Men’s fashion in the early years of the 1980s ranged from ultra elegant preppy looks to flamboyant Hawaiian shirts.
This was one of the greatest eras for fashion experimentations, as fashionistas put significant emphasis on clothes and accessories. Finally, fashion became an inclusive culture, where men were called to express their personality.
From punk fashion to the hippie subcultures, for the first time in history fashion offered a place to everybody, and put the first stone for many trends which are now timeless. It does not surprise that today’s high-end designers are still heavily inspired by 1980s fashion.
In this guide, we focus in the early 1980s, from 1980 to 1983. This was when many fashion subcultures were born, and it is thus interesting to investigate their features. If you are looking for inspiration as well as lots of information about those years, you are definitely in the right place!
Who Were the Top Fashion Icons in the 1980s?
One of the reasons why fashion spread so quickly and easily in the early 1980s was because of the prominence of the first fashion icons. The Internet and Instagram weren’t a thing yet, so young people could only rely on musicians, actors and other celebrities to find out about new fashion trends.
Some of these icons launched new styles, whereas others confirmed and made timeless subcultures which were already existing, but that needed a powerful voice to express themselves.
Some of the most famous fashion icons in the early 1980s were Elle Macpherson, Ines de la Fressange, and Tatjana Patitz. For the first time in history, fashion icons where not only women, and men were welcomed to express their style freely to inspire their fans and followers.
In other words, soon men had their fashion icons, too. Accessories which had always been considered feminine, like sneakers, jelly shoes, faux-fur coats and velvet blazers, were reinvented to include men as well. This was one of the most important revolutions in the history of fashion, which changed the decade completely and shaped our future.
We all have to thank the 1980s for today’s fashion inspirations!
Early 1980s Men’s Fashion Inspiration
Members Only Jackets
Yes, plain clothes which displayed a generic “Member Only” status on the chest were really a thing in 1980, especially in America. Soon these pieces of clothing were produced in several colours and materials. This is one of the most nostalgic pieces from the 1980s!
Photo by Nine Street (Members Only Men’s Original Iconic Racer Jacket in Grey)
In the 1980s, everybody had a man-crush on Tom Selleck, who played the role of the cool private investigator Magnum P.I. This is the reason why Hawaiian shirts were so iconic, especially in the first year of 1980s, when the show was first aired. To emulate him, don’t forget the moustache!
Photo by All Saints (Talon Shirt)
Breakdance was a popular trend, especially because it involved some cool pieces of clothing. This includes parachute pants. The originals, not to be confused by balloon-like prints, were made of nylon and featured bright colours and zippers.
Photo by Asos (Asos Design Utility Joggers with Multiple Pockets and Strapping)
In 1983, there was only one way to wear collars, which was turned upward. This trend soon met preppy fashion, which was all about candy-coloured polo shirts. Popped collars became an epitome of high style, and they are even mentioned in “The Official Preppy Handbook”.
Photo by River Island (Black Long Sleeve Muscle Fit Oxford Shirt)
Guess was one of the most famous designers back in the 1980s. In 1983, the Guess triangle logo became particularly popular and was sewn into the back right pocket of all the best pairs of jeans.
Photo by Guess (Skinny Fit Jeans with Abrasions)
The bigger the better, even when it comes to shoulders. Initially intended as a style for women, soon men fell in love with this trend. Today, padded shirts and big shoulders blazers are still very popular and pretty versatile.
You couldn’t be a cool kid if you weren’t wearing some Ray-Ban sunglasses. Tom Cruise made the Ray-Ban Wayfarers so iconic that all the wannabe heroes bought them.
Photo by Ray-Ban (Wayfarer Double Bridge)
When people first watched Top Gun in the 1980s, they were in awe for Tom Cruise’s talent… and his cool aviator shades.
Photo by Trend him (Paul Riley Aviator Gold-Tone & Dark Green Polarised Sunglasses)
Calvin Klein Underwear
We may not all have the body of one of Calvin Klein’s models, but we all want to wear his underwear. This brand was the first designers to focus on men’s underwear, at the point that today this piece still makes up a significant percentage of its annual income.
Imported from England, Baracuta was first worn by Elvis Presley in the 1950s. These jackets are characterised by a solid coloured exterior, and plaid and colourful pattern in the lining. In the 1980s, this was a must for all the preppies and was featured by many celebrities and fashion designers.
Photo by Country Attire (Baracuta G9 Harrington Men’s Jacket)
All men wore a watch in the 1980s. In 1983, Swatch debuted with a new line of plastic watches, with a fun and colourful style. Most importantly, these watches were inexpensive and durable, and this is one of the reasons why they are still very popular.
Photo by Swatch (Elementary)
Directly from the hip-hop subcultures, Kangol hats were associated with many celebrities and fashion designers. The Furious Five even featured them in the cover image of their first single, “The Message”.
Photo by Size? (Kangol Wool Bucket Hat)