The 1980s, often referred to as the “Decade of Excess,” witnessed a plethora of fashion trends that can only be described as boldly unconventional and, to put it bluntly, ugly.
Shoulder pads, acid-washed denim, leg warmers, and neon colors all contributed to an era that can only be described as a fashion fiasco.
While these trends may have been deemed ugly by some, they serve as a testament to the decade’s unique and unabashed self-expression.
One of the most notable fashion trends of the 1980s was the use of shoulder pads. This peculiar trend aimed to make women’s silhouettes appear stronger and more authoritative.
Excessively padded inserts were incorporated into blazers, dresses, and even casual wear. However, the end result often resembled a comical and unflattering appearance, reminiscent of football players in disguise.
The irony lies in the fact that these shoulder pads, which sought to empower women, sometimes resulted in an exaggerated and disproportionate figure.
Denim, the fabric of choice for fashion enthusiasts, underwent a dramatic transformation in the 1980s. Acid-washed denim gained infamy for its gaudiness and became a popular choice among those associated with the burgeoning punk and rock scenes.
Achieved by treating denim with chlorine or acid, this technique aimed to create a mottled and bleached effect. Unfortunately, the end result often resembled a pair of jeans that had suffered a catastrophic laundry mishap.
The fitness craze of the 1980s led to the emergence of leg warmers as a fashion trend. Initially intended as a practical way to keep legs warm during workouts, these knitted accessories swiftly migrated into mainstream fashion.
Despite their functionality, leg warmers often clashed with the rest of an outfit, leading to an overall aesthetic that can best be described as “colorfully chaotic.”
The 1980s marked a departure from the understated elegance of previous decades, as fashion took a fluorescent turn. Neon colors burst onto the scene, adorning everything from clothing to accessories, and even hair.
The luminosity of these hues was intended to make a bold statement, but it often resulted in an assault on the eyes.
The streets became a sea of highlighter yellows, electric pinks, and blinding greens, leaving onlookers reaching for their sunglasses.
Believe it or not, in the 1980s, fluorescent (or simply neon for those in the know) was a sign of good taste.
We wore it from head to toe, mixing colors without shame. The most important thing was to be seen—from afar!
For some unknown reason, in the 1980s this “coat-hanger” style was all the rage with men and women alike.
Shoulder pads lent a broad-shoulder look to any jacket (preferably pastel), but you could also sport them under a blouse or, even worse, a sweater—neon, of course.
The 1980s were the glorious era of acid-washed jeans. How many of us sanded our jeans or washed them with bleach to recreate this style?
This trend applied to anything denim: jeans, shorts, jackets. The rule of thumb was to wear them all at the same time. It was acid wash from head to toe.
Spandex was everywhere in the 1980s and any excuse to wear it was a good one!
From rock stars (like the Scorpions or Iron Maiden) to actors who thought they were aerobics instructors, like Olivia Newton-John, to name but one.
The Side Ponytail
This classic 1980s look almost outdoes the perm or the mullet. A side ponytail isn’t complete without those iconic rooster bangs and mega hair spray to hold your masterpiece in place throughout the day.
Forget the natural look, when it came to make-up, the 1980s motto was the more, the merrier!
Eyeshadow all the way up to the eyebrows, thick red lipstick, bright pink blush, and blue mascara were just some of the supplies required to paint—sorry, embellish—your face.
The Fanny Pack
A 1980s staple, the fanny pack can still be seen even today! Nobody can deny how hideous it is, but you have to admit it was pretty handy for carrying around your Pogs and Tamagotchi.
Any man alive during the 1980s surely sported this classic “business in the front, party in the back” style. Long and messy down the neck, but clean cut up front, the mullet paired perfectly with a thin mustache.
Hair wasn’t just big in the 1980s, it was enormous! The bigger, the better. And who was to blame? The perm! This trend was also a “big” hit among men and women.
In the 1980s, you didn’t have to be a dancer to don dancewear. Everyone was wearing neon legwarmers, tights, and leotards at all times. Movies like Flashdance and Dirty Dancing were definitely to blame.
The 1980s were all about the scrunchie. This sparkly fashion faux-pas could be found in every horrendous color, from emerald green to lavender, and crowned the heads of all young girls.
The Bucket Hat
Combine velour and a floral pattern with a floppy brim that looks a bit like a bucket and presto—you’ve got all the elements of a major fashion mistake.
In the 1980s, tracksuits could be spotted everywhere, except the gym.
Trendy and comfy, tracksuits slowly wormed their way into schoolyards and suburban streets until even our parents were wearing them to the grocery store or the office.
Before leggings, there were stirrup pants. These stretchy pants with a strap under the foot lent the legs a seriously unflattering triangular shape.
They made the perfect combo with your favorite Au Coton pullover—comfy, but dead ugly!
Just because it’s flashy, doesn’t mean it’s pretty. In the 1980s, futuristic sunglasses multiplied at lightning speed.
Giant, off-the-wall, and like a sculpture straight out of the fourth dimension, these in-your-face sunglasses were a hallmark of the era.
You were waiting for it: the famous crimped hair look! Between 1980 and 1989, no young girl could resist this trend that involved crimping her hair with an iron designed specifically for this purpose, turning smooth, healthy hair into a big, disheveled mess.
They can always be bigger! That was the motto for earrings in the 1980s, when you could see girls (and guys!) with the equivalent of two bowling balls dangling from their earlobes.
Who can forget the classic hoop earrings that almost reached your shoulders? Not to mention that “chic” plastic was a hot item at the time.
It was an epidemic! Everyone was wearing sweats from head to toe in school, at work, and even in bars.
At the time, Au Coton was in its full glory, only to die a natural death two decades later, once we realized that dressing exclusively in soft cottons is bad for your mental health.
For a more serious look, nothing could beat the popped collar. A classic among preppies, this trend paired perfectly with the sweater around the neck and nonchalant medium-length hair.
You glanced in the mirror before heading out, popped your collar, and proudly proclaimed: I’ve got the look.
Plastic Charm Necklaces
They could hear us coming a mile away, with our necklaces and bracelets jangling with plastic charms. Seriously high-class jewelry!
We collected them, traded them, lost them, and bought more. This trend was truly bad for the environment and your back!
Worn by moms for years until the 1980s hit, and then every girl had a pair of her own. But why?
With their tapered legs and high waist that made your butt and hips look bigger, a sack of potatoes would have been sexier.
Remember this popular trend that lasted about three days in the 1980s?
At first, you thought it was a regular T-shirt, until, as if by magic, it suddenly changed color in the sun or from the heat of a hand touching it. But really, we all knew it was just an excuse to get free hugs.
In the 1980s, everyone wore a headband—from rock stars to teenage girls. This fashion trend spread like wildfire. Admittedly, it was great for keeping all that big, permed hair out of your face.
The Mini Miniskirt
In the 1980s, the miniskirt reached its pinnacle in terms of mini-ness, sometimes so small that it was hardly even there, like in this photo.
Made from all kinds of fabrics, like denim, vinyl, or cotton, the miniskirt was the perfect match for another 1980s classic, the off-the-shoulder oversized sweatshirt.
Men’s Pastel Suits
Thank you, Miami Vice, for encouraging thousands of men to don pastel suits with oversized jackets, big shoulders, and baggy pants.
To complete the look, men also had to wear a tight-fitting T-shirt underneath and, above all, no socks.
Faux Leather Bomber Jacket
Oh, the 1980s bomber jacket! This popular item seemed to include all the fashion faux-pas: fake leather, hideous appliqués, oversized sleeves, cut above the waist, and even neon lining.
If you still have one of these “gems” hiding out in your closet, please, burn it.
The 1980s were all about pushing the limits in terms of colors, prints, and geometric shapes.
People weren’t afraid to mix materials, patterns, stripes, polka dots, sequins, and the list goes on! Why? To get attention, of course!
(Photo credit: Commentary and pictures by MSN / Pinterest).