United States Boys' Clothes: The 1980s


Figure 1.--Here is a block party in San Bernardino, California during 1983. I am guessing it is the 4th of July. By the 1980s, most American boys wore short pants during the hot summer months. There were several popular styles. Also note the tube socks.

We notice a wide range of popular fashions during the 1980s. Boys no longer dressed up lke they once did, except for very special occassions. We note a range of casual dresy styles, but casua; clothinghad become standard for most boys. And there were a wide range of casual styles. Denim was the most fashionable fabrc. And you could find just anout anything made in demim. Some of the most popular items were acid washed jeans and jean jackets. we also see parachute pants and high top shoes. T-shirts became highly fshionable. Wealso see preppie styles making a comeback. Popular preppie items included Izod shirts (possibly worn with the collar up), dress slaacks, and penny loafers. Fashionable teenagers might wear a baggy blazer with the sleeves rolled up. The idea was to dress up a bit, but in a way that looked casual. One fashion experts claims thst there was an idea to show individuality. The decade began with loud, big, gaudy and bright clothes,but this had declined by the ed of the decade.

Garments

We notice a wide range of popular fashions during the 1980s. Boys no longer dressed up lke they once did, except for very special occassions. We note a range of casual dresy styles, but casua; clothinghad become standard for most boys. And there were a wide range of casual styles. Denim was the most fashionable fabrc. And you could find just anout anything made in demim. Some of the most popular items were acid washed jeans and jean jackets. we also see parachute pants and high top shoes. T-shirts became highly fshionable. Wealso see preppie styles making a comeback. Popular preppie items included Izod shirts (possibly worn with the collar up), dress slaacks, and penny loafers.

Headwear

The big fashion in caps was of course baseball caps. The baseball cap became the headwear of choice for most boys. Sports logos (it no longer had to be just baseball teams) were the most popular, but just about any company or granizational logo began appearing on baseball caps. In addition the caps started spreading overseas. Painter's caps were also worn.

Suits

Suits especially standard suits were no longer commonly by boys except for very special occassions. And we see vested suits for these occassions. Lapels were smaller than in the 70s.Many boys, however, did not even have suits. Casual styles became the style of youths. The Eton suit were no longer commonly worn by boys except for the very youngest.

Sets

We notices beiung offered in mailor order catalofs and the dajor department stores, Sets meant collared shirts, including knit shirts, and belted coordinating pants.

Shirts

Boys wore all kinds of shirts during the 1980, both collared and collarless shirts. At the beginning of the decade we see Western style shirts with fashionable yokes, often done in contrasting colors. Younger boys might wear Eton suits. There were even sailor suits for pre-school boys. Some boys liked Preppy styles. Button down preppy shirts were popular. Some boys wore color-coordinated polo shirts. Some boys liked to wear their collars up. There was a velour fad in the early 1980's. Some boys wore velour shirts. (Young British boys wore velour shorts, but this fashion never appeared in America.) Panama Jack clothes (especially the shirts and straw hats) were popular with older boys. We note Knit pullover shirts with zip detaling and turned up collars at mid-decade. We also see velour and terry shirts. We also see colorful rib knit shirts and turtlenecks. Boys wore all kins of collarless shits. T-shirts were a major item and we note all kinds of novelty T-shirts. We see cartoon characters and sports teams. We also see video game characters. Baseall teams seem at first the most popular. We note various pull-over tops. Sleeveless shirts were another fashion hit. Surfer shirts appeared, popular brands included: Body Glove, Ocean Pacific, Pacific Coast Highway, Sex Wax (surfboard wax), Bubble Gum surfing wax, and Surfers' Alliance. T shirts were the shirts of choice and their were endless variations, such as IOU shirts and political slogan shirts. Popular slogans included "feed the world", "????", and "????. Other variations included hobbie T-shirts, vaurnet T-shirts (with the circle emblem), and "PROPERTY OF so-and-so" t-shirts. Coca-Cola brand T-shirts and other clothing was particularly popular. "Choose Life" white oversized shirts (re: Wham! in "Wake me up before you go-go"). But many other companies appered on T-shirts. Beer company logos were popular with older boys, probably younger boys also, but moms put there foot down here. Some boys liked British-flag muscle shirts. Black T-shirts with faux tuxedo front or with skeleton x-ray on front were seen lot. Even more popular were sleeveless (muscle) shirts and jackets.

Neckwear

The very wide neckties of the 1970s narrowed in the 80s, popularized by "New Wave" bands.

Vests

Vested sets were popular as a casual way of drssing up for both younger boys and teenagers. We note decorated denim vest sets as well as sweater vests.

Pants

Denim jeans were the thing in the 1980s and they were now considered fashionable. All kinds of jeans were available. Guess jeans (commonly with zipper cuffs), Wrangler or Tough Skins jeans, jeans with zipper at the bottom of the legs. This was quite popular in the 80s, but disappeared entirely during the 1990s. Some of the most popular jeans were acid or stone washed. We begin seeing denim overalls as a fashion statement. The popularity of denim jeans passed to other garments, especially denim jackets. Solid colored pants were standard, but we see some polaid pants. We see some suspenders at mid-decade. Bellbottoms from the 1970s made a reappearance in 1986. For unknown reasons, some boys tied bandanas around one's leg. It was the in thing for high school couples to place their hands in rear pocket of partner's (acid-washed) jeans. And then of course fashion-rip jeans became enormously popular. This was a continuation of the casual trend which in the 1980s took on the added conotation of the grunge look. While denim was the most popular material, we also notice corduroy pants. We see a few boys wearing painter pants. Toward the end of the decade we note canvas and cargo style pants. We also notice tapered pants as well as cuffed pants. . Various kinds of short pants appeared in the the 1980s. More American boys were wearing shorts than ever before. JAMS shorts with matching shorts and floppy over sized shirts were all the rage in the 1980s. Ocean Pacific cord shorts were also very popular. Short cut jogging shorts with rounded legs were the most popular shorts. They were usually solid colors with another color trim. A less popular stule were clam diggers. Girls would roll up pants cuffs so they were tight around the ankles--a 1950s look. Other less enduring styles included parachute pants. Yonger boys mighwear bif front pnts in various materials or shortalls.

Jackets

Jackets reached a new level of popularity in the 1980s. Sears offered puffy chevron jackets in 1981. Michael Jackson type red leather jacket with o-so-many zippers was probably the most distinctive style. There were cheap, imitation, vinyl version of his jacket. The greatest hit of course were denim jackets. Leather jackets were also populr. "Members Only" jackets also became a big hit.

Atletic Wear

Atletic wear was increasingly popular. We notice sweatsuits featuring populr figures and sports teams. We see fleece and mixed knit. Baeball jerseys become popular at the end f the decade.

Inclemet Weater Wear

We notice various types of sweaters, including casrdigans and shakers. Toward the end of he decade we see jacquard cardigans. Bold patternbed sweaters appeared late in the decade.

Hosiery

Most boys wore ankle socks. American boys no longer wore knee socks, except very young boys at formnal occasions. Girls still wire them, but not boys. The knee-length atlletic tube socks with colored bands, however, were still worn at the beginning of the decade, but were not much worn by the end of the decade. Leg warmers became popular, but mostly with girls. Girls also wore tights.

Underwear

The big new fashion styles for boys underwear was of course Underoos.

Shoes

Boys in the 1980s wanted to wear sneakers. Nikes were the most popular, but Reboks, Pumas, and other brands wew also worn. Velcro sneakers were popular for a while, especially foryounger boys. KangaROOS sneakers appeared with the little pocket to store trinkets in. Skater sneakers appeared, VANS and Airwalk. Other popular sneakjers were New Balance Worthy basketball sneakers (black and white sneaks named after James Worthy) and Dr. J's by Converse. Some liked Kaepas sneakers with snap-in color changing logos. Reebok sneakers and hi-tops were particularly popular at mid-decade. Some liked Tretorn sneakers. New Yorkers (fat shoe laces) were popularized by Run D.M.C. Boat shoes like Sperry Topsiders were popular and were another part of the preppy look. Boat shoes worn without socks and with the pants rolled up over the ankles--a necessary part of the Preppy look. Toward the end of the decade sandals began to be more popular. Through the 1970s they had been primarily worn in California and were much less common on the East coast--let alone the Mid-West. Late in the 1980s they began to appear with greater frequency on the East-coast. One new style was jellies.

Looks

The preppy look was popular and affected many different garments. Izod and Polo shirts were widely worn. Shoes included Sebago Docksides and penny loafers.

Brands

Bugle Boy clorges were very popular. Ocean Pacific was another popular style.

Fads

Some fad styles included pac-mania (shirts, knit hats, buttons, etc.). Peace symbols were popular logos. Bracelets were popular in the 1980s, even with boys. There were different kinds. Ccharm bracelets were mostly worn by girls, but boys wore friendship bracelets (woven, colorful things). There were also white, braided sailor bracelets. The fad of boys getting one earing appeared in the 1980s. It was mostly older teenagers in the late 1980s, but younger boys wanted then by the 1990s.

Hair Styles

Many imaginative new hair styles appeared in the 1980s. Spiked hair appeared for the first time in the mid-1980s. Another style was crimped hair. Some boys liked rat tails (long strip of hair in back of neck), high hair, mall chick hair, parallel or horizontal lines (usually three) shaved into hair on the side of the head.





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Created: November 22, 1998
Last updated: 2:39 AM 7/3/2014