Clothing for Men in the 80s

Written by laura scott
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Clothing for Men in the 80s
During the 1980s, fashion designers paid more attention to clothing for men. (corsage image by Melissa Schalke from

The 1980s ushered in a new era of fashion for men. As the laid-back look of the '70s faded, a more creative approach to men's styles stepped up to fill the void. Designer clothing for men starting appearing on the department store racks. Men who previously chose their clothing from a handful of traditional and conservative styles suddenly had new cuts, fabrics and colours to consider. The '80s introduced some fashion excesses such as balloon trousers and neon shell suits, but many of the new styles had a lasting influence on men's clothing.

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Power Suits

At the beginning of the decade, the long and painful recession of the late '70s ended, and the U.S. economy rebounded with new energy. Years of scrimping and saving were replaced by wealth and conspicuous consumption, and fashion designers accommodated the public's appetite for indulgence. Fashion embraced the power suit: a dark-coloured, single- or double-breasted suit made of high-quality wools, linens and silks. Shoulders came with pads and trousers featured pleats. Bright-coloured red and yellow ties provided eye-catching contrasts. Power suits were designed to show authority, confidence and clout.

The Miami Vice Look

The television show "Miami Vice" debuted in 1984, and its impact on fashion was felt throughout the rest of the decade. Pale-coloured, unstructured linen jackets worn over T-shirts with the sleeves rolled up was the mid-1980s answer to power dressing. Rumpled linen trousers and a pair of top-of-the-line espadrilles worn without socks completed the look. Accessories often included a Rolex watch and a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses.

Designer Jeans

At the beginning of the decade, the Nakash brothers launched a line of jeans called Jordache, and a new age of designer denim for men was born. Some of fashion's biggest names, such as Calvin Klein, Sergio Valenti and Guess, quickly jumped to meet the new market. Unlike old-fashioned dungarees, designer jeans offered low-rise cuts, tighter fits and flares to accommodate boots. Acid-wash jeans that had a bleached-out look were particularly popular.

The Preppy Look

In 1980, Lisa Birnbach published "The Official Preppy Handbook," a biting best seller that chronicled everything common to East Coast students who attended exclusive prep schools, including their clothes. However, rather than sneers at the snobbery, the book triggered the general public's aspiration to be part of the prep world. Fashion designers took advantage of the opportunity and started churning out rugby jerseys, khaki trousers, polo shirts and pink button-down oxfords. Argyle sweaters and baggy madras shorts worn with top-sider boat shoes were also common preppy attire.

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