What clothes did they wear in the 80s?

The '80s launched many trends, including the preferences for certain clothing labels and the idea of buying jeans that looked like they were already 10 years old. People wore a wide range of items, but many looks focused on the "preppy" style or took their cue from the movie "Flashdance."


Preppy and/or bold statements ruled '80s tops. Colours were bright and often even neon. Sweatshirts were oversized and some cut the necklines of them, making them wider so that they resembled those worn in the movie "Flashdance." Polo shirts were worn with the collars up and only those with the Izod alligator or the Ralph Lauren polo player were considered cool. Blouses and jackets had thick shoulder pads. Rugby shirts and oversized Tommy Hilfiger or Ralph Lauren button-down shirts were also very common.

Popular T-shirt slogans included, "Where's the Beef?" and "Frankie Says Relax." T-shirts were also oversized.


Jeans really came into their own in the '80s. Guess jeans were extremely popular for women, with one popular kind having small zippers next to the ankles. Acid-washed jeans as well as distressed jeans with holes and fringe were also very popular.

Tight leggings and stirrup trousers were commonly worn with the oversized shirts, sometimes with wide belts cinched at the hips. Parachute trousers were also popular. Skirts were very long (called prairie style, along the lines of "Little House on the Prairie") or very short.

Adorning all manner of trousers and stockings were leg warmers (inspired by Flashdance).


Brightly coloured pumps dominated the workplace. Jelly shoes (translucent plastic shoes that were bendable like jelly) were a staple of casual wear, as were Keds sneakers. Men wore Nike sneakers or Topsider loafers. Both genders could also be found in penny loafers and those with a punk sensibility wore Doc Maarten boots.


Fingerless lace gloves, lots of black-rubber bracelets and large headbands (inspired by Madonna) were very popular in the '80s. Wide belts (worn only at the hip, never the waist) were popular, as well. People also liked to wear Ray-Ban sunglasses. Some tied bandannas around their legs and some tied them around their hair.

Brand Names

Benetton was very popular in the '80s. Gucci was another favourite brand and having a Gucci purse was a requirement for all those wanting to be stylish. Other popular brands included Ralph Lauren, Izod, Guess, Nike and Members Only.

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About the Author

Jennifer Zimmerman is a former preschool and elementary teacher who has been writing professionally since 2007. She has written numerous articles for The Bump, Band Back Together, Prefab and other websites, and has edited scripts and reports for DWJ Television and Inversion Productions. She is a graduate of Boston University and Lewis and Clark College.