Ah, the 80s. It’s the decade that won’t go away. We’re still listening to 80s music, and fashion designers are still using it as inspiration. If you parse out some of the men’s Spring 2020 fashion shows, it looks like a mashup of the best 80s men’s clothing and newer ideas.
You may have noticed the recent resurgence of 90s fashion trends as well. However, considering that the 90s were generally known for their horrible fashion sense, we don’t think this 90s throwback era will last very long. (Or, at least, we hope not.) And when it finally passes, we bet your favorite 80s looks will still be trending.
Don’t believe us? One of the most popular fashion articles on SPY is this old story on the fashion of Call Me By Your Name, the indie romance set in 1983. Some of the most popular Call Me By Your Name outfits would look just as stylish in the summer of 2020 as they did in the summer of 1983.
So keep reading to learn how to incorporate 80s men’s clothing into your modern looks, whether you’re shopping for a costume party or you just need an outfit to go with your timeless Ray-Ban Wayfarer shades.
An Overview of 80s Men’s Fashion
The best 80s men’s clothing wasn’t one categorized by one style; rather, imagine competing fashion tribes: you’ve got your Punks, the New Romantics, Preppy kids, vintage hip-hop, hair metal, jocks and New Wave. While there were subgroups, those are the most famous.
Music heavily influenced the style of the 80s, and most people took their fashion cues from musicians and bands, not fashion magazines or influencers. People watched MTV and went to live shows for an equal dose of songs and style. Back then, radio wasn’t as segmented as it is now; you could hear mostly everything on one station instead of flipping back and forth, and that philosophy translated into people’s closets. Twentysomethings of the 80s would mix fashion trends and switch from, say, something New Wave-ish to something preppy in the same week.
Each style tribe had a few signature items. For punks, it was the motorcycle jacket, graphic or band tees and combat boots. Preps had Izods in every color, striped pastel Oxford cloth shirts and fabric belts. New Wavers favored Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses (well, everybody wore Ray-bans thanks to Tom Cruise in Risky Business), bright colors and Bauhaus (the design group, not the band) influenced clothing. Hip-hop had Kangol hats, chains, sweats and warmup suits. New Romantics adorned themselves in brocade, lace anything and scarves. Hair metal rockers also wore long scarves, ripped band tees and lots of spandex. Jocks favored denim and color-blocked wind jackets, jock socks, warmup suits and crew neck t-shirts.
Other fashion trends from that era included bright Neon colors, tie-dye, parachute pants, oversized blazers, acid wash jeans, Swatch watches and skinny ties. Oh, and leather jeans and earrings. And everyone wore Adidas sneakers.
If all those disparate fashion trends sound incredibly eclectic, and a little tacky, that’s because it most definitely was.
How Do You Incorporate 80s Men’s Fashion Into Your Modern Summer Style?
This season it’s easy to add a touch of the 80s into your wardrobe without looking like you’re going to a costume party. Tie-dye, which exploded (pun intended) onto the scene a season ago, is still going strong. As mentioned earlier, lots of modern fashion designers mined that decade for runway inspo, and you can too. For example, Hermès included neon-colored sweaters in their spring line, Prada used the preppie pastel palette, and acid wash (along with tie-dye) was seen on at least three different designers’ runways already this year. The best 80s men’s clothing has been invigorated for another season.
Because there’s a plethora of stuff in the stores and waiting for you to click online, getting the stuff home is easy. Wearing it is even easier. The trick is to incorporate one item into an outfit. Well, maybe two, but that’s about it. For example, you can wear a motorcycle jacket with combat boots or with a graphic tee (punks loved band tees, message tees and anything with a design). The best men’s denim jackets can be worn with everything from shorts to, yes, jeans. You can pair a long scarf with a motorcycle or denim jacket. And it’s okay to wear a graphic tee with acid wash jeans. However, when indulging in 80s fashion trends, don’t pile it all on at once. Don’t try to wear a colorblock activewear jacket, white Adidas snearks and acid wash jeans all at the same time. You’ll look like an escapee from a bad 80s teen movie.
Ready to go back to the future past? Then scroll through to find the ghosts of fashion past and the best 80s men’s clothing to wear today. We’re going to start off with some classic 80s clothing and accessories that everyone wore.
1. Swatch Big Bold Quartz Casual Watch
Back in the 80s, Swatch watches were fun, brightly colored, inexpensive and next to Wayfarers, a hot commodity worn by everyone. The Swiss-based watch company is still creating high quality watches that are budget-friendly. This neon-accented men’s watch is a nod back to their origins and an easy way to add a dash of the best 80s men’s clothing to work or weekend wear. The watch has 3-D contrasting prints on the dial and strap. It has a 47mm round case, quartz movement and is water-resistant to 30 feet.
2. Adidas Continental 80s Sneaker
Adidas was one of three sneaker brands that ruled footwear in the 80s. There was something about the Adidas’s white leather sneaker that appealed to guys no matter what music they were into. These vintage inspired tennis shoes have the logo on the tongue and on the back suede heel insert.
3. Dyne Renzo Graphic Sweatshirt
BEST FOR MORE THAN ONE SEASON
Jocks wore sweatshirts. Hip Hop wore sweatshirts…this is another one of the best 80s men’s clothing items that crossed all music lines and is still worn today. Black designer Dyne elevates the sweatshirt with his interpretation that has neon print sleeves, a logo front and kangaroo pockets.
4. Ray-Ban Wayfarer Sunglasses
Call it the “Tom Cruise Effect,” but after Risky Business hit the multiplexes, Ray-Ban’s wayfarer’s were the sunglasses of choice. Did Corey Hart use them as inspiration for his “Sunglasses at Night,” we’ll never know. However, we do know that these unisex sunnies will always be on-trend.
5. Hudson Men’s Sartor Acid Wash Distressed Jeans
BEST TREND UPGRADE
Except for preppsters, most people wore acid wash jeans. One of the most surprising trends of 2019/20, was the resurgence of acid wash jeans. The way the wash is done now, it seems like a natural progression from the broken style from season’s past. This pair is from premium denim brand Hudson. These heavily distressed slim fit jeans have five pockets and a skinny leg.
6. AWGE Babushka Boi Cotton Babuska Scarf
BEST SEAMLESS ADDITION
Back in the 80s, cool bandanas were worn by everyone. Either around the wrist as a bracelet, as a headband or tied at the neck. Pick up an updated version from A$AP Rocky’s fashion brand AWGE. Yes, the brand is part of the rapper’s creative collective from the same name. This purple bandana sports a smiley face smack in its middle. Wear it as a neckerchief or do what they did in the 80s, wrap it around your wrist as a bracelet.
7. Russell Athletic Heritage Parachute Jacket
BEST FUN ADDITION
From Russell Athletic’s Heritage Collection, this colorblock nylon jacket with its mesh lining and hood was inspired by the colorblocked jackets that everyone wore back then, even their moms’. They were often paired with acid wash jeans or track pants and white leather sneakers.
8. H&M Printed Jacket
Ah, the denim jacket. You weren’t a child of the 80s if you didn’t have one. H&M combines retro cool with the MTV logo on the back mixed with light wash denim.
9. Russell Athletic Men’s Tie-Dye Shirt
BEST FOR LAYERING
Tie-dye was worn by 80s Deadheads and by lots of people every summer. The happy mélange of colors signaled warmer weather, probably why it’s been popular every decade since the 60s. Russell Athletic’s tee is made from lightweight cotton. Layer it under a denim or moto jacket.
10. Nautica Men’s Casual Belt
Nautica’s one of the bastions of preppy style. This striped ribbon belt would was the gateway to preppy style. If one didn’t have a striped, ribbon or lobster embroidered belt in their closet, their preppy card was taken away. A quick way to add this 80s men’s clothing to your look, match it with what you’ve got by going against the grain. In other words, wear this belt with dark jeans and a tee, as it will look more organic and less costumey if paired with a polo shirt and khakis.
11. Reef Deckhand 3 Boat Shoe
If you loved preppy style, you wore boat shoes. Yes, even if you never saw on a boat in your life, you had to have them. The classic brown shoe with the white sole’s been updated by Reef. Their boat shoe in black canvas lets you match it with jeans or shorts.
12. Hermès H Embroidered T-Shirt
Straddling the line between Prep and New Wave — both groups loved bright colors, H by Hermès bright green one-pocket tee would make both of them happy. Made with cotton pique, this pre-washed textured tee is cut slightly loose. Try it under a moto jacket and jeans or with madras shorts and flip flops.
13. Etnia Barcelona East Village Sun Sunglasses
BEST FASTEST WAY TO SWITCH IT UP
New Wavers loved accessories, and sunglasses were a fast way to change your look. These tinted sunnies from Etnia Barcelona look like they just walked out of an 80s movie. Slightly oversized, the natural mineral glass lenses provide sharp vision and UV protection.
14. Burberry Animal Print Relaxed Fit Twill Shirt
Black and white graphic prints were an excellent way to highlight neon or bright shades. Those prints were definitely one of the best 80s men’s clothing styles. It could be why New Wavers wore so many of them. Burberry re-interprets that style with a relaxed fit animal print shirt that could be worn open over a tank or tee, buttoned and tucked in jeans, trousers or shorts.
15. Leoricci Checkered Denim Jacket
BEST TO PLAY IT AT 11
Speaking of graphic prints, checkboard prints were a hallmark for punks and new wavers. Leorric re-interprets the print in a cotton button front jacket. Pair it with dark jeans and a graphic tee.
16. Resurrect by Night Late Night Rendezvous T. Black
BEST PUNK T-SHIRT
Black-owned Resurrect by Night is headed by Bronx-born, SVA graduate and fine artist Daren Chambers. He creates punk-influenced tees that wouldn’t look out of place in an 80s music video on MTV or at your neighborhood watering hole. Chambers hand paints tees, like this one, as well as pants, jackets and trucker hats.
17. Levi’s Faux Leather Motorcycle Jacket
BEST WITH OR WITHOUT A SPOTLIGHT
Rocker? New Waver? Punker? Or a hair metal fan? All those guys had one thing in common, a motorcycle jacket. Levi’s faux leather jacket combines the best 80s men’s clothing with a modern twist. It can be tossed in the washing machine when dirty.
18. Kangol Washed Bucket Hat
LL Cool J wore a Kangol bucket hat in his Going Back to Cali music video, and boom! Everyone wanted to own one. This season Off-White and other designers showed bucket hats, and boom! Everyone wants one. Why not pick a bucket hat from the brand that made it big? This unisex bucket hat is made from 100% cotton and comes in five colors.
19. TWA Red Track Jacket
Two icons in one item! TWA and a red track jacket is a total style score. This 80s inspired front zip track jacket with white trim wouldn’t look out of place at a track meet or in a music video. Go for the matching track pants for the full look.
20. Men’s Triangle Composite Diamond Pave stud earrings
Men’s jewelry came to the forefront during the birth of Hip Hop. Wear these sparkling studs in appreciation to the musicians who started it all. They have a 1.5 CT total weight of sparkling diamond pave.