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The 80s gave birth to new music (most notably rap), technological innovations (remember your Walkman?), and phenomenal movies. It also paved the way for iconic fashions – most of them we still know (and love) today.

Are you ready to take a trip back to a stylish memory lane? Let’s get started! 

80s Fashion Designers

80s fashion would not be possible without the creative minds of many fashion designers. Here are the people who made the 80s a fashion era to remember: 

Ralph Lauren 

Ralph Lauren – born Ralph Lifshitz – is the head honcho of the same-named, multi-billion-dollar fashion company. Born in the Bronx, he is just one of the many Bronxites who dominate the fashion scene.

The former Brooks Brothers shop assistant’s rise to fame was made possible by Beau Brumwell, a tie designer who allowed him to start his own line.

From his brand launch in 1968, Ralph Lauren has managed to break style barriers with his classic polos and tailored shirts. They’re more than just fashion remnants of the 80s as they continue to be well-loved up until today. 

Calvin Klein

Born in 1942 in the Bronx, Calvin Klein is one of the 80s’ most notable designers. And like many of the era’s designers, he continues to be fashionably relevant. CK remains to be a style hit with young and old people alike. 

Although Calvin did not finish his studies at the renowned Fashion Institute of Technology, he managed to break through the elite New York fashion scene. Thanks to his bestselling tight-fitting jeans (among many other iconic designs), Calvin became the first designer to win both the men’s and women’s category of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. 

Giorgio Armani

Born in 1934, Giorgio Armani is considered one of the most successful Italian designers. From being a designer for the Cerruti fashion house, he has managed to create his own company – which he successfully launched in the year 1975.

As the brains behind red-carpet fashion, Giorgio is more than just a fashion icon. He remains stylishly popular up until today, being the creative mind behind many of Lady Gaga’s couture outfits. 

Issey Miyake

Issey Miyake is a Japanese fashion designer known for his ‘technological’ designs. 

Although he failed in his local fashion forays, Issey managed to score an apprenticeship with the famous French designer Guy Laroche. He also worked with aristocrat and fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy (of the Givenchy fame). 

After moving to the US, Issey became known for revolutionizing the Fortuny pleat in the 1980s. 

Issey also designed the trademark turtlenecks that the late Steve Jobs often wore. 

80s Brands

The 80s saw the emergence of numerous fashion trends. Addressing each unique niche are these hot 80s brands: 

‘Conscious’ Clothing: United Colors of Benetton

Apart from the designer brands stated above, 80s fashion also enjoyed a dash of color – many thanks to the United Colors of Benetton. Founded in 1965, the Italian brand became the 80’s fashionable voice behind various issues. 

Apart from its controversial campaigns, Benetton was also the brand behind many sports sponsorships. 

Although Benetton is not as famous as it was in the 80s, the brand continues to have a cult following – all made possible by its 5,000 shops worldwide. 

Sportswear: Nike and Adidas

The 80s was an era of sportswear, many thanks to 3 iconic brands: Nike and Adidas. And up until now, these 2 top brands continue to be the go-to labels for a stylish athletic look.

Nike

Founded in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports, Nike has evolved into the world’s largest supplier for athletic footwear and apparel. 

The 1980s saw the market dominance of Nike, which by then, owned half the market share in the US. The era also saw the birth of Nike’s unmistakable catchline: Just do it. 

 Nike, in all its check sign glory, ruled the 80s with its color-blocked windbreakers. The decade also marked the launch of the Nike Air Max – which is now one of the most iconic shoes in the world. 

Adidas

Based in Germany, Adidas plays second-fiddle to Nike when it comes to market domination. Although this is the case, there is no denying that it’s one of the 80s’ most popular brands – together with its fierce archrival, of course.

Likewise, Adidas had released the same style of windbreakers as Nike. Despite this, the brand is more famous for its iconic 3-stripe tracksuit – a garment that continues to be popular up until today.

Denim: Guess, Levi’s, and Jordache

Apart from ushering in sportswear, the 80s also saw the popularity of denim. Out of the many brands who decided to venture into the jean industry, only 3 brands succeeded. 

Levi’s

Levi’s is more or less the mother of all jeans – having been established as early as 1853. In the 1980s, it headlined the blue jeans era. As the name suggests, Levi’s was one of the labels that ruled the decade. 

Unsurprisingly so, Levi’s became the go-to brand for various youth subcultures – from hippies to mods and rockers to greasers. The brand also managed to popularize the shrink-to-fit 501s, an iconic style that’s venerated up until now. 

Guess

Guess is the child of the 80s. Founded in 1981 by Georges Marciano and his brothers, the siblings originally started selling unisex jeans during their stay in France. The brand popularized the mottled wash, a style which he saw in an Italian Laundromat.

Eager to replicate their success in Europe, the brothers launched Guess – a brand that is known for its red triangle patch.  With its stonewashed jeans and signature ankle zipper sliding, Guess became a household name during the 80s blue jeans craze. 

Jordache

While Jordache has ventured into the real estate business, this brand was the king of 80s jeans. Founded in 1969 by the Nakash brothers, its European-inspired jeans became the toast of 80s denim fashion.  

This popularity was made possible by the company’s aggressive ad campaigns, most of which feature topless ladies wearing Jordache jeans. And while the brand hasn’t managed to sustain its 80s popularity, it remains to be one of the most memorable labels of the era. 

Surf Wear: Maui & Sons

As with most of the hottest brands of the 80s, the Maui & Sons surf and skate brand was born in the said era. Although it was founded by Malibu-based surfers, it grew out of its namesake – the beautiful island of Maui, Hawaii.

The brand – with its vibrant shades and shark icon – was a mainstay for surfers, skaters, and fashionable 80s peeps alike. 

And while it’s not as famous as it was before, it continues to have a cult following in various parts of the globe. 

Underwear: Calvin Klein 

It could be said that the branded knicker craze was made possible by the 80s fashion icon Calvin Klein. Because of his line, people were more than proud to show their drawls. 

The products – which often bear the brand’s name on the elastic band – were way famous before Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid modeled them. Its popularity in the 80s was largely brought by Brooke Shields and Christy Turlington – who are considered two of the hottest models of the 80s. 

Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

Founded in the year 1936, Ray-Ban remains to be one of the most famous luxury sunglass brands of today. It is known for its iconic aviator shades, which were designed to reduce the distraction caused by white and blue hues in the sky. 

Not surprisingly, the Aviator shades became one of the styles that put Ray-Ban at the top of the 80s game. Other popular styles include the classic Wayfarer and the browline-framed Clubmaster, which sold just as effectively. 

Watch: Swatch

Swatch is another one of the 80s babies that made a mark during the era. Founded in 1983 by 3 Swiss watchmakers, it was launched in response to the ‘quartz crisis’ of the decade. After all, the 1980s saw the rise of inexpensive Japanese watches that trumped the more expensive European brands. 

The brand’s grand opening saw the launch of 12 models, which were initially sold at a cheap price of CHF 39.90. Because of this low price – and the company’s aggressive ad campaign – Swatch managed to etch a name for itself in the annals of 80s fashion history. 

80s Colors 

The 80s saw the popularity of various colors – usually based on celebrities or shows that dominated the era. 

Early 1980s: Minimalist Earthy Colors

The 70s, which was known for its bright shades, ended with the entry of minimalist colors. In the UK and US, more and more people switched to quiet earthy shades. Runways then were filled with the shades of cream, tan, brown, and orange. 

Despite being minimalist, these colors were widely used in attention-grabbing attire. That’s because the early 80s saw the resurgence of fur-lined puffer jackets, faux-fur coats, and velvet blazers. 

Mid 1980s: Bright Colors

The 80s era is known for its bright shades, which gained popularity during the middle of the decade. This rainbow palette was adopted by many of the era’s hottest brands, including Nike and Maui & Sons. 

These bright shades were not limited to commercial brands, however, as even high-flying designer houses adopted these hues. Vibrant suits – mostly mismatched in color – were staples on the runways of Versace and Chanel, to name a few. 

Late 1980s: Brights, Plus Red and White 

Bright colors continued to prevail up until the late 80s. Neon hues were often seen – as well as the jewel tones of plum, blue, pink, and wine.

While vibrant shades continued to be hip, another color palette ruled the waves before the turn of the decade. Inspired by Asian fashion – specifically, Japanese Avant-Garde – the runways saw the addition of red and white items designed with intricate embroidery. 

80s Fashion Trends

In the 80s, the fashion philosophy was the bigger, the better. This was obvious in its iconic trends – most of which are larger than life. 

Also Read:

1981: Dynasty Fashion and Princess Diana’s Wedding Dress

1982: Grace Jones and Jane Fonda’s Leg Warmers

1983: Culture Club’s New Wave style and Annie Lennox

Statement Shoulder Tops

The 80s era is remembered for a lot of things, one of which is its shoulder pad craze. It was worn by the biggest names in fashion – from Cindy Crawford to Christy Turlington. 

And while this trend lost its bearing in the 90s and early 2000s, it slowly (and surely) made a fashion comeback. Thanks to Lady Gaga, more and more modern women are embracing this 80s legacy. 

Often seen in blazers and dresses, it seems like the shoulder pad fashion is here to stay. 

Also Read: 1980s: Wide collars and Metallic cutout dress

Punk Apparel

The punk fashion movement emerged with the popularity of pop music artists, one of which is style chameleon Boy George. 

Punk fashion in the 80s is a hodgepodge of many elements, including leather jackets, plaid garments, punk rock dresses & hoodies, corsets, spiked items, and punk boots. 

As if these statements aren’t enough – there comes the spiked hair for men and women alike. Without this, are you really punk rock at all? 

Animal Prints 

Animal print is a trend that comes and goes. It’s popular now – like it was in the 1980s. 

The 80s animal prints were usually focused on big Leopard prints. Often seen on blazers and leotards, it was a design that literally stopped traffic. 

While today’s animal prints come with different colors and subtler prints, these vintage designs are sure to last for a long time. 

Lamé

Lamé is a woven fabric that features thin metallic ribbons. Often available in gold and silver (and sometimes copper), it’s a trend that’s synonymous with 80s opulence.

Lamé is often seen in dressier garments, such as red-carpet gowns. Expectedly so, this trend managed to enter the collective consciousness by being the fabric of choice for prom dresses. 

Today, this 80s trend is also seen in more casual garments. They’re still considered catwalk darlings, with the fabric gracing the runways of designers Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. 

Denims: High-Waisted, Ripped, and Acid Wash

High-waisted, ripped, and acid wash jeans are some of the hottest denim styles today. But did you know that they first gained prominence in the 1980s? 

Thanks to Guess, Levi’s, and Jordache, the women of the 80s had a lot of brands (and designs) to choose from. Many of them sported these 3 designs – which they often paired with a top and jean jacket (or the color-blocked Nike jacket). It’s an ode to the 80s icon that is Madonna, of course! 

Leotards and Bodysuits 

The 80s era is hallmarked by many fashion trends, one of which is the leotard. Popularized by French acrobat Jules Leotard, this one-piece bodysuit enveloped the body from the shoulder to the crotch.

Commonly known today as the bodysuit, leotards became central to the era’s gym-inspired outfits. They’re often found in bright colors, which were then paired with equally vibrant leggings or warmers.

While some view leotards as tacky, they continue to be channeled (although on a more bedazzled note) by celebrities such as Beyonce and Miley Cyrus. 

Also Read: 1987: Jennifer’s Red Off-Shoulder Dress and Spandex Bodysuits…

80s Accessories 

Just as vibrant as the 80s fashion trends are the era’s trademark accessories: 

Large, Funky Neon Earrings

As always, the 80s represented the motto ‘the bigger, the better’. Such is seen in one of its most popular accessories: large, funky earrings. 

Worn with colorful leotards (among many other vibrant things), large neon earrings are often sported with a larger-than-life coif. They’re also paired with many other 80s accessories, such as the ones that will be discussed below. 

While these look good by themselves, the best way to channel these large funky earrings is to pair them with other flashy accessories! 

Also Read: What’s special about statement earrings!…

Pearl Necklaces 

Pearl necklaces are classically timeless. They’re not only a thing of the 80s – they’re trends of the earlier decades as well.

The 80s, however, saw the fad of long, layered necklaces. Thanks to Madonna and other 80s icons,  many women followed heeded the saying ‘the more, the merrier’.

And while pearl necklaces stand well alone, they’re often mixed with chain necklaces and rosaries for a punk look. Again, we have Madonna to thank for this. 

Fingerless Gloves 

Gloves were made to cover your hand (and fingers) from the elements. This purpose, however, is quite the opposite with the 80s fingerless gloves. 

Designed to promote gripping, fingerless gloves were made to another thing – and that is to keep the hands cool. And while it’s often worn by weightlifters, cyclists, rollerbladers, and skateboarders, these gloves – which are usually netted in design – have become more of a fashion accessory in the 1980s.

Plastic Bangles

In the 80s, precious metals weren’t that popular. Instead, many fashion-forward ladies opted to wear the trend of the era: plastic bangles. 

As with most 80s trends, bangles were worn in a ‘the more, the merrier’ fashion. Such a style was popularized by many of the era’s icons, including singers Cyndi Lauper and Madonna.

As they’re greatly inexpensive – and comes in a variety of colors – the plastic bangle trend is one of the cheap yet chic trends to emerge from the 80s. 

Fanny Packs

As with most of the 80s accessories, fanny packs are making a big fashion comeback. Seen on the runways of Gucci and Balenciaga, it’s a stylish must-have for many chic girls.

Fanny packs – which were highly popular in the 80s – can actually trace their lineage back to several millennia ago. Ötzi, the iceman who died 5,000 years ago, was already sporting this sack. 

In true 80s fashion, the fanny packs of the yesteryears were usually bright in color. Black packs were quite famous too, mainly because of the popularity of punk during the era. 

Also Read: The Trends and Fads that Every 80s Kid will Remember

Leg Warmers

As the name suggests, these items are meant to keep your leg warm. 

In the 80s, however, they served more of fashion staples rather than functional accessories.

Often paired with the era’s gym-inspired outfits, leg warmers added color – as if the other items weren’t as vibrant enough as they are. 

And while they’re continually used throughout the decades, the 80s’ love for leg warmers has made them one of the era’s most memorable accessories. 

Also Read: How to Style Leg Warmers to Keep Warm And Look Sexy (Women’s Edition)

80s Shoes 

Just like its accessories, the 80s also paved the way for some of the most iconic vintage shoes: 

Medium-Heeled Pumps

Pump shoes – also known as court shoes – have long been in the fashion circulation. Inspired by 17th-century dress shoes, they have evolved into bowed footwear made with leather or patent leather. 

While pumps come in many heights, the 80s saw the popularity of medium-heeled styles. Although they’re often worn with dressier clothes, they were also featured in punk rock outfits or gym-inspired ensembles. 

Mary-Janes

Similar to medium-heeled pumps, Mary Janes dominated the feet of many 80s women. The shoes’ characteristic strap, after all, gave these retro outfits an innocent, schoolgirl feel.

In true 80s fashion, Mary Janes were often worn with the era’s most vibrant pieces: leotards and leg warmers. While this style philosophy has been changed in recent years, Mary Janes continue to be a classic choice for many women. 

Jellies

The 80s era is known for a lot of things, and jelly shoes prove to be one of them. Also known as jellies, these PVC shoes were all the rage in a time when they could only be bought for a dollar.

While jelly shoes are more expensive now, they continue to be top favorites among many chic women. With their bright shades, they’re perfect for summer or spring. That said, it can be worn during the colder months as well – given that you wear tights or socks underneath. 

Also Read: Incredible 80s Shoe Trends That You Need To Know About (Women’s Edition)

80s Makeup

Just as colorful as its fashion trends are the 80s makeup styles. 

Peacock Eyeshadow

The ladies of the 80s love standing out in colorful outfits. And to match them appropriately, these girls often wore a peacock eyeshadow style.

As the name suggests, this trend is all about peacock colors – blue, green, and purple, to name a few. They’re all about variation, which is why peacock eyes come in varying shades and depths. 

To achieve this look, you need to lay your base color, apply the accent shade – and the blue hues thereafter. 

Smudgy Eyes

Going hand-in-hand with the era’s punk fashion trend is a pair of smudgy eyes. It’s all about looking dark and mischievous, after all. 

Although you can do this by simply rubbing your eyes, it wouldn’t hurt to try a chicer look. All you need to do is follow these MUA-approved steps:

  1. Prime your lids. 
  2. Apply eyeliner along your lower lids. 
  3. Smudge your eyeliner with a cotton swab, small sponge, or pencil brush. 

Also Read: How to do 80s eye makeup…

80s Hairstyle

The 80s is all about going big – and that includes the hair. 

Permed

Perming is all about using chemicals to change hair texture. With this, you can achieve either tight curls or effortless waves.

While the 80s era was all about big tresses, you can still channel this trend in a subtler, modern way. For example, you can have your hair permed to achieve Blake Lively’s beachy tresses. 

Tip: to preserve your permed hair, make sure to air-dry your tresses after washing them. When using a flat iron, make sure to keep the temperature around 300F. 

Teased

As with everything in the 1980s, teased hair is the embodiment of the saying ‘the bigger, the better’. That’s because this process – which is also known as backcombing or ratting – is all about creating volume.

To get 80s teased hair, make sure to focus on volumizing the crown and the roots (instead of the whole thing). This process is pretty much effective for any lady – whether you have thin, wavy, curly, or coarse locks. 

Also Read: How to DIY 80s hairstyles…

80s Fragrance

Apart from looking good, the 80s is all about smelling good. This, of course, was made possible by these top-rated fragrances. 

Calvin Klein Obsession 

Calvin Klein is one of the 80s hottest designers. Many of its products were selling like hotcakes in the era – specifically the Obsession perfume. 

This spicy amber fragrance, which was launched in 1985, was developed by Jean Guichard. Kate Moss – and a tiger – were some of the faces of the perfume.

Obsession features the top notes of vanilla, bergamot, basil, mandarin orange, peach, green notes, and lemon. The base notes, on the other hand, are vetiver, musk, vanilla, amber, and incense. 

Oscar by Oscar De La Renta 

Although this perfume was launched in 1977, it gained worldwide acclaim in the early 1980s. 

Compared to its compatriots, its ad was simple. No celebrity or supermodel – just half the face of a model with the perfume on her pointer finger.

Developed by Jean-Louis, the fragrance features the top notes of iris, ylang-ylang, lavender, tuberose, peach, and basil. 

It also comes with the base notes of patchouli, musk, amber, opoponax, lavender, and sandalwood. 

Yves Saint Laurent Opium 

Launched the same year as Oscar by Oscar de la Renta, this perfume embodied the designer’s fascination with oriental culture. 

Described as intriguing, mysterious, and enchanting, this fragrance features floral, spicy, and woody notes. They include plum, tangerine, lily of the valley, carnation, myrrh, rose, castoreum, sandalwood, and cedarwood. 

The 80s – with its flashy fashion and ‘larger than life’ trends – is an era worth remembering. With their styles making a comeback, it’s time for you to start raiding your mum’s (or nan’s) closet! 

About The Author

May can usually be found reading a magazine and that will be more than likely a fashion or environmental magazine. When not absorbed in the latest gripping articles on fashion or eco living, May is a fashion writer who is passionate about two things fashion (especially 80s) and the environment. May believes in looking and feeling good whilst living an eco friendly lifestyle. In her spare time she loves cooking, playing her guitar and going for country walks. May lives in the UK and enjoys spending time with friends, family and her two adorable cats.

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