fizzled out once it was discovered it was cheaper to join a gym or do situps.
Jeans And Pants With High Waistlines
Today, it is trendy for women to have high-waisted jeans and pants in their closets, but how many know the popular style became famous in the 80s? TV shows like Family Matters from that decade and the character Steve Urkel made the style seem reserved for the awkward brainiac, but everyone was doing it then.
Tina Turner and other celebrities in tremendous shape had their fans overcrowding store fitting rooms trying to squeeze themselves into a pair and mirror their favorite stars who modeled them.
Shorter was better in the 80s when studying the decade's fashion trends. Athletic and jean shorts were made by cutting the legs from pants and wearing them. Skin tight and leaving nothing to the imagination. Watch a tape of the NBA in the 80s to see the skimpy and hugging athletic bottoms every player wore "proudly."
Producers of the show knew exactly what they were doing. A toned and slender woman sporting the cutoffs like actress Katherine Bach did for the show drove its ratings through the roof and inspired many fans to cover up to expose themselves.
Tights And Leotards
The 80s fashion trend of wearing leggings or tights as pants was not just popular but almost mandatory. Not only were leggings seen as a daring fashion statement, but they were also incredibly comfortable and versatile. Brightly colored styles were popular and could be worn as colorful accents to an outfit or, in some cases, worn as an entire outfit.
Leggings looked great with oversized t-shirts and tucked-in blouses and were often paired with stylish sneakers, combat boots, or wedge shoes. The decade was widely considered the defining decade of the tights-as-pants phenomenon that has returned today.
In the 80s, the popularity of off-the-shoulder tops became the thing because of their carefree elegance. They often featured ruffles and bows at the neckline, creating an exaggerated look and feel. Bold colors and flashy patterns combined with flowy silhouettes replicate a daring style that puts the spotlight on its wearer.
Funky accessories like legwarmers, bows, tights, and the infamous big hair complemented the off-the-shoulder tops to create a bold statement. It was a style that defied convention and pushed the boundaries of fashion.
Leggings For Aerobics And Style
Leggings were a huge fashion craze in the 80s. They were worn primarily in fitness classes and were made out of spandex, and Lycra was available in bold neon colors like hot pink, neon green, and bright orange. The decade's style was often to layer leggings with oversized shirts and tunics, making them a versatile everyday look.
Leggings were trending among teenage girls, but adults were also seen wearing them out and about. They were a comfy and funky fashion statement still being reinterpreted by modern fashionista wannabes.
Sequins have long been a favorite in fashion, but in the 80s, they truly shined. Not just appropriate for special occasions, sequins became a staple in daily wardrobe, with day and evening wear featuring sparkly adornments. Jeans, skirts, shirts, and jackets were all bedazzled with sequins, and the 80s saw several iconic looks featuring them.
Many varieties were available, from traditional round flat ones to laser cut, hex, and rectangle sequins that could be layered to create a unique style. Today, they remain popular in fashion, particularly during party season, and will continue to be a classic look.
Tassels On Everything
Tassels created a stir in the early 1980s. They were found on clothing, shoes, boots, and hats as fashionable attachments. Tassels on clothing such as shirts and blouses added a touch of whimsy and femininity to an outfit. Shoes and boots with tassels worn with jeans or skirts added a hint of class to the overall look.
On hats, tassels were often made to match the tops or may be made in contrasting colors to make more of a statement. Tassels were also used as decorative elements that were unisex in design.
T-Shirts With Graphics
The 80s fashion style of wearing t-shirts with graphics and logos defined a generation. The style was an easy way to show off popular culture and make a bold statement. The t-shirts featured logos of bands and movies that were all too familiar to many of the youths of the era. It allowed them to express themselves and be seen beyond the norm.
They were an easy and affordable way to show one's personality and style. Graffiti-like words and phrases could also be found on them, portraying a rebellious appearance. Thrift stores today keep the nostalgia alive.
The trend of big and chunky sunglasses from the 1980s is returning because it was so popular. The oversized aviators, tortoiseshell cat eyes, and rounded frames were made famous by models and celebrities. The sunglasses provided maximum sun protection and coverage while looking sleek and stylish.
The classic 80s style of these shades is versatile, making them a great accessory to complete any look, from vintage chic to modern glam. Whether you choose mirrored lenses or colorful frames, these shades will take your outfit to the next level.
Gloves were a signature fashion item during the '80s. Satin and leather gloves symbolized fashion, bringing a glamorous, sophisticated look to almost any outfit. They were seen in the runways, theater, movies, and nights gyrating on the dance floor.
Gloves were available in both elbow and wrist lengths and were often decorated with rhinestones, feathers, or embroidery, making them ideal for women who wanted a touch of bling. The '80s represented when people wanted to make a statement, and a nice pair of gloves could complete an outfit just right.
The 1980s were marked by an emphasis on bold and daring fashion for women, and leather-clad looks were no exception. Dresses made from leather, often in vibrant colors such as red and black, became a popular choice for fashionable women of the time.
The strong and durable material created a daring silhouette that showed off the female body while exuding a sense of strength. Combined with the bold shoulder pads, leggings, and other trends of the time, leather dresses created a famous look sought after by women everywhere.
Louis Vuitton Jackets And Accessories
The 80s was a notable time to make fashion statements, and designer Louis Vuitton was no exception. Despite the uninspiring and sometimes ugly aesthetic jackets he designed, they still had a high demand among fashion enthusiasts.
With its signature monogram logos and a luxury pedigree, the jackets provided status symbols that indicated the wearer was up-to-date with popular trends. Because of this, clothing stores could often barely keep up with the demand, as the jackets quickly flew off the shelves. Even in 2023, the jackets preserved their sense of nostalgic prominence.
Cowboy Boots Worn Off The Ranch
Dating back to the 80s, over-the-top fashion and the cowboy boot reignited as a fashion statement. Paired with leggings, denim, plain shirts, and vests, cowboy boots added a hint of a TV western to any look.
With roots in practical ranch wear, the popularity of cowboy boots was no longer confined to wranglers and farmers. Instead, the boots were seen on urbanites and style icons. Worn with the utmost confidence, cowboy boots became a symbol of style and empowered whoever wore them.
Lingerie Worn As Part Of An Outfit
World-famous singer Madonna popularized wearing lingerie and bustiers as clothing in the 80s. It was daring and provocative, setting a trend that women would follow for years. Women often wore lace undergarments underneath sweaters and pants or daringly as an outer layer. It was a more modern, and some would say liberated, style, which celebrated the female figure.
Bustiers were also commonly worn over dresses and even with jeans, creating a feminine yet bold look. Once Madonna popularized this look, women followed her lead, making underwear a definitive trend of the 1980s.
Gawdy Pearls And Jewelry
The 80s saw the emergence of many accessory trends, and wearing necklaces with big pearls was one of the most fashionable at the time. This trend got its iconic status due to its elegance and sophistication. Celebrities like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper could be seen sporting the look at red-carpet events and in music videos.
The statement-making style was a hit with young women who wanted to make an impression without spending a fortune. Sophisticated jewelry is still popular and includes many fabulous designs from high-end and affordable stores.
Real And Faux Feathers
The 1980s ushered in the rise of fashionable feathered styles. Be it fake or otherwise, these feathers were worn in many ways, such as boas, dresses, and skirts. Whether they were incorporated into an entire outfit or used as an individual accent piece, feathers suddenly became the go-to accessory of the decade.
The trend also allowed for diverse forms of self-expression as feathers came in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes. The evolution of the feather trend of the eighties showed the decade’s commitment to style over substance.
Pouffy and Puffy Accessories
The 80s were a fashion blast to experience. Women had so much fun, and it showed through their styles. One of the best trends of this time was wearing dresses and outfits with poufs. The garments featured skirts and dresses with huge frills, created with excess layers of fabric.
This unique style was created when women added even more fabric to the bottom of the garment for a voluminous look. The patterns were usually bright and bold, featuring multiple shades of pink, purple, and blue.
2-Piece Skirt Suits
The 80s was an era of reinvention in the fashion world as eighties celebrity icons like Princess Diana emerged as style icons who influenced the adoption of the skirt suit. This look was embraced by female professionals who gravitated to the creation that was flattering, stylish, and reliable. It featured fitted blazers, vests, slim trousers, and pastel-colored skirts.
Taken together with iconic accessories, like structured hats, bows, and pumps, it became the go-to uniform of the business world. This look impacted fashion trends and signaled a new era of respectability for working-class women.
Dressing like a prep school student was a thing in the 1980s. Preppy styles popularized by big movie and television stars played a part in the decade's influence on fashion. Following the scenes from flicks like Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles helped to create a more preppy and conservative look.
Television shows like Family Ties featured big-name stars dressed in classic preppy outfits, making it a popular trend. Preppy fashion started the decade as a trend and ended with it as an iconic mainstay of 80s style.
Thick Belts With Mini Skirts
In the 80s, women worldwide were daring enough to try something new. This included combining thick belts with mini skirts to make a fashionable statement. The bold accessory was a part of the punk-rock trend, which consisted of bright colors and layered accessories, and was completed with a wide belt.
The combination quickly became a symbol of a rising generation full of vigor and unafraid to experiment and be a trendsetter. Women often paired the mini skirts with colorful tops, spandex, and leggings.
Double Blue Denim Outfits
The 80s trend of combining denim jackets and high-waisted jeans remains a classic today. Both pieces have evolved over the years, adapting to the changing fashion trends, but remain a staple in any wardrobe.
The slightly exaggerated waistline elongated the top half of the body and paired wonderfully with the structured lines of the denim jacket. Today, this look is experiencing a revival among amateur fashion models, styling vintage and modern pieces together. It is the perfect example of how some looks are truly timeless.
High Top Sneakers And Thick Socks
The 80s saw the rise of people rocking high-top sneakers with thick socks. Wearing thick socks was a way to make the sneakers look oversized and more bulky. The high tops were typically sold in dark colors and added a street style to outfits, particularly when teamed with acid-washed jeans and graphic tees.
It soon became a staple look for kids and young adults, becoming associated with the hip-hop and rap culture of the era and attending neighborhood block parties. Puffy jackets, expensive-looking jewelry, and fat laces often accompanied the urban fashion statement inspired by MTV videos.
Acid-wash jeans were all the rage in the 80s. The trend began in the late 1970s when designers began to dip denim jeans in bleach to give them a unique bleached and aged look. With bold patterns, ripped holes, overly tight, and denim shorts that needed more material.
People everywhere sported acid-wash jeans and paired them with slouchy blazers and brightly colored blouses. In the decade, the fashion scene was taken over by high-waisted, wide-legged pants in various styles, colors, and forms, and appears to be trending today.
Fingerless Neon Gloves
Fingerless gloves were a popular 80s trend that everyone was sporting. Teens either bought them with the tips of the four fingers and thumb cut off, or they did it themselves. They often came in bright colors to match the popular neon colors of the time and were often decorated with stylish studs and appliques.
Teenagers had them tucked into their jean pockets or sleeves. Fingerless gloves could be seen everywhere in the '80s, from hanging out on street corners to weekend parties and concerts. They provided warmth and fashion in one stylish package.
The fashion trend linked with the 80s of using hair scrunchies was one of the stranger ones in the decade. Whether made of fabric or neon-colored elastic, scrunchies were bright and fun to wear. The accessory meant for the head was an effortless way to show personal style.
Scrunchies were also very prominent during the vigorous aerobics workouts of the decade. Women flaunted their accessories with colorful gym outfits and complemented them with leg warmers and headbands. Worn around an updo or on the wrist, the scrunchie was a fashionable and practical addition to any outfit.
Oversized Earrings In Bright Neon Colors
The 80s was a time for fun and fabulous fashion. One of the most popular trends of this era was to accessorize with bold and oversized earrings. As bright neon colors became increasingly popular, these statement earrings decreased in popularity.
Women worldwide donned earrings in an array of harmonious hues, from hot pink to electric blue. It was a look that offset the neon and mesh clothing that was also a must-have during that era. Today, this trend has seen a resurgence and will never truly go out of fashion.
Ripped Knees On Jeans And Pants
In the 1980s, ripped jeans and pants became a hot fashion trend. Ripped knees on jeans symbolized the bold and rebellious youth of that time. People purposely destroyed the knee area of jeans with scissors and sandpaper to make fashionably ragged-looking jeans.
This style was popularized by several musicians and groups like the rap trio Salt-N-Pepa, whom the teens and young adults of the era looked up to. The ripped look was a fashion statement that was uniquely punk, edgy, and rebellious.
Athletic Tops And Tanks
In the 80s, young men were often seen wearing tight athletic shirts and tank tops, sometimes referred affectionately to as muscle shirts despite having little muscle. This trend was popularized by the music and film culture of the decade, with men showing off their physiques and showcasing their fashion sense.
No matter the frame, athletic or not, the style provided the opportunity to show off trendy T-shirts that became trending fashion statements. Today, the 80s throwbacks are still popular among young men but are typically worn under sportswear as support.
Knee-high socks were a popular fashion trend in the 80s. Popularized by groups of Hollywood stars, the socks were most commonly seen in black, white, and pastel colors. The stretchy hosiery was usually worn with shorts or skirts and could be paired with loafers or sneakers.
Thanks to the available colorful and quirky patterns in the 80s, knee-high socks allowed people to show their personalities through their style. This made them particularly popular with teens and young adults. Today, knee-high socks remain a fashionable accessory.
The ankle boot craze of the 80s will never be forgotten. Wildly popular and practical for everyday wear, ankle boots featured pointed toes, block, and heels in various colors and materials like leather, suede, or PVC. They were often paired with flashy accessories like jelly bracelets, headbands, long dangling earrings, and pastel makeup.
More daring fashionista wannabes would complete the look with crushed black, blue, or purple velvet and brightly colored tights or skirts. Anyone looking to make a bold statement only needed ankle boots and an imagination.
Originating in India and called dungarees, overalls in the 80s trended from farms to runways and fashion catalogs. Popularized by megastars like Madonna, overalls were all the rage during the 1980s. Of all the iconic fashion trends of the time, overalls truly set '80s fashion apart.
From denim and corduroy to bold colors and embellished detailing, overalls made a huge statement. Pair them with a cropped top and your favorite bold jewelry for a distinctive look. The pants formerly known as the dungaree seem to be making a modest comeback today.
Track Suits And Windbreakers
The eighties saw the rise of new fashion trends, with tracksuits and windbreakers becoming popular among young people. Tracksuits consisted of a jacket and long pants, often with stripes running down the sides, and were popularised through the fitness fads.
Windbreakers were lightweight, brightly-colored jackets, perfect for new and emerging outdoor activities such as skateboarding, mountain biking, and running. Retailers saw a surge in profits from fans of Rap music watching their favorite artists like LL Cool J and RUN-DMC modeling the suits in videos and on album covers.