15 Best 80s Workout Clothes to Revive The Aerobics Craze

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Whether you seek gym inspiration from the 1980s fitness and aerobics craze, get physical like Olivia Newton-John, or want to channel Jane Fonda’s sweat style, we got you covered.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to the 80s’ most iconic workout clothing, the staples of the Jazzercise glory days.

From Flashdance-style off-shoulder sweatshirts to spandex suits in eyesore colors, fun leotards, bright tights, leg warmers, stretchy cropped tops, Dolfin shorts, and neon sweatbands, here’s everything you need to complete your 80s-style fitness costume.

Without delay, let’s take a nostalgic trip back to the era of aerobics and colorful workout clothes and dig out the 15 coolest retro activewear styles of the 80s.




1. Leotards

Leotards 80s workout clothes
“Leotards” 80s workout clothes – The VOU

If you’ve been glued to your screen watching “Glow,” you’re not alone, honey!

The Netflix original series about a group of misfit actresses-turned-wrestlers in mid-80s LA is a real hoot.

It’s funny, heartwarming, and way more empowering than you’d expect for a show about women in spandex!

But let’s talk about the real star of the show – the wardrobe! Oh, the leotards!

So, if you’re looking for maximum movement and flexibility during exercise – or channel your inner wrestler – this is the 80s-inspired workout clothing style you want!

Leotards With Sheer Tights

Leotards With Sheer Tights

Leotards and sheer tights are ideal for a stylish and elegant look. Yet, it is critical to match color and fabric: cotton, spandex, and lycra.

SHOP THE LOOK

Ladies Hanoko Mirage Cross Back Leotard

Capezio Women's Tb41 Leotard




Neon Leotards With Leggings

Leotards With Leggings

For the ‘leotards and leggings’ combo, choose stretchy and form-fitting materials that complement the leotard’s fabric.

Also, go for matching colors to create a seamless look.

SHOP THE LOOK

Speerise High Cut Thong Leotard

MIAIULIA Retro 80s Inspired Leotard

80s Leotards & Legwarmers Set

Leotards Legwarmers Set

Pairing leotards with leg warmers is a great way to add a fun and stylish touch to your look while staying comfortable and warm.

Made from spandex or lycra and paired with leg warmers, this one-piece body-hugging garment was a staple of 80s workout gear.

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7 Pcs 80s Workout Leotard Legwarmers Set

MIAIULIA 80s Workout Costume Set




2. Shell Suits

Shell Suits 80s workout clothes
“Shell Suits” 80s workout clothes – The VOU

As one of the must-have workout clothes of the decade, if you lived in the 80s, you must have had a shell suit.

You see, casual athletic clothing was already a thing towards the end of the 70s fashion era.

Yet, the 80s saw a surge in people’s desire to get fit, and that’s when synthetic fiber shell suits in bright colors and sparkly details became all the rage.

Before synthetic fiber shell suits came along, tracksuits were basic, comprised of a pair of sweatpants and a zip-up sweater jacket, as the one Sylvester Stallone wore in the Rocky movies.

Neon Shell Suits

Neon Shell Suits

The neon shell suit is famous again thanks to nostalgia for 80s fashion styles, the emergence of retro fashion, and streetwear adoption, seeing a deep desire to make strong fashion statements.

SHOP THE LOOK

MIAIULIA Women's 80s Neon Shell Suit

MIAIULIA Men's 80s Neon Shell Suit




Shell Suits With Shorts

Shell Suits With Shorts

Embraced by streetwear enthusiasts who enjoy the daring style of the 80s and 90s decades, the shell suit Delfin shorts combo is an excellent choice for sports and casual events.


SHOP THE LOOK

Black Colour Block Shell Suit Shorts

Women Two-Piece Shell Suit Shorts

Shell Suits With Skirt

Shell Suits With Skirt

Another excellent way to showcase your love for women’s 80s retro styles is to combine a neon shell suit with a skirt in the same color.

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Blue Shell Suit Skirt

Block Color Mini Skirt Suit




3. Spandex Leggings

Spandex leggings 80s workout clothes
80s Spandex leggings – The VOU

Made from a form-fitting, stretchy material that allowed for freedom of movement during physical activity, Spandex leggings were a massive trend in the 80s.

The look was popularized by the aerobics craze that swept the nation in the 80s and fitness icons of the era, such as Jane Fonda and Olivia Newton-John.

Paired with leg warmers, oversized tops, and sweatbands, 80s spandex leggings were worn not just for dancing or exercising but also as stylish casual wear – a fashion statement in its own right.

Spandex Leggings With Leotards

Spandex Leggings With Leotards

Jane Fonda and Olivia Newton-John popularized shiny spandex leggings in wild colors and leotards during the aerobics craze that swept the nation in the 80s.

SHOP THE LOOK

Spandex High-Waist Sports Leggings

American Apparel Spandex Leggings




Neon Spandex Leggings With Oversized Tops

Neon Spandex Leggings With Oversized Tops

Wear neon spandex leggings and oversized tops with a boxy cut and loose, flowy shoulders if you want a fun and trendy look.

Color-wise, coordination is critical – with the top, shoes, and accessories.

SHOP THE LOOK

High-waist Airbrush Leggings

GapFit High-Rise Power Leggings

Metallic Spandex Leggings With Cropped Tops

Spandex Leggings With Cropped Tops

Another popular fitness look of the 80s (with women and men) was matching metallic leggings made of spandex with cropped tops.

The cropped top must hit the right spot on your waistline for a perfect look.

A too-short cropped top might look indecent, while a too-long one will detract from the leggings’ metallic shine.

SHOP THE LOOK

Neon High Waist Leggings

Metallic Sports Leggings




4. Short Shorts

80s workout "Short Shorts" or "Dolphin Shorts"
80s workout “Short Shorts” or “Dolphin Shorts” – The VOU

Named after the Dolfin brand, the manufacturers of the style, Dolfin (delphin) shorts were a popular clothing piece in the 1980s fashion for men and women.

The style was popular among swimmers, sunbathers, and beachgoers but was also worn as a statement piece rather than just functional swimwear.

Dolphin Shorts With Cropped T-shirt

Dolphin Shorts With Cropped Top

Short shorts with cropped and belly-baring tops are an excellent way of showing off those toned abs.

SHOP THE LOOK

Active Ringer Dolphin Shorts

G Gradual Men's Dolphin Shorts




Short Shorts With Tank Top

Short Shorts With Tank Top

Made of lightweight, breathable fabrics and characterized by a loose, tank top-style design in bright colors, jogging or track tank tops were a popular style of athletic wear in the 80s.

SHOP THE LOOK

Little Beauty Yoga Dolphin Shorts

Aimpact Mens Running Shorts




5. Sheer tights

Sheer tights as 80s workout clothes
“Sheer Tights” as 80s workout clothes – The VOU

The 80s were about women’s empowerment, and sheer tights fit all the other fashion statements women made.

As everyone, from celebrities to politicians, was donning a pair, sheer tights became a staple in every gal’s wardrobe.

Perfect for jazzing up any outfit, aerobics, lounging at the beach, or just trying to add a touch of sophistication to your look, 80s sheer tights came in all sorts of fun colors.

Ballet Sheer Tights with Leg Warmers

Ballet Sheer Tights with Legwarmers

Wearing leg warmers with 80s-style ballet sheer tights is not just super stylish but keeps your feet warm and ready for the next rehearsal.

SHOP THE LOOK

Deep Teal Classic Sheer Tights

HUE Women's Opaque Tights




Sheer Tights Leggings

Sheer Tights Leggings

Sheer-tight leggings are ideal for a unique combination of a “sexy look” with warmth, comfort, and style, especially when paired with chunky sneakers.

SHOP THE LOOK

Active Mesh Leggings

Alo Yoga Sheer Leggings




6. Stirrup Pants

80s Workout Stirrup Pants
80s Workout Stirrup Pants – The VOU

The stirrup pants – what a ride it’s been!

From helping women’s horseback riders in the 20s to becoming a staple in skiing events at the 1936 Olympics to their comeback in the 80s as aerobics wear – paired with shoulder-padded jackets and patterned sweaters – this simple piece of sportswear has some history to share.

Stirrup pants made their way into the mix with classic workwear: roomy blazers, flowy blouses, and crisp button-up shirts – cinched with belts and slipped over chic heels, sturdy boots, or sleek loafers.

Spandex Stirrup Leggings

Spandex Stirrup Leggings

Wearing spandex stirrup leggings will create an elongated and sleek silhouette while keeping the ankles warm.

SHOP THE LOOK

Bright Blue Stirrup Leggings

Ponte Knit Stirrup Leggings




Stirrup Pants With Vertical Lines

Striped Stirrup Pants

Striped stirrup pants are the thicker and warmer version of the classic spandex stirrups, ideal with cropped tops and athleisure wear.

SHOP THE LOOK

Contrast Tape Stirrup Leggings

Side Striped Sports Leggings




7. Zubaz Pants

80s workout Zubaz pants
80s workout “Zubaz” pants – The VOU

Launched at the end of the 80s as a special kind of shorts for weightlifting men, Zubas workout pants had a comfortable, loose-fitting design with an elastic waistband.

Despite being marketed for weightlifters, it didn’t take long for Zubaz pants to become a huge fashion hit.

Zubaz pants are tapered at the ankle, with the outer leg longer than the inner leg, and have an elastic waistband for easy movement.

Early models had a bold zebra print that soon evolved into several eye-catching patterns in bright, bold, statement colors.

Zubaz Pants With Windbreakers

Zubaz Pants With Windbreakers

One of the trendiest styles of the 80s was wearing striped Zubaz pants with windbreakers and shell suit jackets in matching colors.

SHOP THE LOOK

Zubaz Classic Zebra Printed Pants




8. Bodysuits

80s workout bodysuits
80s workout bodysuits – The VOU

Men’s 80s athletic body suits were known as unitards, a one-piece garment covering the torso and legs.

The style became popular in the 80s thanks partly to the 1983 TV show “Flashdance” and “Jane Fonda’s Workout” series that popularized the use of unitards for men in dance and fitness culture.

Wrestling Bodysuits

Wrestling Bodysuits

While conferring the wearer freedom of movement, the 80s male singlets were designed to be sensual and revealing.

SHOP THE LOOK

Matman Wrestling 85 Singlet

Men Athletic Sports Bodysuit




Full-body Spandex Bodysuits

Full-body Spandex Bodysuits

Full-body spandex bodysuits are made of stretchy, form-fitting materials like spandex and designed to cover the entire body.

Great for yoga and fitness activities, this versatile piece of athletic wear can be paired with leg warmers in contrasting colors and worn with or without shoes.

SHOP THE LOOK

Kepblom Women's Spandex Bodysuit

Transcend Bodysuit




9. Cropped Tees

Cropped Tees 80s workout clothes
“Cropped Tees” 80s workout clothes – The VOU

Back in the day, even the manliest men were rockin’ these things to catch the ladies’ eye, ya know?

Cutoff shirts, crop tops, belly-baring tops – call them what you want – these tops were all about showin’ off your toned abs.

And it wasn’t just some random trend; nope, it was all over TV and movies.

Marky Mark, Johnny Depp, and The Fresh Prince had their moment in the crop top spotlight.

Cropped Tops With Dolphin Shorts

Cropped Tees With Dolphin Shorts

Dolphin shorts and cropped and belly-baring tops are excellent for showing off your muscular body and toned abs.

SHOP THE LOOK

Milumia Men Crop Tank Tops

Cropped Tees With Jean Shorts

Cropped Tees With Jean Shorts

For a more casual look that you can wear outside the gym, pair your cropped tops with denim shorts and Converse shoes.

SHOP THE LOOK

Milumia Men Striped Crop Tees




10. 80s Jogging Tops

80s Jogger Tops
80s Jogger Tops – The VOU

Made of lightweight, breathable fabrics and characterized by a loose, tank top-style design in bright colors, jogging or track tank tops were a popular style of athletic wear in the 80s.

Athletes like Michael Jordan, Carl Lewis, and Florence Griffith-Joyner are part of the history of fashion thanks to their track tank tops and athletic-inspired clothing.

SHOP THE LOOK

Strata Singlet

Van Cortlandt Singlet




11. Leg Warmers

Legwarmers in the 80s as a trendy workout clothes for women
Legwarmers in the 80s as trendy workout clothes for women – The VOU

In the 80s, tube-like fabric accessories worn over leggings or tights – to keep legs warm during workouts – became an absolute fashion statement.

The popularity of leg warmers in the 80s was driven mainly by their association with dance and fitness and by the influence of popular music and fashion icons of the 80s.

Knee High Leg Warmers With Leotards

Long Legwarmers With Leotards

Knee-high leg warmers and leotards combo is an excellent way to create a stylish look while staying comfortable and warm.

SHOP THE LOOK

V28 Women’s Knit Leg Warmer

Kayhoma Knee High Leg Warmer




Ankle Legwarmers With Leggings

Short Legwarmers With Leggings

Great combo at the gym or while casually shopping at your local store, ankle leg warmers with leggings are one of the best 80s looks in 2023.

SHOP THE LOOK

TeeHee Knit Leg Warmers

One-Pair Solid Leg Warmers




12. Tennis Headbands

Tennis Headbands of the 80s
Tennis headbands of the 80s – thevou.com

The popularity of tennis headbands in the 80s was driven by the rise of tennis as a sport and the visibility of top tennis players, who wore them as part of their uniform.

Some of the most notable tennis players of the 80s known for wearing tennis headbands were:

  • Chris Evert – wearing a thin, simple headband to keep her hair in place during matches.
  • Bjorn Borg – a distinctive, wide headband that became a signature part of his look.
  • John McEnroe – a thin, brightly colored headband, which he used to keep his hair out of his eyes during matches.
  • Ivan Lendl – a thick, absorbent headband to help keep sweat from dripping into his eyes.

    SHOP THE LOOK

Fila Retro Classic Headband

Suddora Tie Dye Headbands




13. Aerobic Hairbands

Aerobic Hairbands of the 80s
Aerobic Hairbands of the 80s – The VOU

Available in neon colors designed to match the colorful workout clothing popular at the time, aerobic hairbands (or sweatbands) were popular during the 80s fitness craze.

Aerobic hairbands were around the forehead to absorb sweat and keep hair out of the face during intense workout sessions.

As pioneers of the aerobics fitness craze, Jane Fonda and Olivia Newton-John popularized aerobic hairbands through their workout videos.

SHOP THE LOOK

Cardio Cross Trainer Headband

Non Slip Turban Headband




14. Scrunchies

80s Workout Scrunchies
80s workout scrunchies – The VOU

Scrunchies are hair accessories made of large elastic hair ties covered in fabric.

They were used in the 80s to secure hair in a ponytail or bun.

The fabric covering the elastic was made of satin, velvet, or silk in bright colors or patterns.

Molly Ringwald, Alyssa Milano, and Jennie Garth popularized scrunchies as fashion accessories in movies and TV shows like ‘The Breakfast Club,’ ‘Who’s the Boss?’ and ‘Beverly Hills 90210.’

SHOP THE LOOK

Hair Ties Silk Scrunchie

Oversize Jumbo Scrunchies




15. Sports High Socks

80s Sports High Socks
80s sports high socks – thevou.com

Knee-high sports socks became popular in America during the 1920s.

In the 1960s fashion, knee-high sports socks became a fashionable accessory that lasted through the 1970s and 1980s.

The trend resurfaced in the late 90s thanks to the movie ‘Clueless,’ which became part of many school uniform requirements.

SHOP THE LOOK

KONY Cotton Knee High Socks

Striped Over The Calf Socks




Conclusion

In conclusion, the 80s was a decade of unique fashion choices in aerobics workouts and athletic inspiration.

From crop tops to legwarmers, tennis headbands, sports high socks, scrunchies, leotards, and dolphin shorts, these workout clothes and aerobic costumes were not just functional but statements of good fashion style.

Athletes and celebrities such as Michael Jordan, Carl Lewis, Bjorn Borg, Alyssa Milano, Jane Fonda, and Will Smith helped popularize ’80s fitness apparel and cemented their place in 80s pop culture.

So, whether you’re a nostalgic fan of the 80s fitness fashion or looking for a unique workout outfit, these classic pieces will bring retro flair to your fitness routine.

Time to go ahead and rock those neon leotards, legwarmers, and tennis headbands and bring the 80s back to life!

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Keep up with the latest in fashion, beauty and style!

Now it’s your turn…

Which one of these 80s workout clothes do you like the most and why?

Which workout clothing trends of the 1980s do you think we’ve missed and should include in our next article update?

Please leave your comments below; we always appreciate and use them to learn, improve, and update our articles.

After years of managing hundreds of fashion brands from London's office of a global retailer, Mandy has ventured into freelancing. Connected with several fashion retailers and media platforms in the US, Australia, and the UK, Mandy uses her expertise to consult for emerging fashion brands create top-notch content as an editorial strategist for several online publications.

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