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The last years of 1980 were a time of great changes. Skinhead and punk subcultures rose especially in the UK, and the post-punk fashion finally affirmed itself. New music bands, such as The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees, became the most popular fashion icons and inspired an entire generation.
The historical and political situations were also evolving worldwide, and fashion reflected this revolution. For example, tropical clothing became a way to make people aware of the rebellion of young African dandies against the post-decolonisation government’s suppression.
In this article, we have summarised the most popular and iconic trends of late 1980s men’s fashion. This is a good starting point to change or improve your look, as well as to learn more about the history of fashion.
Unleash Your 1980 Fashion Soul!
Those pants were characterised by baggy cuts and were made of nylon. They were also known as hammer pants, due to rapper MC Hammer, who always wore them. The perfect pair of parachute pants must be colourful, and extremely baggy.
Photo by Romwe (Guys Drawstring Waist Harem Pants)
Spiked bracelets were one of the most important features of post-punk fashion in the 1980s. During those years, this subculture met the Gothic style, creating a new look made of dark eyeshadows, black nail varnish, spiked accessories and black clothing.
Photo by EMP (Spikes Bracelet 3-rows)
There’s no better pair of combat boots than Doc Martens. Initially worn by skinheads and those close to the punk subculture, these shoes began popular when several groups, such as The Cure and The Cult, started wearing them for their concerts.
Photo by Asos (Dr. Martens Original 3-eye Shoes in Black)
Men’s business attire became a way to express young people’s power and personalities. Pinstriped suits, in particular, saw a return, along with waistcoats and wide, striped neckties. Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani immediately jumped on this trend with their double-breasted suits.
Photo by Moss Bros. (Moss London Slim Fit Ink Corduroy Double Breasted Suit)
Tropical clothing kept being a huge trend until the very end of the 1980s. in particular, over the last years of this decade, safari jackets and Mao suits were very popular together with the Hawaiian shirts made famous by detective Magnum P.I.
Photo by Brook Taverner (Buttermere Stone Casual Safari Jacket)
Bomber jackets were a huge trend over the whole decade, as a symbol of casual fashion. They looked and still look good with a pair of comfy sneakers and some jeans or cargo pants. In other words, they are the perfect addition to any look.
Photo by Boda Skins (Boda Varsity)
Chunky Gold Chains
Rappers and hip-hop artists rose in popularity over the last years of the decade, thanks to the success of singers like the Bestie Boys and N.W.A. The result was that many young people wore baggy clothes, oversized jackets and chunky gold chains.
Photo by Craft London (Cuban Gold 8 mm)
Although preppy fashion was more prominent over the first half of the 1980s, polo shirts and sweaters never left the spotlight. They perfectly met the new trend which promoted the use of bright or pastel colours for clothing.
Photo by John Lewis (Maison Labiche Octopus Polo Shirt)
Glasses impose themselves as the best accessories of the 1980s. In the late 80s, glasses with bright coloured tortoise-shells became very popular, since they were the signature look of many celebrities and fashion icons.
Photo by Trendhim (Paul Riley Classroom Tortoise Shell Glasses)
Watches with Roman Numerals
In contrast with the ultra-minimal watches which were popular in the first half of the decade, in the late 80s men rediscovered the charm of vintage watches, with Roman numerals. These were characterised by a sleek and elegant design.
Photo by Hollis and Hollinshead (Sekonda Brown Croco Style Leather Strap Men’s Watch)
Two Watches Is Better Than One
Young people fell in love with plastic Swatch watches in the mid-1980s. These pieces were colourful, vibrant, indestructible and, more importantly, cheap. For this reason, teens often wore two or three of these watches on the same arm.
Photo by Swatch (Urban Blue)
Also known as bangles, these bracelets were worn by men and women to represent their status symbol. Men usually wore many pieces of jewellery on the same wrist, and the number of bangles worn by an individual was a symbol of their wealth and power.
Photo by Trendhim (Fort Tempus Silver Tone Cuff Bracelet)
Heavy metal fans would often wear acid-washed jeans and a denim jacket until this trend became popular among both sexes. This piece of clothing was soon adopted by other subcultures, including punk and gothic fashions.
Photo by Zaful (Zipper Fly Acid Wash Tapered Jeans)
It was the late 80s when visual kei, the Japanese equivalent of glam metal, spread worldwide. This introduced new styles, made of androgynous looks, Geisha-inspired makeups, tall boots and long, leather coats for both men and women.
Photo by Asos (Asos Design Leather Single Breasted Trench Coat in Black)
David Bowie launched a new lifestyle, followed by fashion designers like Vivienne Westwood. This new style made new pieces of clothing iconic, such as hussar jackets, silk dresses, tight pants, and tailcoats.
Photo by Amazon (DARK REBELS Men Hussar Napoleonic Military Parade Jacket)
The skater subculture first arose in the mid-80s, and in the late years of the decade finally became more prominent. Checkered wristbands, baggy pants, striped socks and psychedelic T-shirts were only a few of the pieces worn by skater boys.
Photo by Asos (Vans Slip-On Checkerboard Plimsolls in Black)
Throughout the last year of the 1980s, punk fashion was still very popular among young people, who were listening to The Sex Pistols and Guns N’ Roses. The result was the pin shirts became very popular among young men.
Photo by Zaful (Demon Pattern Short Sleeve Shirt in Pink Rose)