Things You Wore If You Grew Up in the ’80s

The term “’80s fashion” evokes immediate flashbacks to all of the crazy outfits we used to wear, as MTV megastars from Madonna to Michael Jackson influenced our wild styles from head to toe. From neon colors and sky-high bangs to Ray-Bans and Swatch watches, read on for a flashback to your childhood wardrobe.


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Who can forget Olivia Newton John’s 1981 hit song “Let’s Get Physical?” Of course, we all had to imitate her exercise ensemble: complete with headband, lycra pants and leotard and leg warmers. Bonus points if it all matched like Morgan Fairchild’s outfit above.

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We didn’t care what time it was, but we had to score as many colorful Swatch watches as possible. Remember those little rubber Swatch guards we used to adhere to the face so it wouldn’t get scratched? A total must-have.

Rich Orris via flickr

Sneakers would never be the same once Air Jordans made their debut in the mid-’80s. Bearing Michael Jordan’s namesake, these basketball shoes became coveted footwear.

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Crockett and Tubbs on Miami Vice were the first to wear a blazer over a T-shirt, making pastels and ridiculously bright colors look good in a cool, business casual way. Then the trend was totally sealed by Zack Morris and A.C. Slater on Saved by the Bell.

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When Tom Cruise wore Ray-Bans in 1983’s Risky Business, the sunglasses would forever be equated with movie star status. Cruise made the shades even more popular when he wore them as Maverick in Top Gun in 1986. The iconic eyewear is still at the height of fashion today.

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Madonna really did “Dress You Up” as her hit song title said … in arms full of as many rubber bracelets as you could stack––preferably paired with fingerless gloves and a lace blouse.

Neon Colors

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Dressing up in the era of Rainbow Brite meant wearing fluorescent colors as often as possible. Neon green, pink, orange and yellow on bike shorts, lace tops, leggings and accessories were the unofficial dress code.

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When you got tired of wearing scrunchies, banana hair clips were a refreshing alternative. They somehow made your hair look longer too.

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Ah, there’s nothing like slipping your feet into colorful and glittery … PVC plastic!? Jelly shoes weren’t at all comfortable, but they were cheap and cheerful and totally on trend in the ’80s.

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Raise your free hands if you wish fanny packs were back in style (They kinda actually are). But today’s version pales in comparison to the acid wash fanny pack of yesteryear. Just one more reason to totally miss the ’80s.

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T-shirt too big? There’s a clip for that. We loved cinching our tees into a handy clip on one hip to look really rad. 

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Remember trying to tease your hair and bangs and spray them solidly into place so they even slightly resembled the mighty manes of Alyssa Milano, Candace Cameron or Sarah Jessica Parker? We do. We also remember getting perms and crimping our hair!

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We would have been lost without our roller skates and Scrunchi socks or leg warmers. Skating around while listening to Pat Benatar tunes roaring out of the boom box was what childhood dreams were made of.

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Whether you ran with the “in” crowd or not, this jacket made you feel super cool and exclusive with its “Members Only” label. The jacket’s ad also promised: “When you put it on, something happens.” Fabulous.

What’s your favorite fashion from the 80s? Share in the comments!

––Beth Shea

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