Retrocon 2024

8 Clothing Trends That Defined '80s Fashion

When people reflect on the eighties, words such as bright neon, shoulder pads, perms, and big statement jewelry pieces often come to mind. In a nutshell, eighties fashion was loud and proud.

A few reigning factors responsible for the rise of eighties fashion include the following:

  • Influential TV shows and movies such as Dynasty, Miami Vice, Dallas, and rom-com Valley Girl which spurred on eighties trends.
  • Dance music heavily influenced fashion as the public followed icons such as Boy George, Prince, Michael Jackson, and Annie Lennox's style.
  • Prolific celebrities such as Madonna and Princess Diana's fashion was mediated, adored, and replicated by the masses.
The idea for many subcategories of 80s fashion trends was to look expensive and fearless. Other well-known subcultures of eighties fashion included grunge, hip hop, and punk fashion.

With an understanding of how these fashion trends emerged, here are a few of the defining characteristics of garments that almost everyone was sporting.

On reading, you'll more than likely get a hint of nostalgia, or at least find items your parents, or grandparents wore or remember during the time.

To begin your trip down the eighties memory lane of fashion, we start with neon.


To represent the influence of popular movies and shows coupled with highlighting the optimism of the decade, fluorescent colors became an inescapable color in clothing stores.


Influenced by hip hop in the eighties such as Run DMC and the Beastie Boys, vibrant tracksuits evolved as a popular choice for many.

The outsits were oversized, and often striking in colors, featuring neon pinks, deep purples, and aqua fluorescents.

Double Denim

While this trend is often linked to the nineties, double denim emerged years before this in the seventies and eighties.

Wearing double denim in matching shades, was the go-to look. The key was to pair an oversized jacket with figure-hugging jeans.

Leather Jackets

As punk rock started to take off in the eighties, the popularity of leather jackets soared during this decade. To complete the look, people would pair their jackets with ripped jeans or an all-black ensemble

Power Suit

Typically created for and worn by women, the power suit was a reflection of a man's business suit - but arguably better!

The suit demonstrated a shift in societal norms, as women fought to work their way up the corporate ladder and compete with their masculine counterparts.

Power suits changed a woman's curvy silhouette, to a formal masculine appearance.

Designer Armani drove the iconic outfit forward and exaggerated the power suit silhouette by including thick fabrics, shoulder pads, and large lapels. The idea of the suit was to enable women to command respect and authority in the workplace and break sexual stereotypes.

Leg Warmers

As the popularity of athletic wear for more than working outgrew, garments such as tracksuits mentioned above, and leg warmers became casual everyday wear for people in the eighties.

Ting Him Mak from Hong Kong, China, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

High-Top Sneakers

The eighties were a great time for sneaker companies creating high-tops, such as Nike air Jordans, Reebok Freestyles, and Converse with Chuck Taylor lace-ups

Oversized Sweater

Sported by celebrities like David Bowie, Molly Ringwald and Michael Kaine the oversized jumper was all the rage in the eighties. And there was a type to suit every intended style. From sophisticated turtlenecks to flamboyant graphic sweaters, to oversized sweaters.

This fashion garment was largely appreciated in the winter months.

The eighties are a decade that stands out from the rest. It's the decade people associate most with style, a reminiscence of which continues to live on today. For instance, double denim is a retuning trend, and leather jackets have earned a status as a timeless piece.

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