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What Goes Around Comes Around: 1980s

Friday 30 March 2012
Words Spindle

So you wanna look cool? Grab yourself a fanny pack, crimp your hair and load on as many neon accessories as conceivable. Think MJ Thriller hair, Madonna scrunchies and Cindy Lauper spandex. Welcome to the 80s; Home to the tack-tastic clothing of our time.  Fortunately, the madness of the 80s has been somewhat tamed over the years, culminating in its modest place in fashion today.

In 80s popular culture, thanks to the likes of ‘Flashdance’ and ‘Frankie Goes to Hollywood’, the emphasis was on the ‘young and fun’. Teen girls dressed in an almost child-like manner, in jellies (oh yes, remember those?), clashing prints, ankle socks and playful leggings. On the grungier flip-side, the introduction of skinny jeans, oversized denim jackets and converse high-tops blurred the gender barrier, complimented by big hair all round.  The 70s punk-rock look morphed into the goth look with heavy Doc Martens and tartan, which re-emerged in both the 1990s and 2000s. One of the hottest fads of the eighties was acid-wash jeans, which have still not faded out (pardon the pun). Just look at American Apparel, heavily based on 80s fashion, with everything you could need to emulate Olivia Newton John getting ‘physical’.

The 80s was one of the first decades to display a noticeable gap between everyday fashion and the high fashion market. Aiming to serve the working population, the buzzword of the high-fashion community was ‘neutral’. Shoulder pads, black, basic cotton pantaloons and the power suit personified glamour. Pioneered by the new aristocratic lineage of Lady Diana and designers such as Giorgio Armani, immaculate tailoring and quiet confidence was key.

We also have the 80s to thank for some of today’s most renowned fashion designers. In the early 80s, Karl Lagerfield, Jean Paul Gaultier and John Galliano arrived on the scene, each bringing their own unique take on tailoring which still never disappoints. Japanese designers also became key players – Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto to name just a few. The Japanese sustained the minimalistic theme but with an added twist, in the form of crisp origami-style pattern cutting.

Interestingly, it seems to be the more outlandish side of 80s style that the fashion world has clung on to. The 80s were a huge hit in 2009; with Marc Jacobs’ acid wash pleated pantaloons and Diane Von Furstenberg’s gothic plaid pieces. In S/S 2010 shoulder pads and crazy crimped hair were, once again, all the rage. Today, the most prominent residual elements of the 80s aftermath appear to be Neon and acid-wash. Designers such as Bambi and Manson pay homage to the bleached denim of the 80s with their collection of home-bleached shorts. Rag and Bone selected neon turquoise and oranges for their S/S 2012 collection, where Mulberry’s and Lika Mimika’s bright yellow accessories offer a punchy alternative.

So, with the 80s style transforming and adapting to the fashions of the last couple of decades it would not be fair to say that it has come back around. It more seems to be the case that it never truly left.