Can’t Touch This: Fashion Fads from the 1980’s You Don’t Want to Remember!

The 1980s were ripe for the picking when it comes to bad fads. From boom boxes to Pee Wee Herman to Valley Girl speak, you’ll find reprehensible pop-culture trends in every nook and cranny of this decade. But it’s undeniable that most of the really outrageous fads of the 1980s came from fashion and clothing designers. Here’s the top ten worst 1980s fashion looks on record.

  1. Shoulder Pads: Unfortunately, in the 1980s it was considered attractive for women to look like football players. No matter the age, females sported jackets, sweaters, and even T-shirts (yes, T-shirts) with sewn-in shoulder pads broadening their frames. Was a designer so short-sighted as to not include shoulder pads in their blouses – no problem! A whole sub-industry sprouted up for shoulder pads that could be easily Velcroed inside unfashionable wears. Some theorists point to the fact that the 80s were a decade when women were beginning to really assert themselves in the workplace as an excuse for this God-awful trend.
  2. Fingerless Gloves: One of the more mysterious trends of the 1980s, fingerless gloves were all the rage even among music legends like Billy Idol and Madonna. While Idol preferred his made of leather, Madonna liked to rock the all-lace varietals. The style caught on with the punk crowd and has even been revitalized, albeit in wool knit versions, by the hipsters of late.
  3. Acid Washed Jeans: You were nobody in the 1980s if you didn’t own a pair of acid washed jeans. And hopefully you didn’t embarrass yourself by wearing them without tight rolling the bottom of the legs, unless, of course, you chose a taper-cut pair. Acid washing extended to every denim product made in the 1980s – jackets, skirts, vests, etc. Pair them all together, and you were sure to be the coolest kid in school. The look is created by washing denim in a chemical that took all the dye out of the top layer of the fabric, but left the lower layers dark, creating a splotchy, spotted effect.
  4. Jelly Sandals: A wardrobe staple of the 1980s, jelly sandals were popular among every man, woman, and child, and the brighter the color, the better. Many contemporary fashion designers have resurrected these horrid things, albeit in a slicker format. You have to hand it to one thoughtful blogger, who recently made the astute assessment that Crocs are like the jellies of our time – unexplainable plastic footwear that may feel comfortable, but are uglier than a pair of nurse’s sneakers.
  5. Parachute Pants: The earliest version of these nylon pants were more form-fitting and accented by zippers and various pull-ties. But over time, they morphed into the style MC Hammer made popular, which were eventually termed “Hammer Pants.” People rocking this style looked as if they had fitted an actual parachute to their person, fastening it like you might an oversized diaper. Both styles were mostly popular among breakdancers, hip-hop performers, and Michael Jackson enthusiasts, and they had a good run among the masses. While nylon is still a popular fabric for some garments, thankfully both versions of the parachute pants we know from the 80s have remained dead and gone.
  6. Crimped and Permed Hair: In the 80s, straight hair was for the birds. It was all about crimping and perming. Hair was big and bold, even for some guys. Just think back to those old Poison or Whitesnake music videos. The how-to for hairstyling was pretty simple: tease it to the ceiling and then lacquer it down with as much hairspray as could be mustered without suffocation. And if you had to pull it off your face, a side ponytail was pretty much your only option, lest you wanted to risk social rejection.
  7. Leotards: Like many other 80s fashion items, leotards have made something of a comeback in recent times, but it’s anyone’s guess as to why. While traditionally invented as a garment for exercise, back in the 80s work out gear of all kinds were acceptable worn as regular run-of-the-mill Monday outfits, meaning the leotard was free to double as a shirt paired with jeans (stonewashed, of course), a skirt, or on its own with some requisite legwarmers – why not?! Most recently, the world’s very own queen of the 80s, Madonna, rocked a purple Dolce and Gabbana leotard for her 2006 Grammy’s performance.
  8. Oversized Hair Bows: Again, the world has Madonna to thank for this trend made popular in her video for “Lucky Star”. But regardless of who started it, big, floppy, oversized hair bows were all the rage in the 80s. They usually came attached to a headband or barrette for easy insertion into those big, 80s dos!
  9. Colorful Makeup: Who wore blue and yellow eye shadow, hot pink blusher, purple mascara, and bright red lipstick all at the same time? The ladies of the 80s, of course! While this wild striping of colors has made something of a comeback on fashion runways in recent years, it’s highly unlikely you’ll spot a contemporary person who dares to rock colored mascara. The makeup trend of the 1980s could be likened to war paint – it just shouldn’t be done by anyone, unless the person is culturally obligated to by some ancient tribal law.
  10. Plastic Sunglasses: Sunglasses were not meant to be neutral in the 80s. Take these brightly colored plastic glasses that resemble Venetian blinds, for example. Also, who can forget the Robot glasses made popular by the movie “16 Candles,” which are simply a thin strip of plastic that wraps around the front of the face like a headband.

So the 80’s may or may not have had some questionable fashion statements. But hey, we still love the 80’s and you should too! Show some love to the decade responsible for some of the most unfortunate hair decisions to date!

If you’re trying to stay up to date on modern trends, you should think about designing your own custom shirt at Customized Girl. You’ll be able to add your own text, art, and images, which means you can embrace whatever trends you want, no matter how old, new, or obscure. Also, be sure to check out our custom sweatshirts and custom tank tops!

23 thoughts on “Can’t Touch This: Fashion Fads from the 1980’s You Don’t Want to Remember!

  1. This is so funny. Heather, I too am guilty of some of this mess. And I somehow have amnesia about what we wore then, so I googled it. Now it’s all coming back. I can see why I selectively chose to forget this…

  2. I LOVED the 80’s the shoulder pads I hated I always cut them out. The big hair, colorful eyeshadow and the bright funky clothes, LOVED IT!The dance music was GREAT! I would gladly do it all over again!

  3. Recently the kids at the school I work in have chose ’80’s day for one of it’s dress up fun days ugh the girls have been asking me what I wore and I shudderd to remember. this page has brought it all back!!

  4. I am 18 yrs old born in the last year of the 80’s,89! Seeing my mother dressed in the 1980’s fashion iv been obsessed ever since! Its coming back now! and i love it! 80’s fashion shouldnt be ashamed of! That era is livlier and more fun, than ours now which just is a mimic of the past fashion!

  5. i think 80’s rocked and if i could go back in time thts the time and place i would go

  6. My 10 year old daughter has chosen the 80s theme for her project and has to dress up in the 80s fashion. At first like most of you could not remember what I wore except the shoulder pads. I remember those – awful! And the hair dos I nearly forgot those. Looking at your website I now remember my dreadful wardrobe. But loved the music and the excitement of the 80s.

  7. Ha Ha Ha
    In Dublin guys with spikey upright fringes and mullets is back in fashion, and I’ve seen a few too many guys sprouting rat tails for comfort!

  8. i think in 1980’s the ppl have made a mistake by thinking, if you wear more makeup or if u wear more bright sandals that u will look more HOT!well i must say…i feel then as a big JOKE.hahahahahahahahaha

  9. What can i say about that era other than you had to be their. Loved walking around dressed like Don Johnson, wearing slip on shoes with no socks in the middle of winter, yeh you had to be there to get it.

  10. Do you really think that the styles of this generation are really that much different than those of the 80s? I see the same stuff with a twist…just a little food for thought!!

  11. Love the 80s,the music,the hot fashions(from Spandex to Lace),the women actually looked like women!Hip hop was not #1…….
    Pop and Rock and New Wave were cool.Life was simpler,and our government wasnt ruining everything.

  12. I was born in 88, but I can still remember some of the fashions that rolled over into the early 90’s, like the jellie shoes, I has many! Although I do not like the shoulder pads most of the other stuff I know of and remember I LOVE! I’m really happy to see some of the stuff coming back! I love that people could wear big and poofy colorful skirts, leg warmers, fingerless gloves, ect. All of them I will admit I even wear when I can get away with it now. Face it…if the 80’s was that horrible than why is it coming back? 80’s rocked! Even in the aspect of music..all the 80’s music I heard I like, and rock was the thing…now its hip hop..and that isn’t even music in my opinion…I LOVE the 1980’s!

  13. I think the fashion era was beautiful and fashionable, something exciting and i do agreee with the government how it wasn’t so strict and out of control then. I look up to the 80’s and would enjoy seeing some fashion come back. The 80’s seemed un forgettable and so did the music i mean wow! I love the music and cant get enough of it

  14. Ugh, the 80’s was hideous. I feel sorry for my mom. If we have to bring back a fashion era, how about the 40’s or 50’s? When women looked like women as opposed to quarterbacks. 🙂

  15. Interesting that at least half of these are back in fashion today!
    Kids are wearing big hair bows attached to headbands, they are wearing those robot sunglasses, there are all kinds of plastic shoes, and have you seen the make-up lately? Lot of folks make fun of the 80’s, but I see a lot of resurgence for a decade that so many people laugh and poke fun.

  16. You know it’s a sad day when your 14 year old daughter wants to go dressed up like the 80’s for her Halloween costume! I look back and cringe at the things I wore, but at the time, I thought I was pretty damn cool!

  17. Um… Kir, honey…. You hate the 80s’ fashions but love the ’40s’? Most of the ’80s’ looks were inspired by the ’40s. And, in the ’80s, if you were really cutting edge, you were also working in some great ’50s vintage pieces.

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