Ah, the ’80s. It’s the decade that won’t go away. We haven’t collectively jumped into a Delorean and driven back in time, although it feels like it. We’re still listening to ’80s music, and fashion designers still use it as inspiration. The tweet of the summer summed up fashion, music and pop culture trends in about 47 words.
Ok so let me get this straight. The #1 movie in the country is Top Gun, the #1 song is Kate Bush “Running up The Hill”, and America is in a proxy war with Russia? So we’re just like “fuck it, let’s give 1986 another go then?”
— Matt Clarke (@iMattClarke) June 1, 2022
So yeah, the ’80s will not die. As much as the Y2K or ’90s trends tried to take over, the ’80s fashion and music aren’t giving up an inch. Will we see ’90s Ravers versus ’80s Preps duking it out (that would be a great video game)…Nah. No matter what happens, no matter how many fashion innovations are thrown at you, the comfort and goofiness of ’80s style will always be there.
It’s partially due to people not being able to get enough of those ’80s kids stuck in a little town in Indiana. Stranger Things actually broke Netflix. You’re seeing Eggos wherever you go, baseball tees, denim jackets, denim vests, clothing layered on top of each other, and both the Gap and Quiksilver launched Stranger Things fashion collabs. So keep reading to learn how to incorporate ’80s men’s clothing into your modern looks.
When adopting 80s fashion into your modern attire, here’s the most important thing to remember:
There’s no point in adopting retro clothing trends if you’re not going to have fun with it.
An Overview of ’80s Men’s Fashion Trends
The best ’80s fashion for men wasn’t categorized by one style; instead, 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 were 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 leather 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 trends from that era included bright Neon colors, tie-dye, parachute pants, oversized blazers, acid wash jeans, Swatch watches, vintage anything, layering shirts and tees, 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 to Incorporate ’80s Men’s Fashion Into Your 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, many 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 color block activewear jacket, white adidas sneaks and acid wash jeans simultaneously. 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.
1. Seager Co. Seager X Huckberry Snapback
EASIEST TO WEAR
Back in the ’80s, guys and gals wore baseball caps constantly. They ranged in style from solid colors to ones emblazoned with team or designer names and even obscure (or made-up) brands. This embroidered ball cap neatly fits the bill, as it were, of merging ’80s fashion for men with contemporary style.
2. Nike Killshot 2 Leather Sneaker
The swoosh symbol was as big in the 1980s as it is now. Nike sneakers were coveted. As mentioned earlier, Nike was a big deal in ’80s men’s fashion. When they rolled out the Air Jordan 1, people went crazy. The Killshot 2 was inspired by tennis shoes, and they’ll look pretty awesome on or off the court. They have that relaxed ’80s vibe, but they’re a contemporary sneaker.
3. BDG Skate Fit Corduroy Pant
BEST FOR MORE THAN ONE SEASON
Skater boys in the ’80s wanted, needed and only wore baggy pants because they needed to move. They had to swerve and sway to do those tricks, sometimes super quickly. That vibe is sewn into these modern, loose-fit skater-style cord pants. Super soft and made with 100% cotton, they have five pockets and come in a bunch of colors.
4. Ray-Ban Wayfarer Sunglasses
Call it the “Tom Cruise Effect,” but Ray-Ban’s Wayfarers were the sunglasses of choice after Risky Business hit the multiplexes. 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. Champion Men’s Reverse Weave Crew
BEST ENDURING CLASSIC
Jocks wore sweatshirts. Hip Hop wore sweatshirts. Everybody wore sweatshirts. There wasn’t an athleisure trend back in the day; it was just an easy thing to wear. Eighties fashion for men was a cross between wearing something for attention and wearing something that felt good. This Champion sweatshirt is both eye-catching and comfy. It comes in a ridiculous number of colors if this trendy ’80s color isn’t doing it for you.
6. Wrangler X Fender Vinyl Baseball Tee
BEST SEAMLESS ADDITION
Back in the ’80s, baseball and graphic tees were worn by everyone. Inspired by the cool music-influenced graphic baseball tees of the 1980s, this collab between Wrangler and Fender created a modern-looking vintage piece that celebrates both brands’ longevity and perennial coolness.
7. Coalatree Whistler Windbreaker
BEST FUN ADDITION
Satorically speaking, when it came to outerwear, ’80s men’s fashion didn’t offer as many choices as guys have now. Next to a denim or leather jacket, the windbreaker was the go-to jacket for tons of guys. It went with everything, had a hood, and kept you warm. Fast forward to today, and now you have this high-tech unisex windbreaker. It can actually heal itself from snags or punctures. Just rub your fingers over the hole, and you can watch the fabric knit itself back together. It has a zippered chest pocket that fits a phone, is practically weightless, and can be folded up and stowed in a backpack.
8. MTV Men’s Checkerboard T-Shirt
“I want my MTV” was heard constantly across the nation. Back then, that video channel gave bands a worldwide audience in seconds. This retro design is from MTV’s archives. You can also check out more of our favorite vintage t-shirts for more 80s-inspired goodness.
9. Madewell Straight Jeans
When it came to ’80s fashion trends for denim, guys had a couple of color options: dark denim, bleached, or black. The cut didn’t matter if the jeans were almost destroyed with rips or holes or were put together with safety pins; the cut was always and only the straight leg cut. What is that? It’s when the jeans are slightly loose are relaxed from hip to thigh. Back then, they didn’t call them straight-leg jeans, they just called them jeans. These straight-leg jeans are a way cooler version of that ’80s staple and are made with cotton and a touch of stretch.
10. Nautica Men’s Leather Laced Belt
When it came to belts, ’80s men’s fashion took them seriously. Like, almost every guy had a couple of belts. They could be used as subtle status symbols and to keep pants up. This leather Nautica belt has a touch more than one 1980s fashion trend. It lightly mixes prep and rocker, making it a leather belt that looks smart with jeans and chinos.
11. Converse Chuck 70 Vintage Canvas Sneakers
The thing about Chuck’s is that no matter when they were worn; the sixties, the eighties, or now, they are transcendent. They look utterly, ineffably cool. They are legendary sneakers.
12. David.Ann Men’s Denim Vest
Rip off the sleeves of a trucker jacket, and what do you have? The classic denim vest. Worn by punks, rocker dudes and everybody else. It can be layered over a tee, button-down shirt or a henley. This cotton denim has two front button pockets, two bottom pockets and buttons up the front. Wear it with washed jeans, and you have another ’80s fashion trend: the Canadian Tuxedo.
13. Swatch New Gent Quartz Silicone Strap Watch
BEST WAY TO TELL TIME NOW AND THEN
Hot! Hot! Hot! That’s the only way to describe Swatches in the 1980s. The big ’80s fashion trend was wearing at least three of them at a time on your wrist and forearm. Why? Who knew. 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 a skeleton dial, three hands, a 41mm case and is water-resistant to 100 feet. Bring the watch to any Swatch store when the battery dies, and they’ll replace it for free.
14. Raen Andreas Sunglasses
BEST RETRO COOL SUNNIES
Round sunglasses started making their way back into the spotlight in the 1980s. Perhaps it was watching so many musicians who had such varied fashion sense that things that were thought to be once uncool were cool again. Nowadays, round sunnies are always a cool option to wear. This unisex pair from Cali-based Raen have 100% UVA/UVB protection and come with its own case. They also come with a one-year warranty, and you can do a virtual try-on on the site.
15. The Gap 100% Organic Pique Cotton Original Pocket T-Shirt
BEST FROM BEACH BOY TO PUNK
Wide stripey tees first became popular due to surf bands like the Beach Boys and genuine surfers. Skaters and punks co-opted the striped tee and made it subversive. Which meant that everyone had to wear it. This modern version from The Gap is made with soft 100% organic cotton and has a slightly oversized silhouette and one pocket. It also comes in a blue and gray or pink and gray stripe.
16. Jansport Gnarly 30 Travel Backpack
Back in the ’80s, everybody had a backpack. And everybody had a Jansport backpack. If you didn’t…ewww. And for this roundup, we had to pick a Jansport backpack whose name was one of that era’s biggest slang words: “gnarly.” Gnarly meant awesome. Gnarly also meant that something awesomely sucked. This backpack is tubular, aka awesome. It has a padded laptop sleeve, a large main compartment and a smaller compartment — use it to divvy up your dirty laundry after a weekend away or keep your gym clothes away from other things. Made from recycled polyester, this backpack is big. It has mesh inserts to keep things airy and light. There’s also an outer zippered pocket to stow items you need quickly, like your wallet, phone or passport.
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. Off-White and other designers showed bucket hats, and bang! 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. Quiksilver x Stranger Things Lenora Long Sleeve T-Shirt
BEST TIE-IN TO A TV SHOW
A big ’80s fashion trend was if you loved a TV show, you wore its shirt. Now you can wear this Quiksilver X Stranger Things long-sleeve tee. The back of the tee has a larger version of the Lenora Hills graphic on the chest. Wear it by itself, or in true 80’s men’s fashion, layer it under a graphic tee or an open long-sleeve button-down shirt.