They may have been acceptable in the 80s, but they sure as hell aren’t acceptable now. They’re the five biggest fashion crimes of the 80s – which was itself just one long crime against fashion, from beginning to end. Anyone who was alive during the late 1980s will surely remember it as one of the worst-dressed decades ever – unless, of course, you’ve managed to repress the memory, in which case, good for you, and I wish I could. Here’s our round-up of the worst of 80s fashion.
1. Shell suits
Perhaps the biggest fashion crime EVER, never mind just the 80s, the shell suit will go down in history as the sartorial equivalent of that dodgy one-night-stand you still can’t quite believe you let yourself in for. Why did people wear them? Why did no one ever take a long hard look in the mirror one day and say, “Hey! I look like a complete tool! The hell with this!” Well, maybe they did, who knows. Of all of the things there are to hate about shell suits (and there are lots of things to hate about shell suits) perhaps the most inexplicable was the fact that the gaudier and uglier they were, the more coveted they would become. We were a nation of lunatics, all competing to own the fugliest shellsuit in all the land. What happened to us?!
2. Acid wash denim
I think the picture says it all, no? This was a decade in which the “double denim” look wasn’t just acceptable – it was actually encouraged. And whether you went for the “denim jacket and jeans” look or the “denim jacket and denim skirt” version, it mattered not – all that mattered was the denim in question had to be acid-washed. They called it Acieeeed, and they loved it. In fact, they loved it so much that they wore it from head to toe, day in, day day out. Bonus points if your acid wash jeans had little fiddly zips on the bottom or – in the case of younger members of society – cartoons painted on the legs. For reasons that still elude me to this day, Flintstones motifs were the most popular. Why? I have no idea – and given that people were walking around in shell suits, I think the Flintstones are probably the least of our worries here, don’t you?
3. Neon ankle socks
Neon ankle socks arrived around 1988/1989 and only the brightest, most obnoxious neon colours would do. Snot green. Puke yellow. Basically, if it was a colour so bright is was guarenteed to go with absolutely NOTHING (and trust me, that applied to all of the neon sock colours), why, you would wear it on your feet, of course! Here’s the thing, though: it wasn’t enough to wear just one colour of sock. No, you had to wear TWO DIFFERENT COLOURS at once – one on each foot. So you’d have a green sock and a yellow sock, or – if you really wanted to clash – a pink sock and an orange sock. You’d wear these with your acid wash jeans, which you’d roll up just far enough to look stupid, and to reveal those all-important socks which would flash jauntily in and out of your line of vision as you walked. You’d be wild and kerrazy, and the envy of all your friends. Except, not really.
4. Huge shoulder pads
Part of the power-dressing trend (which in itself just sounds all kinds of wrong, doesn’t it?), huge shoulder pads were considered the very epitome of 80s chic, but then, given the kind of things they were up against, that’s not really much of an accolade. Worn on everything from jackets to dresses and from shirts to t-shirts (gotta power-dress at the gym too, you know) they were popularised by TV shows like Dallas and Dynasty and made everyone look like a football player in drag. They’re rumoured to be making a comeback, too – watch this space.
5. Pre-creased shirts
I couldn’t find a picture of one of these, but I’m guessing you can probably all imagine a really badly creased shirt, right? Now imagine wearing it, and thinking you looked cool. That was the 80s for ya…
Were you alive in the 80s? What fashion crimes do you remember?