80S FASHION FOR MEN

by Mark Nobes, chief editor

For this post, I would like to share with you my personal experience with eighties clothes, which is actually pretty amusing, it has to be said!

So I have to admit, I wasn't the most fashion conscious person in the 80s, and I became rather confused by all of the loud clothing styles that were around at the time - subtlety just wasn't an option back in the eighties!

Blue Jeans and Chinos

Levis jeans (particularly 501's) became hugely popular during the 80s following a succession of adverts, one of which featured the late Nick Kamen. I remember that wearing adidas trainers with stonewashed Levi’s jeans was popular for a time. There were even Levi's clothese stores popping up in town centres across the UK, such was their popularity. Eventually cheaper, alternative brands started taking over, with Levi Strauss pprofits falling quite sharply.
Now, I did buy a pair of chinos in the late 80s when they came back in to fashion (it's highly possible that they didn't come back into fashion, especially if I was wearing them), but I do remember Holly Johnson singing about "Americanos, blue jeans and chinos", and Fosters displaying them them in their shop window - whatever happened to Fosters?
Chinos worn with tweed jackets became a short-lived trend later on in the decade.
Man wearing an oversized suit with rolled up jacket sleeves and pleated trousers in the 1980s

A 1980s man wearing a Miami Vice style oversized suit with rolled-up jacket sleeves and pleated trousers.

Men's Suits in the 80s

There are three suit trends that I distinctly remember and these were chequered suits, fleck suits and over-sized suits.
Around the mid 80s, chequered suits became hugely popular, and I remember buying one around 1985. The trousers had turn-ups which were also very popular. Over-sized suits with pleated trousers also became popular, as worn by Don Johnson (Sonny Crockett) in Miami Vice, who also made pastel shaded popular,
Ties became wider and flecked suits with turned-up legs became popular later on in the decade - I used to wear one whenever I went nightclubbing. I really enjoyed dressing smartly, and men definitely looked a lot smarter in the clubs back in the eighties (in my part of England, at least!) and you just couldn't get past the bouncer if you were looking scruffy or wearing trainers. The rules seemed to be relaxed as we moved on into the 90s, though.
Even though I much prefer a more comfortable and casual look, somehow, I never managed to achieve it in the 80s. In fact, for some reason I always seemed to end up with the complete opposite. For instance, I decided to ask my parents to buy me a pair of white shoes when I was about 14 years old. I decided not to go for the white or pastel suit, and so I looked far from from casual wearing white shoes with jeans. In fact, I probably looked a right prat, and looking back, it was definitely the worst choice of footwear for someone trying to blend in with the crowd - teenagers, huh?
Well, that was just one of many fashion disasters I brought upon myself during the eighties. Why on earth did I think that I was going to look cool in a pair of white shoes with jeans? And besides, I used to get into a right mess with the bottle of white, liquid polish which never really seemed to dry properly - the leg bottoms of my jeans were eventually covered in white stains, which not a good look!

Well, you can't blame me for sticking to more run-of-the-mill attire these days - I think it's safer that way.

I do remember many of my friends suddenly starting to boast about the fact that they were wearing Boxer shorts in the late 80's. An old school friend who had started a market stall tried to sell me a job lot, but I wasn't having any of it. I couldn't stand the things back then, and I still won't go near them today.  What is the point of them anyway? They don't hold anything in place!  

And while I'm on the subject, why is it so hard to buy a decent pair of Y fronts these days? You used to be able to walk into Marks & Spencer and buy a superb pair of pants with decent elastic. These days, they all seem to be loose around the crotch area. 

80s Slogan T-shirts

During the mid 1980s, it was impossible to go anywhere without seeing someone wearing an oversized, 80s slogan T-shirt. The trend was started by the fashion designer Katharine Hamnett, who designed many political tees including the iconic Choose Life T-shirt that was worn by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley in the Wham! video for "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go". The backing singers (including Pepsi and Shirlie) wore T-shirts with "Go-go" displayed on them.
But it didn't stop there! These were soon followed by the Frankie Say Relax T-shirt. Frankie actually said a lot of things during 1984, including Frankie Say War (Hide Yourself!) and Frankie Say Arm The Unemployed. I also remember the very amusing I Couldn't Give Two Shits What Frankie Says T-shirts which were being sold on the local market stalls.
DJ Steve Wright in the 1980's wearing big glasses

Over-sized Aviator Spectacles

Here we have a typical 80's fashion look. BBC Radio One DJ Steve Wright in 1985 wearing the popular striped shirt with white collar, skinny tie and BIG aviator spectacles! I didn't need glasses at the time, so I can't share my experience of wearing them, although I did buy some cheap mirror lens aviator shades which were all the rage.

Neither did I wear one of those stripy shirts with the white collar, but I did own a shirt in the late eighties with thick blue and white stripes which seemed to be popular at the time.
1983 Bugle Boy Parachute Pants

Parachute Pants

These voluminous pants were worn by breakdancers and rappers (such as MC Hammer) in the second half of the 80s. However, the original parachute pants from the late 70s and early 80s were made of nylon and a lot tighter, with a ridiculous number of zips.

Overalls / Dungarees

In complete contrast to all of the glamorous styles of the eighties, looking like a mechanic (who all seem to pretentiously label themselves as technicians these days) was another odd trend that reared its ugly head during the eighties. Bananarama did just that for their Cruel Summer single in 1983.

However, before this in 1982 Dexy's Midnight Runners introduced us to their new Irish Gypsy look (which included dungarees) and a new sound to accompany it.


It seems that donning a pair of overalls becomes trendy at some point in every decade, probably when the wearer has totally run out of fashion ideas.
Dexys Midnight Runners in 1982
Adam Ant Prince Charming
Adam Ant combined new romanticism with 16th century pirate fashion to create an individualistic and iconic 80s style. You can read more about the new romantics on the main 80s fashion page.
These bookmarks show four different styles adopted by 80s fashion pioneer Adam Ant.
Mens 80's Fashion - Members Only Jacket

Members Only Jackets

The Members Only brand was actually created in the mid 1970s. The jacket was launched in 1981 with the advertising slogan "when you put it on, something happens". Well yes, you became a little warmer, so they weren't lying.

The jackets were available in many colours and if you didn't own one then you made to feel worthless by annoying trend-setters. Personally, I much preferred a comfortable Parka myself. The brand is still going strong and is popular with certain "celebrities".

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