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Published: 2023-03-06 ǀ Updated: 2023-04-03

Fashion of the 1980s

The fashion world of the Eighties is known for its bright colors, big hair and shoulder pads. In the last decade before the Internet and mobile phones, globally successful TV series such as Dynasty and Miami Vice shaped the style of fashion as much as the stars of pop music.

Fashion Trends of the Early Eighties (1980-1982)

The early eighties are first and foremost a departure from the fashion of the seventies. Punk fashion acts as an antithesis to hippie fashion and is openly opposed to the materialistic values of the fashion world. Minimalism is state-of-the-art, characterized by subdued colors and a lack of accessories.

Carrot Pants - Emphasizing the Hip

With their high waist, wide thighs and tapered ankles, carrot pants are not always considered the best way to accentuate your figure. Nevertheless, the pants in leather, fabric or jeans versions are very popular in the eighties - also among men. Combined with oversized blazers, the so-called poppers are easily recognizable as counterculture.

Puffed Sleeves - Lady Di Hype

Wider and bigger is the omnipresent motto of eighties fashion. This applies not only to shoulder pads and oversized shirts, but also to puffed sleeves. Princess Diana is just one of the many celebrities who have revived a fashion trend that began in the early 19th century.

Aerobic Fashion - Sporty in Everyday Life

The fitness fashion trend continues unabated in the eighties. Sweatshirts and jogging pants, body-hugging leggings, and even entire tracksuits made of velour or polyester are popular with women. Jane Fonda's aerobics videos and the dancing Jennifer Beals in Flashdance fuel the hype for cuffs, headbands and wide belts.

Men's close-fitting sports shirts with round or V-necks, sometimes sleeveless and particularly athletic, are gaining in popularity. Synthetic materials are almost always used. Colors are mostly subdued to black. However, white tennis socks, which were even worn with sandals in the eighties, are a common accent.

Oversized Blazers - XXL Jackets for Women

A blazer is only perfect if it is about five sizes too big. Especially popular with women are the suit-style jackets, with the shoulders falling far down.

Costumes and Tailored Suits - The Desire for Formality

What began around 1978 continues into the early eighties: (made-to-measure) suits, evening gowns and a revival of gloves and hats express the desire for a more formal style of dress. The color black is not only widespread on the catwalks of the world, but also has its origin in the punk fashion of the late seventies. The sophisticated style of clothing is a symbol of the materialism of the decade.

Power Dressing - Demonstrating Power in the Workplace

Women in particular are increasingly opting for outfits consisting of knee-length skirts, blouses and blazers. It is clear that they want to stand up to the male-dominated professional world. Shoulder pads in blouses, dresses and blazers give women's clothing a touch of male authority and are therefore known as power dressing. Perhaps no one embodies this style better than Joan Collins in Dynasty.

Men in the early eighties wear three-piece suits, while the vests have only four buttons compared to the seventies and are worn much lower. As the decade progresses, however, the double-breasted dark blue or gray pinstriped two-piece will return, perfectly matched with a wide, striped tie.

Carrot pants Puff sleeves Aerobic Fashion Oversize Blazer Power Dressing

Fashion of the mid-eighties (1983-1986)

The mid-eighties embody the fashion style of the entire decade. Bright colors, even neon, dominate, and pop stars play a major role in spreading fashion trends - not least because the music channel MTV started broadcasting in 1981 and became part of everyday life in countless households around the world just a few years later. And other television series also influence the world of fashion far beyond high fashion.

Bright colors, geometric patterns - the bright mid-eighties

Around 1982 the intensity of colors in the fashion world increases noticeably. Almost all pieces of clothing from the long wool coat to the wide-cut skirts to mini skirts or high-waisted jeans, jumpsuits or even tight leggings are affected, which are still widely seen thanks to the ongoing aerobic trend. Men also love to grab bright neon colors and crazy color combinations. Where that is not enough, countless sequins and lurex threads are used.

Logo shirts - the rise of brand prints

In the eighties, pretty much everything the pop world has to offer is printed on shirts. Logos from MTV and Coca-Cola as well as political slogans, comic characters and music stars. And classic sporting goods manufacturers such as Nike also increasingly began to place their logos on large areas of their products during this period.

Belly-free shirts, mini skirts & Co. - from the pop world to everyday life

Madonna starts her international career in the eighties - and is able to set fashion trends right from the start. And in Michael Jackson, young people have an idol who sets fashion trends. Red and black leather pants and jackets, gloves and sunglasses are absolute must-haves for young people.

Inspired by the street look and designers from London, the British capital is considered the center of the young fashion world of the eighties. Lycra or leather miniskirts over leggings, chains, fishnet gloves and even midriff-baring shirts were adopted by millions of young women around the world. Add to that bolero jackets, tube dresses and, of course, plenty of eye-catching accessories.

Hawaii shirts and 501 - absolute variety of style

In the mid-eighties, Hawaiian shirts, the classic Levis 501 and sweaters are as popular as hoodies, flannel shirts and tight cycling shorts. The style of the mid-eighties is absolutely versatile - and is further inspired by blockbusters such as Magnum or Miami Vice. Men wear simple T-shirts under expensive suit jackets with shoulder pads, casually roll up their sleeves or combine Hawaiian shirts with sport jackets.

Bright colors Logo Shirts Hawaiian Shirt

The Late Eighties (1987-1989)

The late eighties are also dominated by materialism. Those who can afford it make their wealth visible through their fashion. Away from the rich and beautiful, the colors remain bright and the fashions varied.

Faux fur, leather and jeans - jackets for every occasion

Those who want to be elegant wear faux fur openly, either as a jacket or as an ankle-length coat. Much more rebellious is the leather jacket, which has established itself as a fashionable garment in the subcultures. And then there are jeans jackets in various cuts, preferably with the popular acid wash that dominated the eighties.

The miniskirt - the only alternative

While in the previous years all skirt lengths between the ankle-length dress and the short mini were in vogue, the fashion of the late eighties is exclusively limited to the mini skirt. Young women in particular like to wear them with sheer or black tights, leggings or knee socks - but bare skin is rarely seen.

Balloon silk pants - not just for breakdancers

The first ripstop nylon pants were cut relatively tight, but they soon became extremely baggy. After MC Hammer made similar pants even more popular, they became known as Hammer pants. The classic balloon silk pants, have their origins in the breakdance scene of the eighties, as the fit is extremely favorable for the acrobatic dance moves.

Knit sweaters - conservatively classic, brightly colored or sexy

Knit sweaters are not only trendy towards the end of the decade. Most of them have striking patterns, geometric figures or classic Norwegian motifs. Artistic knitting patterns are also used to enhance the look of the sweater. Of course, shoulder pads are a must, and XL versions are often seen on the streets. In addition to scoop and V-neck styles, off-the-shoulder sweaters are popular, preferably worn over a top for a touch of sexiness.

Fur and leather jackets Mini Pants and balloon silk Knitted Sweater

Beauty Trends in the Eighties

For the eighties, one thing is certain: it has to be bright and colorful. This goes for the makeup as well as the choice of accessories. The choice of shoes changes from the previous decade.

Hair - Hairspray all over

The hairstyles of the eighties are characterized by a lot of hairspray. Backcombed curls dominate the street scene, especially for women inspired by shows like Dynasty. At the end of the eighties, the ponytail becomes popular, preferably combined with a headband or hairband.

Short hairstyles dominate among men from about 1983. At the same time, beards go out of fashion, with the exception of some goatees among workers. From the mid-1980s, the famous vokuhila became popular, in which the short hair on the top of the head merges into longer hair at the back of the head, with the sides usually cut very short. And the so-called rat's tail - a small bundle of long hair in the neck area - is also one of the trends of the time.

The eighties are also the decade in which hair bleaching gains immense importance. Not only women but also men lightened their vokuhila or fashionable perm.

Make-up - bright, colorful, striking

As opulent as the eighties hairstyles are, so is the makeup. Light lipstick is combined with dark eyes and as much pink or red rouge as possible. If that's not enough, the fingernails are painted in bright neon colors and a more or less matching bright and colorful outfit is chosen. Thanks to iconic pop stars like Boy George, this is not only true for women: Men are also increasingly reaching for kajal, mascara, etc.

Jewelry and Accessories

Gloves with or without fingers are in - in leather or mesh. Multiple layers of eye-catching chains are especially popular with young women. The wide waist belt for oversized shirts, XXL blazers and shapeless blouses can't be missing. In general, anything that shines and glitters is hip - from gold-plated bracelets to XXL creole earrings. Madonna is credited for outfits with chains, buckles and/or studs.

The headband and sweatband are not only seen in Jane Fonda's aerobic videos, but also in pop music by Nena - not only in Germany, but also in the USA thanks to her hit 99 Red Balloons. The belly bag is also a must-have as an alternative to the ubiquitous jute bag, providing the necessary storage space for lipstick, etc.

Earrings are also popular among male teenagers, and both plastic and thin metal necklaces are worn by the youth. The rich and beautiful are adorned with diamonds and pearls to make power and wealth visible to the outside world.

This status difference is particularly evident in watches: While the broad masses wear digital watches with plastic straps, later classic Swatch watches, the wealthy follow the example of Miami Vice with an expensive Rolex. Especially chic is a Ray Ban, which reaches its first peak in the eighties.

For men, narrow leather ties are in, sometimes even worn with a shirt and carrot pants, perfecting the popper look.

Shoes - sporty and suitable for everyday use

While high heels were popular in the seventies, this decade's trend is clearly toward flats. While knee-high boots with heels are still in style at the beginning of the eighties, cowboy boots are an alternative that can be combined with shorts or leggings. Things get even wilder when carrot pants are tucked into the boots.

Not only the aerobic trend makes sneakers socially acceptable. Joschka Fischer (German politician) even wears sneakers to the German Bundestag, and hip-hop stars like Run DMC wear them on the world's biggest stages.

Originally worn almost exclusively by skinheads in the seventies, Doc Martens, with their air-cushioned sole, went on to triumph in the eighties and soon became indispensable in punk fashion and the emerging gothic movement around bands such as The Cure or Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Women's business shoes become much more comfortable thanks to more flexible soles. Also popular are ballerinas, pumps and boat shoes, which can be combined with a business outfit in the mid-eighties. Slippers made of PVC plastic, known as "jelly shoes", became less popular for business but more for leisure.

Fashion Icons of the Eighties

In the eighties, fashion and pop culture inspired each other like never before. A new television channel, MTV, flickers across the screens, bringing the style of the stars directly into the bedrooms of the youth of the world. The older generation is lulled by popular TV series and adapts the fashion of Don Johnson and Joan Collins. No wonder most of today's fashion icons come directly from pop culture.

The Most Popular Designers of the Eighties

While classic designers such as Giorgio Armani dominated the fashion shows of the world's metropolises in the seventies, designers associated with street fashion became particularly popular in the eighties.

Jean-Paul Gaultier

The Frenchman Jean-Paul Gaultier, who later became world famous for his sailor look, made himself unforgettable with a single garment: the conical bustier corset worn by Madonna on one of her tours. With his sense of humor, he demonstrated on the world's catwalks that fashion was about to break new ground.

Vivienne Westwood

After founding punk fashion in the seventies with her then partner Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood continued to set new trends in the eighties. Her first catwalk collection, Pirates, is regarded as the epitome of New Romantic fashion, in which the scene and fashion influence each other. Characteristic is the eclectic mix of references from ornamental prints, pirates and 17th century paintings - always with a touch of humor.

Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, and Issey Miyake

The Japanese designers combine traditional Asian design with European mainstream in their Japanese avant-garde fashion. They are redefining the concepts of deconstruction and minimalism around the world by creating an androgynous, asymmetrical, monochrome, baggy look that often appeals to people of all genders and anticipates today's gender discourse.

Stephane Raynor

As early as 1976, the British designer opened a boutique in London under the label BOY, skillfully combining punk and new romanticism to become a serious competitor to the duo of Westwood and McLaren. Although the designer disappeared from the fashion world in the nineties due to questionable designs, he still set accents in the eighties with ostentatious acid smileys.

Donna Karan

Donna Karan founded her fashion company in the mid-1980s, but her modular system for transitioning from day to evening wear immediately became a bestseller. The "seven casual pieces" - blouse, body, blazer, coat, skirt, pants and something chic - with a jersey body quickly became part of everyday wear in the eighties. With her collection, the designer was one of the first to create business wear specifically for women, so that career-oriented women no longer had to rely on men's clothing in small sizes to get the right outfit for the office.

Katharine Hamnett

The British designer's political messages are hard to miss with their bold capital letters. The oversized shirts address issues such as armament, nuclear energy and other environmental issues in thick black capital letters. The most famous slogan, "Choose Life" - originally intended as a pro-environmental statement - gained its greatest fame through the indoctrination of US anti-abortionists. And George Michael and his group Wham! also wear Katherine Hemnett's shirts to raise consumer awareness.

Scott Crolla

Scott Crolla's oversized, wallpaper-like floral prints seem to be everywhere around 1984/85. First seen on a revival of sixties Nehru jackets, they soon appeared on oversized shirts and ankle-length tube dresses, the antithesis of Japanese avant-garde fashion at the time.

Fashion Styles of the Eighties

As with any decade, the eighties were rich in youth and subcultures, each with its own style.

New Wave

Not only musically, New Wave gradually replaced Punk. The influence is also increasingly noticeable in the fashion world. Tight-fitting suits, narrow ties, striped shirts and "Members Only" jackets became just as popular as horn eyeglasses with colorful frames, leather jackets and clubwear with neon makeup.


Young Urban Professionals are relatively young people who live in cities and have high-paying jobs. Not surprisingly, they have an affinity for expensive brands, designer suits and fast cars to show off their professional success. The yuppie look is more of a lifestyle than a fashion phenomenon, fueled by the movie Wall Street (1987), which was originally intended as a critique of this very culture.

Hip Hop and Rap

Thanks to hip-hop and rap culture, sneakers become an expensive fashion item for the first time in history. The Nike Air Jordan sneaker, available since 1984, quickly became a must-have in the scene shortly after its world premiere. Competitor Adidas, on the other hand, became world famous with the Superstar model, thanks to bands like Run DMC. Tracksuits, sportswear, oversized jackets and shirts are now as much a part of hip-hop culture as thick chains and the casual Kangol sun hat.

Preppy Look

The preppy look is a revival of the Ivy League style of the fifties and the conservative answer to punk. Oxford shirts, turtlenecks, and polo shirts are paired with dress pants and elegant oxford or boat shoes. Of course, casual suits and sweaters thrown casually over the shoulders are also part of the look.


The skater scene reached its peak in the mid-eighties. While the skaters of the seventies were mainly inspired by hippies and surfers, the influences of punk and sports fashion are unmistakable for the skaters of the eighties. Baseball caps, sleeveless shirts, baggy pants, plaid sweatbands and Vans or All Stars shoes were all part of the skater outfit. Toward the end of the decade, colorful T-shirts with skulls, eyes, iron crosses, or cartoon heroes became popular.


Despite its origins in the seventies, punk remains a relevant movement in the eighties. Multicolored Iroquois cuts, worn-out band shirts, leather and denim jackets adorned with buttons, safety pins and patches, and tight pants were popular outfits, first with fans of the Sex Pistols and later with other bands such as Guns'n'Roses.

Heavy Metal

Long hair, leather jackets or denim vests, washed jeans and high white sneakers are the trademarks of many followers of the metal scene in the early eighties, which at the beginning of the decade consisted mainly of fans of heavy metal and speed metal. By the mid-eighties, the trend was clearly toward glam metal, whose style was brighter, shriller and more theatrical, often based on the glam rock of the seventies. Spandex pants, platform shoes, and puffy hair are all part of the look, as is heavy makeup. On the other hand, the jeans and leather look is increasingly worn by followers of niche genres - thrash metal, death metal and black metal.


The eighties are probably the most colorful decade in fashion history. Synthetic fabrics and bright colors dominate everyday life, and casual sportswear is everywhere. The influence of pop culture extends to the catwalks of the world and helps to further erase the gender divide. Androgyny is reflected not only in power dressing and the large amount of gender-neutral fashion, but also in the extravagant make-up of Boy George and others. In addition to the cheap plastic, neon colors and shiny fashion jewelry of the younger generation, the rich and beautiful present their professional success in expensive designer fashion, which, of course, does not lack the matching accessories. All in all, one of the most exciting decades in fashion history.


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