Information on clothing for kids in the 1980s

Updated April 17, 2017

Clothing for children in the 1980s was colourful and featured fad items and trends. It was not uncommon to see brightly dyed hair in hues of yellow, blue or purple, even on elementary aged children. The decade was a time of excess in children's fashion: the bigger and brighter, the better.


Baggy, long shirts were the trend in the 1980s for both boys and girls. They often reached mid-thigh and were twice the size necessary for a comfortable fit. Girls would tie the bottom hem of a lightweight knit top in a knot off to one side. Lace was a popular material with the girls. Both sexes wore bright and colourful shirts that often used patterns containing geometric shapes or name brand polo shirts with little animals embroidered on the chest. The tie-dye shirts of the 1960s also made a resurgence in the 1980s.


Excess was evident in the jeans worn by children in the 1980s. Superfluous zippers were common and many trousers sported zippered pockets and legs. Some clothes featured buttons with no matching buttonholes. Sweatsuit-type pants with elastic waists and ankles with multicoloured paint splotches were worn everywhere and not considered sports apparel. Acid wash and stonewash jeans with rips and tears in them were the style for both boys and girls. Trousers made from parachute material were popular with the boys and the girls favoured tight stretch trousers, with or without stirrups.

Socks & Shorts

In the early 1980s, most shorts were extremely short white piping around the bottom and up the sides of the legs. Children wore them with tube socks with stripes around the top pushed halfway down the calf. By the late 1980s, the shorts were below the knee and the socks changed to plain white crew socks.


Jelly shoes and bracelets were must-have fashion accessories for young girls, along with multiple piercings in each ear. Nail polish contained glitter, and fake jewels adorned many clothing items. Leg-warmers scrunched below the knee over the trousers were another accessory girls wore in the 1980s.

Young boys wore gold chains, painter caps and anything with sports logos or logos from cartoons that were on in the evening hours.

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About the Author

Annabelle Lee has been working in the journalism field since 1990. She was a teacher and yearbook adviser for four years and holds two associate degrees from her local community college where she currently teaches computer classes. Lee also writes for a local newspaper and was a proofreader for McGraw-Hill.