What better way to pass some time than by thinking about shoes? For we fashion-lovers, shoes and clothing are like balm to a troubled, tired soul, don’t you agree? In this blog, we’re going back in time to the 1980s to discuss the coolest footwear trends of the decade.
Get ready for shoe-related eye candy and some tips for how to style popular 1980s kicks in 2020.
Converse Chuck Taylors and Vans (skater style)
One of the most popular shoe brands for men and women in the 1980s was Converse, with their signature Chuck Taylor lace-ups. School kids, skaters, and everyone in-between owned a pair.
They were worn on grungers and punk-rockers such as The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and Sonic Youth, often in plain white or black.
In more recent years, the biggest stars on the planet have been snapped wearing Chucks, such as Beyonce, Kaia Gerber, Bruno Mars, and even acting veteran Liam Neeson (how’s that for a varied demographic?).
The humble Converse shoe will never leave our collective fashion rotation, nor should it.
- Pair high-top Chuck Taylors with cropped, high-waisted jeans and an off-the-shoulder cashmere or merino sweater for casual Spring and Fall weekend wear
- Take a leaf out of Kristen Stewart’s 00s and 10’s book and wear your Converse with a mini dress for parties, or even a demure midi bias-cut dress for dates
- Fuse professional and street by wearing loose-fit, wide-leg suit trousers and a deep-V blazer with classic black Chucks
The shoe: Jellies (especially Glitter)
Jelly shoes were the sartorial lifeblood of many young women and girls in the 80s and 90s, in all kinds of shades from bubblegum pink to opaque white.
The most popular jellies were the basket-weave style with ankle strap (remember?!), but the pointy-toed slip-ons were also all the rage. The best of the best in the jelly-shoe world? Glitter jellies.
You can bet your bottom dollar these plastic shoes are back, with celebrities like Katy Perry and Alexa Chung incorporating them into their fashion collections and collabs…albeit with a glamorous upgrade feat. diamantes.
- Wear your glitter jelly buckle-ups with cropped slim-line cigarette trousers, a knit turtleneck sleeveless top, and a cropped leather jacket. Professional-chic with a youthful, nostalgic twist
- Wear jellies, an off-shoulder tee, and high-waisted denim mini for Summer garden parties. If anyone asks if you’re dressed in 80s costume, you proudly say “yes, ma’am”
Nike Air Jordans and Reebok pumps and high-tops
Nike Air Jordans were the shoe to have in the 1980s, as well as Reebok pumps and high-tops. These chunky sneakers were worn by athletes, hip-hop artists, dancers, and the regular folk throughout the 80s, and are still popular today.
Rihanna is a classic high-top sneaker lover, snapped wearing them with denim cut-offs and a letterman jacket, or with a crop top, bucket hat, plaid jacket, and camo shirt tied around the waist. At the risk of sounding like a mindless fanatic, if Rihanna wears it, it must be cool.
- Take a leaf from a streetwear fashion queen’s book and pair Air Jordans or Reebok high-tops with cream silk wide-leg pants and a loose cotton shirt worn out and loose
- Pair baggy, low-slung distressed jeans with a form-fitting bodysuit and red high-tops. Extra points for thick gold hoop earrings, frosty eyeshadow, and high-shine red gloss (80s-90s hybrid fash)
Doc Martens, the iconic British workman’s boot, have been around since the very beginning of the 20th century. In the 1980s, the rough, sturdy “Docs” were the choice of punk rockers, worn with tartan trousers, leather vests, and mohawks.
However, they were made for everyone, and have been loved ever since, and have been seen on every it-girl and guy to this day. Docs can make any look, no matter how demure, a little edgier, offering a rebellious streak and defiant rejection of the heel or the “cute flat”.
- Take inspiration from David Beckham and pair black Docs with navy or charcoal wool slim-line slacks, a black leather belt, fitted knit sweater, and moss-green wool coat
- Pair high-top red Docs with black tights, a black denim button-down shirt dress, leather jacket, and plenty of metal jewelry on your ears, neck, and wrists
Even David’s daughter is wearing them! Getting a lesson in fashion early on…
The shoe: Huarache flats, chunky heels, and wedges
Huarache shoes were closed-toed, woven leather shoes often with a covered heel cap but open sides and a slight wedge heel.
Some had ankle straps, while others had chunky heels or high wedges.
Huarache flats have had a strong place in mainstream and celebrity fashion ever since, with the ex-Princess herself, Meghan Markle rocking them with her signature black trousers and a button-down.
Pair distressed cropped pale blue jeans with tan or white Huarache flats or heels, a white linen shirt (French-tucked at the front, always!), and a jewel-toned blazer.
Accessorize with opaque black sunglasses. Who’s that mysterious, 80s-reminiscent lady?
Penny loafers are leather loafers with a strap across the upper foot with a cutout in the middle (you know the ones). These ultra-smart slip-ons were the shoe of choice for preppy, Ivy league fashionistas in the 80s, and are still a classic shoe today.
Think dapper gentlemen in ivory suits and brown loafers, or women in straight midi-skirts, cashmere sweaters, white shirt collars, and black penny loafers.
However, you can always turn the expectation on its head and pair these preppy shoes with grunge-rock styling.
- Wear black leather penny loafers with tartan or striped ankle-length fitted trousers (or jeans) and a menswear shirt worn loose and flowing
- Be comfy at work with a drapey cowl-neck cashmere top, a high-waisted pencil skirt, and brown or black penny loafers with sheer tights
The shoe: heeled boots, (slouchy, lace-up, lace, and cowboy)
We could write an entire book on the history of the boot, and the 1980s would be a great chapter. Heeled lace-up boots were cool in the 80s (and now, just as much if not moreso) with the most iconic example being Madonna’s white lace lace-up heeled boots. Lace-up boots often had a short kitten heel and were sometimes embellished with studs or metal netting.
Slouchy mid-calf boots were also extremely popular, as seen on legend Whitney Houston, or the good old cowboy boots worn by Sarah Jessica Parker, Diana Ross, and Whitney (again). Boots in the 80s weren’t only the classic brown, black, and tan we most favor today, as they often came in colors such as red, blue, and white.
- Pair a stiff denim mini shirt dress with leather slouch boots (with a slight heel)
- Pair a knit wrap midi dress with heeled cowboy boots, stockings, and a wool coat for classy Winter style with a country-chic edge
- Pair heeled, studded ankle boots with slouchy socks or leg warmers and a long-sleeved 60s-style mini dress
When it came to heels, the 1980s were all about the white pumps (often sling-back, and sometimes with socks). Madonna favored the white pump, wearing a pair at the 1984 VMAs, and again at the 1985 premiere of ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’. Madonna chose these as part of her rebel-bride aesthetic, but they translate into a range of pairings from jeans to leather minis.
- Layer white pump heels with fresh white slouch socks and a slimline midi bias-cut dress with a denim jacket. Style it up with gold hoop earrings and layered gold chain necklaces
- Pair flared cropped blue denim jeans with a tucked-in tee and open-toe white sling-backs