Men’s fashion in the ’80s had no limits and how guys dressed during the decade reflected this luxury and excess. Influenced by pop, rock, and hip-hop music, the 1980s was a time of iconic fashion trends that embraced bold designs and over-the-top style, making the ’80s possibly the most distinct era in fashion history. From denim jeans to tracksuits and white sneakers to gold chains, ’80s outfits stood out in a crowd and embraced a gaudy aesthetic. Unique and trendy in the moment, ’80s men’s clothing was all about pushing the boundaries with loud patterns, bright colors, and edgy pieces from designer brands like Ralph Lauren, Prada and Hugo Boss.
While these styles have lost much of their expressive power and glamour, ‘80s fashion has resurfaced and the best trends are making a comeback. For inspiration and outfit ideas, we’ve compiled a guide to ’80s fashion for men. Whether you are researching ’80s styles to find ways to rock a retro look or just researching what to wear to a ’80s theme party, this list of memorable clothes and trends will help you pull off the right vibe.
- 1 What Did Men Wear in the ’80s
- 2 80s Fashion Trends
- 3 80s Outfits For Men
- 4 ‘80s Men’s Hair
- 5 ‘80s Fashion Icons
- 6 ‘80s Fashion For Boys
- 7 Shopping For ’80s Style Men’s Clothing
What Did Men Wear in the ’80s
It seems like everyone has a feeling about the ’80s. Whether you love the look or think it’s just too much, there’s no denying that ‘80s fashion trends for men and boys were bold, unique, and unlike anything that had come before. While women were rocking side ponytails and bright blue eyeshadow, men were having a moment of their own. Outfits were colorful, outrageous and excessive, in many cases flaunting wealth and success.
The most popular outfits in the ’80s truly defined the era. Men would wear anything from suits with turtlenecks, black dress shoes and slicked back hair to ripped jeans with biker jackets, boots, and longer flowing hairstyles. Your profession, interests and lifestyle strongly influenced your attire.
Dad jeans, denim jackets, polo shirts, oversized sweaters, short shorts, tight t-shirts and slogan shirts were common across the board. Guys in the rock and punk scene would wear Doc Martens and Converse sneakers, while business professionals dressed in loafers and the cool kids favored white sneakers and high tops.
As brands and designers begin to bring back the aesthetic of the 80s, guys may want to consider shopping for these cool retro pieces. If you’re ready to embrace the style, let’s explore the most iconic 1980s men’s fashion trends and outfits to know about.
80s Fashion Trends
‘80s Casual Fashion
Recreating ‘80s casual fashion is pretty easy since it emphasizes comfort-cool styles that you can mix-and-match from what’s on the rack today. For starters, ’80s dad fashion was popular and epitomized the casual style of the era. A typical dad outfit consisted of loose jeans with a denim jacket to match and a t-shirt on top. Bold statement outerwear like brightly-colored sweaters, bomber jackets, or color block windbreakers will help you achieve maximum ‘80s casual. To finish the look, you’ll want to wear white sneakers as the perfect casual shoe. For a more smart or business casual aesthetic, some men even wore brown or black loafers with khaki pants or slacks.
‘80s Hip Hop Fashion
A lot of 1980s fashion was borne out of the hip hop music and culture of the time. Influenced by popular groups and artists such as Run-DMC, NWA, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, and LL Cool J, the looks often included baggy pants and elements of sportswear that would lead to modern-day street styles. These types of clothing also served the purpose of being easier to dance and move in, which led to the success of staple pieces like hammer pants, popularized by MC Hammer.
‘80s Preppy Fashion
Surprisingly, there was a certain amount of crossover between hip hop fashion and preppy fashion in the ‘80s. Although they differed in some key ways, hip hop fashion used elements of prep – particularly from brands like Tommy Hilfiger and their ubiquitous Polo look – to capture that aspirational and exclusive feel. However, the 1980s preppy trend largely emphasized lighter and brighter colors than hip hop. Achieving the look today is easy with pink, yellow, or navy polo shirts, a pair of slacks or khakis, and a sweater as an accessory, rather than use.
‘80s Workout Fashion
Modern fans of athleisure wear have the 1980s to thank for yoga pants and casual tank tops. Due to the increasing popularity of gym culture at the time, athletic brands were developed and expanded, leading to men’s basic sweatpants, tracksuits, and trainers. The style is as comfy and cool today as it was when it first hit the Sears catalog.
‘80s Summer Fashion
While ‘80s summer fashion for men took a lot of its cues from preppy styles, with bright colors for shirts and pants, you could also expect to find short shorts and crop tops that would keep you feeling and looking cool on the hottest summer days. Iconic and stylish, these summer styles are still in play in modern menswear.
‘80s Rock Fashion
The ‘80s rock fashion took accessories, hair, and attitude to the next level. Big hairstyles were a key element of the rock fashion look, but the style also included leather jackets, boots, headbands, faded and ripped jeans, and lots of silver studs.
‘80s Punk Fashion For Men
While you can purchase a lot of punk accessories in mainstream stores today, punk was initially an anti-establishment, anti-capitalist movement and the fashion reflected that. Clothes were DIY with safety pins, spikes, and chains. Although hairstyles like dyed mohawks and pixie cuts were bold and impossible to miss, these haircut styles were part of the punk ideology that countered the mainstream and fought against consumer culture.
80s Outfits For Men
The 1980s were known for their shoulder pads, and there’s no place where the broad-shouldered, geometric look is more apparent than in the men’s suit. Nothing in this decade was subtle, so these suits were often pin-striped or patterned and bold in color. They could be paired with anything from tees to suspenders for an office or going-out look.
The 1980s were all about the bold, brightly colored abstract patterns. Whether you were dressing for work or heading out on the town, men’s shirts in the ‘80s made a statement. To match the suits, you could find professional wear in pinstripes or other patterns, and polo shirts were also a wardrobe staple.
Branded logo t-shirts were in vogue during this era, and companies like Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and Gucci were famous for capitalizing on this trend. Further, t-shirts came with brand names, slogans, prints, or sports team names. In addition to the classic t-shirt shape, crop tops with logos were popular in men’s fashion, as well as multi-colored baseball tees. Lastly, band tees were common since several new music genres popped up.
You just can’t talk ‘80s men’s fashion without talking dad jeans. Traditionally, they came in a very light acid-wash, and the style was high on the waist and either tapered or rolled at the ankle. This was to ensure your shoes (often high-tops) were prominently displayed.
There’s a 1980s jacket style for every man. If you like leather jackets, denim jackets, or bomber jackets, you’re in luck. But the main star of the decade, when it came to outerwear, was the windbreaker. Breakers came in bright, block colors and abstract patterns, and these pants were made of a type of parachute material that really did look great in neon.
’80s Baggy Jumpers
While the chunky sweater is back in style, the 1980s started the baggy jumper trend for men and women alike. These oversized, loose sweaters were adorned with bright, contrasting colors and patterns, and often had unique designs that stood out. Ideally paired with jeans, chinos or joggers, guys can style a baggy sweater in a modern outfit for a cool throwback look.
’80s Bomber Jackets
Bomber jackets have been cool since they were first invented in World War I, and although they’ve undergone many changes, this type of jacket has never gone out of style. Some guys go for a truly classic bomber jacket look, which is based on military fashion, while others prefer a preppy and more slim-fitting cut. There were even unique bomber jackets with floral patterns, animal prints, and sequined styles.
The tracksuit has come a long way since it became a true fashion trend, but there’s something to be said about the colorful, comfortable, and unique look of ‘80s men’s tracksuits. Similar to windbreakers, they came in a parachute material and were often neon, with bright block contrasts.
’80s Double Denim
Also known as denim on denim, double denim was a popular men’s style in the ‘80s. All the most famous Hollywood stars were rocking denim jeans with a denim jacket. The best way to wear double denim is to match dark jeans with a light denim top, but guys can pull off any combination of denim with the right pieces.
’80s Leather Jackets
The leather jacket was the uniform of the bad boy in the 1980s, and it’s not hard to see why. While they’re much more mainstream now, the cool factor of leather jackets was derived from their use in motorcycle clubs, punk scenes, and heavy metal bands. Leather jackets never have and never will go out of style.
’80s High Top Sneakers
High top sneakers weren’t just a milestone in fashion. Thanks to Air Jordan sneakers, high tops changed the entire infrastructure of sports merchandising and celebrity endorsements. In both fashion and function, modern sneakers owe it all to the Air Jordans of the ‘80s. Naturally, you can’t talk shoes of the decade without mentioning the popularity of Converses, which were retro-cool even back then and continue to be in-style today.
Having a few classic accessories in your closet can help you get a retro vibe with every outfit. Every piece can make a statement, so consider accessories like bulky white sneakers, reflective sunglasses, gold chains, fanny packs, Casio watches, flashy belt buckles, and blinged-out rings.
‘80s Men’s Hair
From slicked back hair to big styles to long locks, ‘80s hairstyles for men were in a class all of their own. One of the most iconic looks was the mullet, with short hair in the front and sides and long hair in the back. With so many different cuts and styles for different guys, there were several popular ways to wear men’s hair. Business professional men, especially those who worked on Wall Street, styled the slicked back, while Hollywood stars loved longer hair with volume and flow. Curly hair became a trend as well, so guys would get perms on short hair and maintain tight coils all around the head.
‘80s Fashion Icons
Music and movies heavily influenced 1980s fashion, and whether you were into coming-of-age movies or punk rock, you could find style icons to match your look. Rob Lowe was all about the boy-next-door cute, whereas the bomber jacket’s popularity can be traced back to Tom Cruise in Top Gun. David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, and John Travolta all had their own looks, to name a few.
‘80s Fashion For Boys
Kid couture wasn’t much different from fashion for men in the 1980s, with an emphasis on bold colors, comfortable, loose-fitting shirts and pants, and chunky sneakers. For the most part, boys’ fashion was more preppy and casual than punk, rock, or hip hop. Simply put, the clothes boys wore emulated the style of their fathers and/or brothers.
Shopping For ’80s Style Men’s Clothing
Whether you want to add a few choice accessories or go full parachute pants and bomber jacket, there are many you can get the ‘80s style. When deciding on your look, it’s important to consider the color, pattern, and fabric of individual pieces. Think about which culture, movement, or trend you’re trying to represent, and experiment with different outfit ideas to find the right mix. Several staples of ‘80s fashion are lasting, like leather jackets and bomber jackets, so consider investing in quality pieces you’ll want to keep in your wardrobe for years to come.