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In the 1980s, sneakers evolved from a mere piece of sporting equipment into a global cultural phenomenon. Many of the iconic shoes that we still wear today are inspired by the legendary pieces launched a couple of decades ago.
If you want to embrace the perfect 1980s, choosing the right pair of sneakers is essential. On the other hand, finding out more about the “sneakers revolution” will help you understand men’s fashion better, and give you all the information you need to build your ultimate outfit.
Here is a list of the most popular men’s sneakers style that came out in the 1980s and are style rocking.
What Made Sneakers So Popular in the 1980s?
In the 1980s, men’s fashion was all about dressing proudly and experimenting to always find new styles and inspiration. The hip hop subculture finally became mainstream, along with other men’s fashion styles. Even those who were feeling preppy ended up appreciating more casual and comfortable pairs of shoes.
Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger launched their own sneakers, introducing this piece as a fashion icon. Nike, Adidas, Fila and many other sports brands immediately seized the opportunity and started collaborating with legendary athletes to design the perfect sneakers.
Soon, wearing loud shoes to match flamboyant outfits became imperative, and brands worked harder to promote new sneakers technology. This is what changed the sneakers culture forever.
Today, several high-end fashion brands, including Gucci, Dior and Louis Vuitton, have their own lines of high-couture sneakers. In other words, this piece of footwear is now iconic, timeless, and suitable even for the most formal situations.
Popular Men’s Sneakers in the 1980s
Nike Air Force One
In 1982, Nike launched its pair of sneakers dedicated to Air Force One, the U.S. President aircraft. These sneakers were the first basketball shoes with the Nike Air technology, with a massive midsole to rapidly gain traction on the field. Squeaky White is the most iconic colour.
Photo by Asos (Nike Air Force 1 Shadow trainers in triple white)
Nike Air Max 1
These sneakers were designed to create a link between a sporty style and a more futuristic approach to fashion. Their main feature is the large air cushioning unit at the heel, which has inspired many other shoes over the years. The sharp lines and bold colours make these sneakers a must for any fashionista.
Photo by The Sole Supplier (Nike Air Max 1 Tinker Sketch to Shelf)
Air Jordan 1
Basketball legend Michael Jordan wore these shoes in 1985 and he immediately set a new fashion standard. These shoes are so iconic that even Dior has recently seized the opportunity to collaborate with Nike and try changing the rules of fashion.
Air Jordan 3
With its third prototype, Nike decided to upgrade the shoe’s materials. The upper is made of full-grain tumbled leather, to prevent any stiffness in the shows after a long walk. With its bulky yet sharp and stylish design, the Air Jordan 3 is still an iconic shoe.
Air Jordan 4
After the success of all the previous styles, in 1989 Nike and Jordan improved the sneakers’ design and performances even more. The straps of these sneakers are designed to offer increased ankle support and, most importantly, to look even more fabulous.
Air Max 90
Initially designed as a running shoe in 1987, the Air Max 90 soon became a fashion icon, thanks to its retro vibes. Today these sneakers are available in several colour combinations and are one of the most favourite pieces of many shoes collectors and lovers.
Reebok The Pump
In 1989, Reebok established a new standard in basketball footwear. The focus is on the heel rather than on the tongue, giving these shoes a bulkier and more industrial look. Many of the modern so-called chunky sneakers are inspired by this model.
Fila T1 wasn’t just a fabulous shoe. It was worn on the tennis court by the most talented athletics. Soon, it became a true status symbol, with its tan/creamy colourway, which resembled the iconic and luxury Italian lifestyle.
Adidas Pro Shell
All kids born in the 1980s dreamed of wearing these Adidas sneakers. These are some of the most popular shell-toe basketball shoes, with a distinctive design. The three black stripes and the leather upper started a revolution in the world of men’s footwear.
New Balance 990
New Balance released the first pair of sneakers even to reach a $100 price tag. Today, these shoes are still impressive for their technical features and design but are cheaper and more accessible to all shoes lovers.
A more, classic style is always timeless, as confirmed by the success of this shoe designed by Reebok in 1987. Made of nylon, with a suede/mesh upper and rubber outsole, these sneakers were usually worn by skaters with denim and oversized t-shirts. Today, they’re available in several colours.
Reebok Club Champion
Designed in 1984 as elegant tennis shoes, these sneakers were soon rebranded the “Club C” and became a timeless classic. Worn as an imperative by preppy fashionistas, they are now a timeless classic.
In 1982, Asics released the first running shoes which incorporated slashes in the midsole foam. They were designed to offer more cushioning than flex. However, even those who weren’t into running soon fell in love with these shoes.