Influenced by Afro-American music, movies, and sports celebrities, the black 80s fashion was playful and colorful, oozing with a culturally-infused energy.
Time to explore the 5 iconic black fashion trends that made the 80s such an unforgettable decade of taste and style.
1. Athleisure Hip-Hop
Comprised of tracksuits, sneakers, and large gold chains (hoop earrings), athleisure hip-hop was a key trend in the 80s.
From Michael Jordan’s Nike 1985 Air Jordan line to rappers like Run DMC wearing Adidas Superstars without laces and celebrities like LL Cool J, Run DMC, Salt-N-Pepa, MC Hammer, and Rapper Kid, this trend became central to the hip-hop look.
Black designer brands like FUBU, Karl Kani, and Sean Combs adopted the trend into a fully-fledged 80s hip-hop fashion style.
2. Dashiki and Kufi
The 1980s saw the emergence of fabrics and motifs, patterns, and hairstyles characteristic to the black and African cultures.
Dashiki, a loose-fitting tunic with a V-neck, was loved by men and women, and Kufi, a brimless cap from West African Kente cloth, was a popular accessory with black men.
3. Sequin Dresses
During the 1980s, Afro-American celebrities were on a quest for equality, and the sparkly embellishments symbolized strength and resilience.
80s black pop icons and trendsetters like Diana Ross, Prince, and Michael Jackson wore extravagant sequin dresses and costumes in their music videos and stage performances.
4. Power Suit
Characterized by sharp, tailored lines and oversized shoulder pads for a more assertive silhouette, the 80s power suits came in colors and motifs characteristic of black and African communities.
Grace Jones in Conan the Destroyer (1984) and Whitney Houston’s on-stage blazers are excellent examples of the black 80s fashion community’s love for power suits.
5. Harem Pants
Another popular street trend of the 80s, inspired by black and African American culture and popularized by MC Hammer, was the harem pants.
Despite being all the rage in the 80s, MC Hammer’s signature baggy, harem-style pants were a stylistic nightmare.
The 80s is associated with the rise of streetwear, a style influenced by the hip hop and black communities.
Brands like Cross Colours and Karl Kani created clothing for young, urban people, and the style quickly spread beyond the black community.
Nowadays, streetwear is a global phenomenon, with brands like Supreme and Off-White at the forefront of the industry.
In the 80s, Dapper Dan created custom clothing designs incorporating luxury brand logos like Gucci and Louis Vuitton.
8. Androgynous Fashion
Thanks to artists like Grace Jones and Prince pushing the boundaries of traditional gender norms, the 80s is hailed as the start of androgynous fashion.
Today, androgynous fashion is beyond popular, with many designers creating unisex clothing lines.
Black 80s Fashion FAQs
What Did Black People Wear in the 80s?
In the 80s, people wore a wide range of styles; the hip-hop style comprised athletic wear and oversized clothing from brands like Adidas, Cross Colours, FUBU, and Le Coq Sportif.
Another style black people wore in the 80s was “power dressing,” comprising tailored suits with prominent shoulders and sequins to express confidence and success.
They also wore a lot of accessories like Kangol hats, golden chains, and sparkles that reflected their creativity, cultural identity, and individuality.
What Are the Five Biggest Black Fashion Trends of the ’80s?
There were several major fashion trends among black people in the 1980s.
Still, the five biggest are African-inspired clothing, Hip-hop style, Power dressing, Flashy jewelry, and Streetwear-punk wear blend.
How Did Hop Hop Black Fashion Look Like?
In the 1980s, black fashion in general, and hip-hop style in particular, was characterized by a street-inspired aesthetic.
Baggy clothing, tracksuits, and athletic wear in bright colors matched with golden accessories, leather or denim jackets, hats, and sneakers were all prevalent among black people who embraced hip-hop fashion.
With vibrant and daring styles, the black and Afro-American communities significantly influenced the fashion of the 1980s.
Music was a major driving force behind the fashion trends of the 80s, and black artists were at the forefront of this movement.
Hip-hop and R&B music popularized baggy pants, tracksuits, and sneakers worn with oversized jewelry like gold chains and hoop earrings.
Legendary performers and 80s fashion icons such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Grace Jones, Whitney Houston, Run DMC, LL Cool J, and Salt-N-Pepa were incredibly influential and still inspire trends today.
Hairstyles were another critical aspect of 80s fashion, with black culture playing a significant role in defining trends.
From the Jheri curl and the high-top fade to Houston’s voluminous look, black hairstyles were bold and iconic, influencing fashion choices across racial and ethnic lines.
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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.