Black 80s Fashion Most Iconic Styles To Wear In 2023

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Influenced by the clothes black and Afro-American communities wore on the streets, the 1980s became a decade of bright, bold colors and prints.

Reflecting a growing interest in black cultural heritage, African-inspired fabrics, patterns, and colors became popular during the 80s decade.

Black fashion designers Willi Smith and Patrick Kelly became famous in the 80s for their ability to capture and convert this unique energy into culturally-infused, playful clothing.

Black 80s Fashion Designers Patrick Kelly and Willi Smith

Black and Afro-American music, sports, and movie celebrities played an equally important role in shaping the trends of the time, both in the United States and worldwide.

Quickly embraced by other communities, bright-colored clothing in bold patterns became a hallmark of 80s fashion.

Most Popular Black Fashion Styles of the 80s

This section will explore the seven iconic black 80s fashion trends that continue to make the 80s such an unforgettable decade of taste and style.

1. Hip-Hop Style

Hip Hop Style in Black 80s Fashion

The 1980s saw the emergence of several popular clothing trends influenced by black culture, pioneered by black designers, and popularized by black celebrities and musicians.

One such trend was the rise of the 80s hip-hop fashion style for men, inspired by the decade’s celebs.

Comprising baggy pants, oversized t-shirts, tracksuits, sneakers, and large gold chains (hoop earrings), the look was widespread in the 80s by hip-hop icons like LL Cool J, Run DMC, Salt-N-Pepa, MC Hammer, and Rapper Kid.

80s Hip Hop Style

Black designer brands like FUBU, Karl Kani, and Sean Combs were at the forefront of the 80s hip-hop clothing trend.

Cross Colours, a brand founded by Carl Jones and T.J. Walker and designed for African American and Hispanic youth, played a significant role in the rise of hip-hop fashion.

Cross Colours Promotional Archive

With slogans like “Educate 2 Elevate” and “Stop D Violence” appearing on their clothing, Cross Colours was one of the first streetwear brands to incorporate socially conscious messages into its designs.


White and Black Striped Track suit

Icy Gold Basketball in Hoop Chain

2. 80s Sneaker Mania Style

Sneaker Style in Black 80s Fashion

Sneakers were an essential aspect of the 80s hip-hop fashion style, and black communities played a critical role in the rise of the sneaker culture.

After Nike introduced their 1985 Air Jordan line, the shoes reached global popularity thanks to the basketball legend Michael Jordan.

Towards the mid and end of the 80s decade, the sneaker culture became increasingly intertwined with hip-hop and black culture thanks to rappers like Run DMC wearing Adidas Superstars without laces.



Air Jordan CONCORD

3. Harem Pants Style

MC Hammer harem pants in black 80s fashion

Another popular street style trend inspired by black and African American culture in the 80s was the harem pants, popularized by MC Hammer.

The look was extreme, and despite being all the rage in the 80s, MC Hammer’s signature baggy, harem-style pants were a stylistic nightmare.


Men's Joggers Trousers

SHEIN Men Drawstring Ruched Drop Crotch Pants

4. Dashiki and Kufi Styles

Queen Latifah wearing Dashiki and Kufi in black 80s fashion

The 1980s saw the adoption of fabrics and styles combined with hairstyles characteristic to the black and African cultures.

The Dashiki, a loose-fitting tunic with a V-neck, was a popular clothing item worn by both men and women.

The Kufi, a brimless cap often made of West African Kente cloth, was also a popular accessory many black men wore.


Shophaven African Kente Kufi Hat

Men Geo Print Kimono & Shorts

5. Sequins Everywhere Style

Diana Ross and Paula Abdul wearing sequins in 80s fashion

During the 1980s, Afro-American celebrities were on a quest for equality, and the sparkly embellishments symbolized strength and resilience.

African Americans used sequins to add sparkle and glamour to their eveningwear outfits while celebrating their cultural heritage.

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.




6. Wide-leg Pants

Black celebrity Prince in wide-leg pant style in the 80s fashion

In the 1980s, wide-leg pants became a popular fashion trend, particularly in the black queer communities.

The wide-leg pant style was adopted for its gender-nonconforming nature and ability to provide freedom and fluidity in self-expression.

Jay Jackson’s unique and oversized designs, celebrated for boldness and creativity, played a significant role in developing the wide-leg pants style.

His designs inspired a generation of queer and non-binary fashion designers who continue to push boundaries and challenge traditional gender norms.


Men Plaid Print Flap Pocket Pants

Men Two Tone Corduroy Cargo Pants

7. Power Suit Styles

Grace Jones Power Suit Style in black 80s fashion

While already popular with men, 80s power suits also became popular among women.

The original look was characterized by sharp, tailored lines and oversized shoulder pads for a more assertive silhouette.

However, the 80s power suit look was augmented by the time’s black designers like Willi Smith and Patrick Kelly to comprise unique colors and stylistic elements characteristic of black and African cultures.

Power Suits by Grace Jones in 80s fashion

Power suits in bold colors celebs like Grace Jones in Conan the Destroyer (1984) and the James Bond film A View to a Kill (1985), and Whitney Houston’s on-stage statement blazers.

The Harlem-based designer Dapper Dan, known for custom-made clothing with logos from luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, dressed up many celebrities of the 80s, including LL Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, and Mike Tyson.


Mia Power Suit in Recycled Polyester Satin


Matching 80s Black Hairstyles

Jheri curls and high-top fades were two of the most popular hairstyles of the 80s, popularized by African-American icons.

The Jheri curls are a permed hairstyle characterized by loose, shiny curls, whereas high-top fades, or the flattop, feature short sides and high, flat tops.

80s popular hairstyles in black fashion

Celebrities like Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Janet Jackson, Iman, Kid’ n Play, Big Daddy Kane, Eriq La Salle, Lionel Richie, and Witney Houston helped popularize these 80s Afro-American hairstyles.

The two hairstyles were eventually adopted by white communities through celebrities like Justin Timberlake, Kenny G, Brian Bosworth, and Vanilla Ice.

80s Black Styles Impact on Modern Fashion

The black fashion styles of the 80s have significantly impacted the modern landscape.

Here are a few examples of how the eighties black fashion continued to influence modern clothing styles:


80s black streetwear fashion

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.


HUF Dimensions Zip Sweater

Stüssy Poly Track Pant - Black


Logomania in 80s black fashion

In the 80s, Dapper Dan created custom clothing designs incorporating luxury brand logos like Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

Nowadays, logomania is one of the most popular fashion trends, with many designer brands incorporating logos into their designs.


Neverfull MM

Reversible Interlocking G wool cardigan

Androgynous Fashion

Black 80s 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.


Malik striped-sleeve cotton-blend blazer

Beige & Brown Pop Trousers

Black 80s Fashion FAQs

What Did Black People Wear in the 80s?

In the 80s, back 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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Now it’s your turn…

Which one of these African American 80s fashion styles do you see as the most influential, and why?

Which black fashion trends from the 80s 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.

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