While there’s no argument that the 80s fashion had many moments of glory, it also had some dreadful stylistic creations.
In this article, we’ll take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the worst 80s fashion looks that make stylists, designers, and fashion lovers cringe.
Why Was The 80s Fashion So Bad?
Parts of the 80s fashion were bad because of exaggeration, lack of timelessness, discomfort, unflattering fit, and maximalism.
Most 80s styles were characterized by over-the-top silhouettes and bold patterns, nowadays considered excessive and even tasteless.
2. Lack of Timelessness
Not all 80s fashion looks have aged well – the styles in this article are considered dated, tacky, and no longer in fashion.
Wearing jelly shoes, hammer pants, or spandex suits for extended periods was an excruciating exercise at its best.
Some 80s styles, such as oversized shoulder pads and hammer pants, were unflattering, distorting the wearer’s body beyond recognition.
As the 80s was a decade of excess and lack of restraint, fashion was also characterized by ‘too much’ – too much makeup, jewelry, colors, and hair.
Unfortunately, the maximalist approach to fashion and beauty left little room for subtlety or nuance, resulting in tasteless and unappealing looks.
Five Worst 80s Fashion Styles
From exaggerated shoulder pads to jelly shoes and Hammer pants, these are the top 5 worst fashion looks of the 80s decade
1. Exaggerated Shoulder Pads
There was a point where the 80s shoulder pad mania went entirely out of control.
Instead of using shoulder pads to create a powerful yet flattering look, some fashion designers were trying to turn us into linebackers.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a power look, but some shoulder pads were humongous and turned women into walking rectangles.
In some cases, the exaggerated shoulder pads were comically large, making the wearer look like they were auditioning for a role in a superhero movie.
And while the trend aimed to empower women, in reality, many women felt like their garments were swallowing them up.
2. Neon Mania
And who can forget the 80s neon craze? I mean, sure, bright colors are fun and eye-catching, but…
At some point in the 80s, excessive use of neon colors made clothes look like boxes of highlighters exploded everywhere.
Incredibly tacky, the neon colors created a look more “Las Vegas showgirl” than fashion-forward.
In times when women were fighting to reach workplace equality, wearing electric pink from head to toe was anything but a professional and collected look.
In addition to the tackiness, the neon craze had practical issues as the bright colors faded quickly, leaving clothes looking worn and dingy after just a few wears.
3. Spandex Craze
Seen as one of the popular 80s workout clothes, perhaps the worst trend was the spandex mania.
First, it’s not easy to look chic when squeezed into a skin-tight jumpsuit – and spandex is an incredibly unforgiving material.
Spandex clung to every curve and contour of the body, highlighting every lump and bump and creating unflattering lines and bulges.
While this may have been fine for those with a perfectly toned physique, for the average person, it was a nightmare.
Spandex is also very sweaty as it does not breathe well, making the wearer sticky and uncomfortable, feeling like wearing a damp sponge.
And, because spandex is so form-fitting, it led to “camel toe” situations or unsightly bulges in the crotch area, in many cases of 80s fitness fashion for men.
4. Hammer Style Pants
Inspired by MC Hammer’s signature style, the baggy, harem-style pants were all the rage in the 80s.
But looking back, Hammer pants were ridiculous as not everyone could pull off the parachute pants style.
Made with extra fabric around the hips and crotch, Hammer pants were incredibly unflattering, making even the most svelte individuals look like they were wearing diapers.
Then, the tapered leg made the proportions all wrong, making the wearer look like a human pyramid.
And, beyond the aesthetics, Hammer pants were just plain impractical, with excess fabric would get caught on everything from door handles to bike pedals, making them a nightmare to wear.
Oh, and trying to run in those things was like wearing a straight jacket for legs.
5. Jelly Shoes
Ah, Jelly shoes, the plastic footwear phenomenon that was all the rage in the 80s.
While Jelly shoes may have seemed like a fun, playful addition to any outfit, they were terrible for several reasons.
The hard plastic material rubbed against the skin, causing painful blisters, making them more of a torture device than a fashion statement.
And don’t even think about trying to wear them on a hot summer day – the plastic would get so hot that it felt like you were walking on coals.
Finally, the smell! – anyone who owned a pair of Jelly shoes knows their odor was nothing short of revolting, like a mix of sweaty feet and chemicals.
And once the smell was embedded in the plastic, there was no getting rid of it.
The 80s were a decade of excess in every sense of the word, with everyone competing in the Olympics of fashion but without any rules.
From all the decade’s looks, the styles mentioned in this article are still considered the worst fashion moments of the 80s.
Overall, the bad trends of the 80s represented a departure from the elegant, understated styles that had dominated previous decades.
While fashion needs to evolve and experiment with new styles, it is equally important to recognize when a trend does not work.
As we look back on the 80s, it is clear that some of the trends of this decade fell flat and are best left in the past.
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Now it’s your turn…
Which of these 80s fashion trends do you see as the worst and why?
Which bad 80s fashion do you think we’ve missed and should include in our next article update?
Please leave your comments below; we always appreciate them and use them to learn, improve, and update these 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.