What clothes did they wear in the 1980s?

Updated April 17, 2017

The 1980s is a decade seen by many as a low point in the history of style and clothing -- a fashion void filled with spandex, big hair and stretch trousers. People in the '80s wore a wide variety of clothing often inspired by a particular celebrity, look or subculture.


The preppy look was smart and semi-formal -- a conservative style most often followed by well-behaved teenagers on their way to attending college. Boys typically wore polo shirts or button-down shirts with a blazer or sweater draped over their shoulders, along with penny loafers and smart trousers. Girls wore a similar style with walking shorts instead of trousers, with knee-high socks and tennis shoes.

The Madonna Look

Madonna was a huge star and a fashion icon during the '80s and many people -- particularly teenage girls -- copied her style for everyday wear. Although she went through many styles in the '80s, classic Madonna is a controlled messy look consisting of permed bleach-blond hair, layers of tops including some lace and leggings with a short skirt over the top. To perfect the look, plenty of chunky jewellery, possibly including a crucifix and big earrings were added.

Hip Hop

In the mid to late '80s, hip-hop fashion was popular, following in the footsteps of rappers such as Run-DMC and often including bright, multicoloured jumpsuits with matching trainers. For smarter occasions, acid washed jeans, bright shirts with collars in a different colour from the rest of the shirt and leather ties were popular. In the late '80s, baggy trousers and parachute trousers became standard, teamed with button down shirts, sweaters and argyle socks.

Hair Metal

The hair-metal look was worn by those who were into heavy-metal rock bands such as Motley Crue, Poison and Whitesnake. Men and women wore make-up and sported long hair teased up and sprayed into place in huge styles. Girls wore tight jeans, spandex trousers or short skirts and band-logo shirts, along with denim or leather jackets adorned with buttons, patches, studs and spikes. Footwear included cowboy boots, work boots and high heels for women.

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