10 Ways to Dress 80s Rock Style Like a Badass Rockstar

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As an 80s kid, I often recall my favorite bands’ stunning outfits, dressing styles, and fashion choices.

I remember the flashy glam of stadium rockers and the raw sharpness of punk wearing leather jackets with metal studs or tartan skirts with fishnet stockings in a symphony of style rebellion.

It is time to dive into the heart of the 80s rock fashion scene with 10 stylists-curated outfits inspired by the 80s iconic rock legends and their distinctive dressing sense.




1. Thrash Metal

80s Thrash Metal Rock Fashion Style

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Cropped Frayed Denim Jacket super skinny high waisted jeans in black high top vans sneakers
Vintage 90's Gap Denim Jacket Super Skinny Jeans high top vans sneakers in black

A substyle of the Metal dressing style popularized by bands like Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer in the late 80s, the Thrash Metal style comprises denim or leather jackets, tight jeans, and loud logo band tees.

High-top sneakers emerged as the must-have footwear for the rockers, headbanging their long-haired heads during those unforgettable years.

Clothing: Black or white band tees, tight jeans, leather or distressed denim jackets with band patches.

Shoes: High-top sneakers, Vans, or combat boots.

Accessories: Chain necklaces, studded or bullet belts.




2. Heavy Metal

80s Heavy Metal Rock Fashion

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Reclaimed Vintage leather moto jacket in black with metal trims MID BLUE WASH SKINNY DISCO JEANS Vintage Leather Moto Jacket
Men Slant Pocket Skinny Jeans Bullet Rivet Belts Personalized Black Belt

Popularized by bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Motorhead, there was something undeniably powerful about the Heavy Metal look.

With a dash of Punk style, the look comprised motorbike leather jackets, tight jeans, ripped band tees, studded belts, and combat boots.

Clothing: Black band tees, tight black jeans, leather or denim jackets with band patches.

Shoes: Black leather combat boots.

Accessories: Studded or bullet belts and silver skull rings.




3. Rock Goth

80s Goth Rock Fashion

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PUNK Plus Fuzzy Trim Open Front Coat Sheer Fishnet Top  High Waist Thermal Lined PU Leather Skinny Cropped Pants
Button Front Solid Overcoat Men Hollow Out Crop Fishnet Mesh Tee Men Slant Pocket PU Leather Pants

I still remember the 80s dark Goth elegance and sounds promoted by bands like Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, and The Mission.

The gothic dressing style influenced the 80s rock style with its leather, lace, or velvet corsets, fishnets, and dark makeup.

The look was mysterious and alluring and still holds a special place in the hearts of many 1980s rock fans.

Clothing: Long black velvet coats, lace or fishnet tops, skinny black jeans or longs, flowing skirts.

Shoes: Platform or lace-up boots.

Accessories: Chokers, silver or pewter jewelry with gothic motifs, and leather gloves – fingerless style.




4. Rock Grunge

80s Grunge Rock Fashion

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Flannel Heavyweight Flannel Hooded Shirt Denim Basic Ripped Jeans Guys Plaid Flap Pocket Shirt
extreme wide leg cargo jeans in washed black Charm Beaded Necklace  Letter Patch Knit Beanie

Sported by bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney, the Grunge fashion style emerged towards the end of the 80s in direct contrast to the more polished and glamorous fashion of the 1980s.

The grunge aesthetic of the 80s conveyed a feel of authenticity delivered through ripped clothes in earthy colors and an overall untidy appearance.

Flannel shirts, ripped jeans, combat boots, and band ripped tees are still key to making a Grunge rock fashion statement.

Clothing: Oversized flannel shirts, worn band tees, and ripped jeans.

Shoes: Dr. Martens combat boots or Converse sneakers.

Accessories: Layered necklaces, slouchy knit beanie, or a plaid shirt tied around the waist.




5. New Wave

New Wave style of the 80s rock fashion

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PU blazer in red men Flap Pocket Side PU Leather Pants Men Single Breasted Blazer monk shoes in black faux leather with emboss panel

The 80s New Wave style drew inspiration from past expressionist movements: ‘Art Deco’ of 1920s fashion, ‘Pop Art’ of the 50s fashion, and ‘Glam Rock‘ of the 70s fashion, to name a few.

I still remember sporting the androgynous style, comprising tight-fitting pants, patterned blazers, and skinny ties synonymous with the emerging New Wave fashion scene.

The androgynous hairstyles we rocked back then felt so unique, fresh, and daring, and it was a must-have as part of the total look.

Bands: Talking Heads, The Cars, Blondie.

Clothing: Slim-fit patterned blazers with shoulder pads, button-up shirts with the collar popped, tight-fitting black pants, and skinny ties.

Shoes: Pointed-toe leather shoes or ankle boots.

Accessories: Thin leather belt, black sunglasses – oversized style, and a wristwatch.




6. Post-Punk

Post-Punk style in 80s rock fashion

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Vintage Leather Moto Jacket relaxed satin shirt in red Men Letter Patched Chain Skinny Pants Metallic Studded Decor Belt

The Post-Punk fashion had moody and dark vibes, donning 80s leather jackets, band tees, and trusty Doc Martens.

Yet, the key to a perfect 80s post-punk look was to have a DIY aesthetic that truly expresses your rebellious spirit and style.

Bands: Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure.

Clothing: Leather jackets, band tees, button-up shirts, slim-fit jeans, or leather pants.

Shoes: Classic black boots.

Accessories: Studded belt, silver chain necklaces, and wristbands.




7. Glam Metal (Hair Metal)

80s Glam Metal Rock Fashion

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 Zipper Front PU Leather Jacket HOT PINK PATENT CROC CUT OUT FLARE PANTS Large Turkey Flat Feather Boa
Allover Print Single Button Blazer Tiger Print Twilly Scarf Men Leopard Print Slant Pocket Pants

Inspired by bands like Motley Crüe, Poison, and Jon Bon Jovi, the look of Glam Metal style was opulent, stage-ready, and unique in so many ways.

Spandex pants, colorful leather jackets, animal prints, sequin dresses, and loud makeup were at the core of celebrating life and carefree spirits.

Clothing: Tight and leopard-print spandex pants, colored leather vests and jackets, band tees, and mesh shirts.

Shoes: Pointed-toe or cowboy-style leather boots.

Accessories: Bandanas, scarves, leg-warmers, layered necklaces, and chunky bracelets.




8. Hardcore Punk

80s Hardcore Rock Punk Fashion

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Loose ripped Flare Jean Vintage Fit Patchwork Trucker Jacket Destructed Straight Fit Jean  Embossed Detail Star Decor Vintage Geometric Buckle Belt

Promoted by bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat, and Dead Kennedys, the unapologetic nature of Hardcore Punk has impacted the 80s punk fashion with leather jackets, band tees, torn skinny jeans, combat boots, and DIY rocker-style patches.

It was a time of true anti-establishment sentiment, and the fashion choices were a testament to that.

Clothing: Leather motor jackets with symbols and DIY patches, black band tees, and torn skinny jeans.

Shoes: Combat boots.

Accessories: Studded wristbands, chains, earrings, and safety pin.




9. Alternative Rock

80s College Rock Fashion

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FLORA PATCHWORK CARDIGAN CROSS POCKET Y2K JEANS Plaid Button Front Pocket Shirt
 Relaxed Fit Jean sneakers with heart embroidery in black canvas platform sneakers in black

Popularized by bands like R.E.M., The Smiths, and Pixies, the Alt Rock fashion was an unkempt, laid-back style that blended the Preppy and Skater looks.

Dark-colored cardigans, plaid shirts, and Converse sneakers became cozy gateways to a bygone era.

Clothing: Vintage cardigans or sweaters, plaid shirts, and relaxed-fit jeans.

Shoes: Converse sneakers or combat boots.

Accessories: Round sunglasses, minimalist jewelry, leather belt.




10. Synth-Pop

80s Synth-Pop Rock Fashion

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GREEN FAUX LEATHER DAD BLAZER MID BLUE 5 POCKET SKINNY JEANS Leaf Drop Earrings
Men Figure Graphic Button Through Shirt 10 Ways to Dress 80s Rock Style Like a Badass Rockstar Lapel Neck Flap Detail Blazer

Arriving as a breath of fresh air, the Synth-Pop genre of Depeche Mode, The Human League, and A-ha had us exploring clean-cut futuristic garments that felt experimental.

Like the modern Vaporwave aesthetic, the 80s Synth-pop synthesizer-inspired androgynous outfits had an unconventional, retrofuturistic vibe.

However, unlike Vaporwave, the style featured tailored silhouettes and geometrical patterns.

Clothing: Oversized blazers, graphic or geometric-print shirts, and slim-fit pants.

Shoes: White sneakers or leather loafers.

Accessories: Thin and colorful neckties and geometric-shaped jewelry.




Key Takeaways

Looking back on the 1980s vast array of rock genres and fashion styles, I’m filled with warmth and a sense of envious nostalgia.

While a Heavy Metallist at the core, I often admired (and still do) the looks of my fellow Goth and Depeche Mode fashionistas (though’ we were ‘enemies’ during those times).

So regardless of the 80s rock style you choose to recreate today, remember that all 10 styles presented here were the most representative of a decade that continues to influence contemporary music and fashion.

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A University of Oxford graduate in Design History, Katherine Saxon is researching arising TikTok cultures from a consumer psychology perspective while covering emerging aesthetics in fashion and beauty for TheVOU, Forbes, Business Insider, and more.

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