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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
80s Ellesse Shoes
Ellesse became popular in the 1980s with the rise of the “casuals” culture. This subculture became popular as it was associated with football and wearing designer European clothes. As football fans and hooligans travelled to Europe for matches, they brought new brands home with them.
Many Ellesse shoes and clothes were inspired by a fusion of sportswear and streetwear. The products often featured a retro style with vibrant colours, they were easily recognizable when worn! These shoes became so popular that many retailers even started producing fakes to make more money.
- Pair with funky sports socks for streetwear style.
- These trainers work well with jeans for a casual daytime look, however, you can add a chic patterned shirt for a smart casual event!
In the 1980s Adidas Superstar shoes and Pro Model shell toes were all the rage. These readily available basketball shoes were made from leather, this helped them stand out from the other popular sneakers – like Pro-Keds and Chuck Taylors.
Adidas also released The Forum in the 1980s, these shoes were also well received and retailed for approx $100. These sneakers feature a high-high cut and a built-in strap, so retro and so 80s!
- Pair these sneakers with loose or wide-fit blue jeans for a perfect 80s combination.
- These shoes also work well with corduroy trousers too!
Established in 1979, KangaROOs is a true 80s sneaker brand. Their “The Inferno” model was released in 1982 and became one of the most popular sneakers for everyday wear in the decade.
When they were marketing their shoes, KangaROOS focused on their durability and comfort. With an emphasis on stability, shock absorption, flexibility, high-tech wearability, and more these shows were built to last. You could often buy these shoes in bright colourways with common colour palettes including red, blue, navy, white, and black too.
- Combine your kangaROOs with a full sports kit or some streetwear for a laid-back look.
- Try pairing these sports shoes with some bright sports socks for an 80s retro style.
Capezio shoes, also known as jazz shoes, were a cute 80s trend that should have been embraced for longer. While these shoes are now associated with dance classes and musical theatre, back in the 1980s they were worn as everyday shoes.
Not only are these shoes super comfortable to wear, but they’re also so cute and match nearly every outfit. Capezio shoes are usually made from real leather and some feature two-tone designs. Popular colours include black, white, cream, and beige.
- Channel Andie from Pretty In Pink and pair these with some rolled up jeans or even a long skirt for a casual look.
- These also work well with mini skirts and cardigans, perfect for a cute date night look too!
Retro Stiletto Heels
Popular high heels in the 1980s included pumps, wedges, and pointed stilettos. If you want to find the perfect retro shoes for a night out, you must try some extremely pointed stilettos for a great 1980s look!
While these heels were popular in black, they were available in a range of colours. Other popular colours included white, pink, red, and navy. These can take your outfit from casual to glam without any hassle, just make sure you can walk in them!
- For a complete 1980s look, try pairing your glam stilettos with some chunky leg warmers. This is great for a 1980s costume or a more dramatic evening look.
- You can also pair stilettos with patterned tights for a more sophisticated 80s evening look too.
80s Rainbow Flip Flops
Flip flops are versatile shoes. They’re easy to wear, they’re waterproof, and they are perfect for beach days or waterparks too. However, in the 1980s these popular rainbow style flip flops were worn everywhere! Going to the mall? Flip flops. Meeting your friends? Flip flops.
It’s easy to see why these shoes were so popular. With a range of bright colours and a semi-platform sole, they’re not your average pair of flip flops. They may not be to everyone’s taste, but if you like bright colours these shoes are essential to own.
- As these shoes are more casual, pair them with a pair of blue denim shorts for a laidback summer outfit.
- You can also style these with loose-fitting jeans and a blazer for a street-style ready look too.
Pixie Boots, or sometimes known as Peter Pan boots, were an alternative to other boot styles like Doc Martens in the 1980s. These boots had a slouchy look and were usually flat-soled. The pixie boot was usually made from leather or suede and stopped at ankle length. Some varieties could fold down too, adding to the slouchy look.
These boots were worn day and night, with celebrities like the members of Duran Duran wearing them on tour. There are many variations of these boots, but they’re a must-buy if you want to embrace the 80s new romantic style!
- Depending on the style of pixie boots you buy you can try many styles!
- Slouchier boots look great with leg warmers and mini skirts for a John Hughes movie look.
- Other styles work well with sleek jeans and leather jacket look, great for spending a day in the city.
If you want a pair of heeled boots like no other, try Zodiac Boots. This 80s staple looks like a traditional “cowboy boot”, but features modern styling and a chunky heel. This is an essential boot for a night out with the girls.
You can find these boots in a range of colours and they also feature unique embroideries and patches too. These were popular in white or cream and often featured a brown wooden heel. Most Zodiac Boots are calf-length, however, some were knee-high or even thigh-high too.
- Style these boots with a mini dress and boxy denim jacket for a quintessential 80s evening look. Make sure you add big hair and bold makeup too!
- These can also work with casual outfits too, try pairing them with tucked in baggy jeans or trousers.