The History of Fashion: 1980 - 1990
The 80s was the decade of excess. Everything was bigger, and everyone wanted more more more! More was better....wasn't it? Shoulder pads were de riguer for both men and women, the more accessories the better. And hair; well, again BIG was IT!
Before "Friends" ruled television, "The Cosby Show" and "Family Ties" gave us a reason to tune in on Thursday nights; Gary Coleman asked Willis what he was talking about and every girl wanted Don Johnson from Miami Vice (not to mention, every guy wanted his outfits). The video revolution changed everything as well. Coinciding with the new wave movement, music television and MTV added a whole new dimension to music as an artform. The visuals that these videos presented to their audiences was intoxicating and added to their mystery, rather than dispelling it. The fashion, the make-up, the narrative of videos made even the most insignificant of bands look larger-than-life and had the fashion world in a frenzy.
In between 1980 and 1990 were 10 years worth of great movies, bad movies, good TV and bad TV sitcoms; and of course famous characters and infamous fads (Rubik cube and Cabbage Patch dolls to name two). And lots of stuff you could dance to.
The 80s music scene instantly brings to mind the decade's two icons: Michael Jackson and Madonna, the Material Girl. Jackson had nine No. 1 singles in the 80s which totalled 31 weeks at the top spot. In addition to his solo hits “Rock With You,” “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Way You Make Me Feel,” “Dirty Diana,” “Bad,” and “Man in the Mirror,” Jackson topped the charts with his collaborations on the “We Are The World” effort by USA For Africa and his duet with former Beatle Paul McCartney on “Say, Say, Say.”
Madonna was Michael Jackson’s female counterpart of the decade. Though not able to boast as many No. 1 singles as Jackson - Madonna charted seven No. 1s in the 80s, topping the charts overall for 15 weeks - her influence changed a generation, and arguably, the music industry forever.
Madonna Louise Ciccone burst onto the scene clad in yards of lace, beads, crosses and the infamous Boy Toy belt, singing about such taboos as virginity and unwed mothers. She was like the Pied Piper of music for a gazillion wannabes who bleached their hair, donned lace tops and wore short skirts over capri pants. From her early dance hits like “Everybody,” Madonna morphed into a soulful diva with “Live to Tell.” In between she bombarded the public with a whirlwind of acting gigs, romances (note her marriage to Sean Penn) and somehow implanted herself firmly in the hearts and pocketbooks of American consumers. And her impact on fashion was indisputable.
From her wildly teased and colored hair to the return of lace and fishnet stockings, Madonna WAS The Material Girl and bragged about it to no end. Her accessories were over the top chic, and girls around the world were Madonna-wannabes even going so far as to add her trademark mole to their cheeks.
But Madonna's wasn't the only hairstyle that was copied. Hair styles of the 80s are the most diverse and humorous characteristics of this decade. In the early 80s, the New Romantic fashions kicked off the decade with great hair experimentation. For a while there seemed to be a competition to see who could build the tallest hair, have the strangest angles, or see much plastic, metal and mousse you could fit into your hair and still keep your head upright.
Big hair is not unique to the 80s - the 60s had the beehive and the 70s had the afro. What set the 80s hair styles apart was their diversity. The start of the decade saw the extravagance of strange hair colours and cuts. By 1984 the trends had settled and focused on one simple concept - volume. More hair was better. Bananarama had some of best examples of 80s hair, reflecting the fashions of the decade from cut style to volume. The 'Hair Bands' of the 1980s applied this style in a big way, strongest around 1987-88. Bands like Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Def Leppard and Poison truly epitomized the 'bigger is better' adage.
By 87-88, the 70s started to return and it was suddenly OK to have a retro look. You could even have short hair provided it was bleached, dyed a bright color or spiked in an unusual way with hair gel. The synthpop band Flock of Seagulls showed just how unique this trend was. Many accessories were available to assist with this process - you could tease your hair and stick it up with mousse. Some mousse even contained glitter or other sparkle pieces to give your hair 'extra interest and individuality'. If you think shampoo stings, try getting glitter mousse in your eyes - a common occurrence as some brands tended to flake.
Asymmetrical haircuts were the most popular around 1985-1988. Hair was cut short beginning with the bangs and increasing in length around the head until it came to somewhat of a diagonal point on the other side. Or the hair was really short on one side and a longer length in back and on the other side. (See England's popular band The Human League for a great example)
And who could forget the mullet? Guys the world round wore a similar style to the asymmetrical haircut, except that the top and sides were short (and usually cut around the ears), then dropped off in the back to a longer 'shag' style. Occasionally on the wilder new wave guys, this style was adapted so that the longer back was tightly wound or braided into a rat tail (even some wilder new wave chicks daringly wore this style!)
In or around 1984, guys discovered the parachute pant. Parachute pants were fairly tight nylon pants with zippered patch pockets, the usual 2 front + 2 back, plus one or two on each leg with zippered ankles. Rapper MC Hammer took this pants style to the extreme with his loose, long crotch, and ultra baggy pants in a wild range of materials and colors. Like the popular harem pants, Hammer pants were worn by few but admired by many.
By 1987 both sexes were wearing the all important acid washed jeans. Acid wash was a chemical processed denim that stripped the top layer of color off to a white surface with the undertones of navy blue remaining in the jeans. And not only jeans were acid washed; if you were truly fashionable, you also had an acid washed denim jacket that matched said jeans. While blue was the most popular color of acid wash, in the late 80s denim manufacturers also experimented with red styles and black (black and gold acid wash was truly jaw dropping!)