Comfortable and Furious

Decade of style: 80’s iconic style timeline

The 1980s is perhaps one of the most iconic eras in fashion history, clothes were designed and worn to make big statements and enable self-expression. The 80s was a time for innovation and experimentation. Fashionistas were not afraid to push boundaries and step outside of cultural fashion norms. This resulted in one of the most fashionable decades that remains fashion phenomenon.

From the punk rock and electric style sported by the likes of Boy George and Cyndi Lauper to the vibrant statement power suits favored by Madonna and the late Princess Diana, this decade had many memorable styles and fashion icons.

We take a look at the era’s eclectic mix of styles and the trends that continue to inspire both designers and fashion enthusiasts today:

Preppy style

The early part of the 1980s saw a reassurance in preppy clothing, also known as ivy league style, as it emulates the style of young people off to college. The brand J.Press was particularly popular at this time and they eventually set up storefronts at major ivy league universities, including Havard, Princeton and Yale.

The main characteristics of preppy style included button down and polo shirts, structured blazers, and sweaters that were usually draped around the wearer’s shoulders. This trend led to the rise of the Ralph Lauren brand with its pastel-colored polo shirts and neutral tone slacks.

Brook Shields was a fan of the preppy look and one of her most memorable outfits consisted of a bright pink polo shirt with a yellow sweater draped on the top.

Punk rock

New Wave and punk is another style that boomed in the early part of the decade. First emerging in the 1970s, punk rockers were known for their leather jackets, ripped distressed denim, and clipped on safety pins. Fishnet tights and big hair styles were also a big part of the look.

Singer and celebrity Kim Wilde was a fan of leather and dark thick eyeliner, while WHAM singer George Michael is one of the biggest icons from the decade and wore ripped jeans, white t-shirts and leathers.

Adam Ant made guyliner popular and mixed punk rock outfits with influences from military style for a very unique and memorable look. Boy George saw punk fashion as an art and dressed ready for a party.

Hip hop         

Hip hop and streetwear were developed in New York but saw prominence and international recognition emerge in the 1980s. The style is synonymous with oversized clothes, baggy ripped jeans and graphic t-shirt designs. This was a staple look for hip hop artists and help ed them express themselves through more than their lyrics.

The Adidas tracksuit set was made popular by 80s stars Run DMC and was celebrated in the track My Adidas, similarly LL Cool J was famous for his love of tracksuits. Salt-N-Pepa were also hip-hop icons with their asymmetric hair, statement accessories and vibrant bold outfit choices.

Sports brands like Nike capitalized on the relaxed hip hop style and became the main sellers of the streetwear style. They continue to be one of today’s most popular retailers  for this attire and they continue to stay on trend.

Power dressing

Power dressing is very much a thing of the 1980s. Inspirational women such as Madonna and Princess Diana embodied the trend with sharp blazers, padded shoulders, and high waisted trousers.

This style was a staple look throughout the 80’s. It embodied independence and strength meanwhile looking high fashion especially at a time when women were becoming a bigger part of the workforce. Power dressing was all about creating confidence and assertiveness in women’s fashion. These fashion items were symbols of empowerment in the workplace.

Rock chic

From the middle of the decade, rock bands like Guns N Roses helped to make rock chic popular. Rockers are known to be lovers of leather and faux leather; they often paired their leather jackets with bold metallics and animal prints. Studded accessories and tight jeans were also part of the trend.

Neon and techno

Towards the end of the decade came the neon and techno looks. Echoing rave culture and dance music, the style was futuristic and consisted of lots of neon designs, geometric patterns and metallics. Grace Jones was a big fan of this aesthetic which is why Graces music such as ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ remains a staple from this decade alongside her iconic 80s style.

The 80’s altered the fashion industry forever. The styles are constantly reappearing within modern fashion trends and the looks are just as when they first developed within the 80s. Whether fashion will ever be as iconic as the 80s, will always be up for debate. However the music and films from this time will always inspire future generations as ‘The breakfast club’ has and ‘Scarface’ has. Many of these styles can be seen within the recent trends in 2024.






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