The best ’80s fashion for men really had it all. So influential were these trends that they would reappear decades later. While some of these looks were certainly outrageous, many aspects of the ’80s clothing trends for men haven’t lost their stylish or expressive edge, hence the current onslaught of retro revivals. Ask yourself, did band t-shirts and bomber jackets ever really go out of style?
So you want to dress with an ’80s theme? Whether you want to dress like a movie star or simply want to know which outfits to avoid, we’ve got you covered with our list of the top ’80s fashion trends for men. Here you’ll discover everything that makes the decade so distinguishable, memorable, and amusing. So crank up the synth-pop and dig out your old Nintendo because we’re going back to the good old days.
Best 1980s Fashion at a Glance
Our list of the best ’80s fashion goes like this:
- Best overall fashion staple: Tracksuits
- If you want an epic haircut: The Mullet
- If you’re after a sweet jacket: Bomber Jackets
- When you want a cool sneaker: High Top Sneakers
Now we’ve had a look at our favourites, let’s check out the complete list.
Table of Contents
- Best 1980s Fashion at a Glance
- What Was Men’s Fashion Like in the ’80s?
- Your 1980s FAQs Answered
1. The Mullet
Then: Ahhh, the mighty mullet. Is there anything more synonymous with dated ’80s men’s fashion than this oft-ridiculed haircut? We think not. Once popular among jocks and movie stars and everyone in between, it consists of hair that’s short in the front and on the sides, and then long in the back. We’re sure you’ve heard it before “business in the front, party in the back”.
Now: If you’re rocking a mullet today you’ve got more self-confidence than many, or maybe you’re an up and coming footy player. Either way, if you’re not interested in growing out a natural mullet for eight months and you’re just looking for ’80s costume ideas, throw on a permed mullet wig and consider yourself covered in the hairstyle department.
2. Baggy Jumpers
Then: Picture a sweater that’s a size or two too big and you’re now in baggy jumper territory. Worn by men and women alike, this ’80s fashion trend commonly featured loud colours and patterns, the kind of which you’d only see nowadays at a retro-themed costume party or ugly sweater contest. As out there as it is, the baggy jumper is one of the easier outfits to pull off, just pair it with some basic slacks and you’re on the way.
Now: You can still rock the baggy jumper today, however, we recommend toning down the prints as much as you can. If you choose to go all out with the ’80s theme prints you might end up looking like a vintage couch or bus seat so keep it conservative. We suggest a tonal piece such as those from Champion, Uniqlo, and Acne Studios. The baggy jumper is best paired with baggy cargo pants, tracksuit pants, or wider leg jeans, forget skinny jeans or chinos. Once you figure out the modern baggy jumper you’re ready to try some more technically advanced outfits.
Featured Video from Man of Many
3. Bomber Jackets
Then: Back in the ’80s, bomber jackets usually appeared in a few separate forms. One was the Air Force bomber, which delivered straightforward military vibes, think Top Gun. The casual bomber, meanwhile, served up a preppier aesthetic. Last but not least is the letterman (aka varsity) jacket, an off-shoot of sorts with the sole purpose of layering. We should also note that the ’80s didn’t invent the bomber jacket (which dates back to WWI) and didn’t kill it off either.
Now: With Top Gun: Maverick having been an absolute smash hit, now is the perfect time to revisit ’80s-style bomber jackets (aka flight jackets). After all, it was Tom Cruise’s character who helped make these jackets so ubiquitous in the first place. Thanks to celebrities like Kendall Jenner along with certain hip-hop stars, this vintage apparel is still quite cool and only in a slightly ironic sense of the word. Some brands to consider include Alpha Industries, A.P.C., Acne Studios and Patagonia.
4. Hawaiian Shirts and Moustaches
Then: Ever heard of the show Magnum, P.I.? Set in Hawaii, it starred Tom Selleck as the title character, a private investigator who solved crimes when not drinking cold beer, picking up women, or working on his tan. Where are we going with this, you ask? Tom Selleck’s thick moustache and iconic Aloha shirts, naturally. A veritable trend back in the day, the combination still makes for a great ’80s costume idea today.
Now: The Hawaiian shirt is making a full-blown comeback today. Many luxury designers such as Gucci, Off White, Aries, and AMIRI are hopping on the proverbial bandwagon to bring back the flat collar staple. If you’re going to attempt the Hawaiian shirt fit we recommend pairing the outlandish printed shirt with a pair of brown corduroy pants like the Biebs for a full-blown “I could be in Hawaii right now and you wouldn’t even know” look. If that’s asking a bit much, tone the shirt down with a pair of blue denim jeans or chinos.
5. Double Denim
Then: The Canadian Tux was a bonafide men’s fashion trend back in the ’80s. It’s been much derided in the time since, but to be honest, doubling up on denim wasn’t as bad as some people made it sound. As long as you wore it with confidence and adhered to the same colour rule you were good to go.
Now: The Canadian tux is not quite the fashion faux pas it once was. If you’re going to try your hand at pulling off this outfit, we recommend choosing quality selvage denim from the likes of Evisu, Uniqlo, Rag and Bone or Saint Laurant.
Then: Athleisure has been a staple over the last couple of years, and we might have ’80s tracksuits to thank for it. To be clear, the tracksuit was not an ’80s invention. However, after the ’80s hip-hop acts such as Run DMC and LL Cool J began wearing adidas get-ups as style statements, and a men’s fashion trend was born. While tracksuit materials and designs have improved or at least changed over the years, the core principle remains the same: this is proactive apparel you can wear outside the gym.
Now: When it comes to pulling off a top-to-bottom athleisure outfit, Run DMC walked so yoga instructors could run. The thing about athleisure is it’s perfectly acceptable to wear under most circumstances, that is, only if you’re wearing premium quality garms. We recommend you try those from Pangaia, Nike, Lulu Lemon, Uniqlo, and Carharrt.
7. Oversized Printed Shirts
Then: According to legend, you can go blind staring directly into the loud patterns and bright colours of an oversized printed shirt. Needless to say, this ’80s men’s fashion statement doesn’t say “retro” as much as it does scream it.
Now: Cut from the same cloth as ’80s Hawaiian shirts, the printed shirt is a more flexible option. Where the Hawaiian shirt’s main objective is to remain as loud as possible, the printed shirt allows the individual to tailor their style of the print. If you’re looking to rock an understated print opt for tonal colours such as browns and greens with as little print as possible. If you’re looking to stand out, opt for a white base with coloured prints on top. As for pairings, the printed shirt is best kept simple with a basic pair of denim jeans or chinos. However, The printed shirt allows the fashionable to take their style to the next level. Pairing the shirt with some more fashion-forward pants from the likes of BODE, Our Legacy and Dries Van Noten will instantly wake up your sense of style.
Then: Fluro is short for fluorescent and fluorescent is another word for neon and neon was freaking everywhere in the ’80s. From ’80s men’s fashion to bar signage to concert performances to college dorm rooms to hair dyes to movie screens to art exhibits, neon came roaring into fashion.
Now: Even decades later, it’s hard to look at certain neon colours or patterns and not think of the 1980s. Today we should relax on the neon as much as possible, however, if you must rock a neon outfit make sure it’s a quality cotton piece. The cotton will tone down the reflection of the outfit as much as possible. Make sure you pair the vibrant piece with quality denim or black pants, it matters little the type of pants. Unless you’re attempting to pull off the ’80s dress-up, forget rocking neon pants altogether.
9. Leather Jackets
Then: You weren’t officially an ’80s bad boy if you didn’t have at least one leather jacket, if not a closet full of them. Continuing a trend set forth by previous decades, the popular item was worn by bikers, punks, heavy metal rock gods, and pretty much anyone with a sense of fashion.
Now: This staple piece of clothing is a simple yet effective piece for every wardrobe that gets the job done simply and easily. Like many leather goods, the better the quality the higher the price. A high-quality designer leather jacket can cost upwards of AUD$3000, and settling for a cheaper fake leather can just leave you in a pool of your own sweat. So what do you do? A real leather jacket in the price range of $400-800 can get the job done in many cases. Try the likes of RM Williams, Uniqlo, Superdry or AllSaints for quality leather jackets.
10. High Top Sneakers
Then: Gather ’round boys and girls, because we’re going to tell you about a great man from a different era. He went by the name of Michael Jordan and he changed not just the sport of basketball, but the entire merchandising-marketing complex. Okay, okay… we know you’re familiar with Michael Jordan, just like you’re familiar with Air Jordan sneakers.
Originally available as high tops, they struck an accord between fashion and function while paving the way for an industry-wide trend. More than must-have footwear, they also turned Nike into the global behemoth it is today.
In another chapter from the same imaginary book, Chuck Taylor All-Stars made a considerable comeback in ’80s men’s fashion. If you can believe it, the Converse high tops were considered retro all the way back then.
Now: Good sneakers never die! Here we are decades later and we are wearing the same sneakers people were back in the ’80s. These days many high-top sneakers have a vintage twist or nostalgia to them that brings a new level of style to ’80s clothes. If you’re interested in conjuring up that vintage vibe, why not start with a pair of Converse Chuck 70s, Air Jordans (stick with 1-6). If high-tops aren’t part of your aesthetic try a pair of vintage Adidas Tennis shoes such as the Stan Smith, Superstar, or Spezial.
11. Power Suits
Then: No list of ’80s men’s fashion trends is complete without the power suit. As much a uniform as it was a style statement, the most common examples delivered sharp cuts and wide shoulder pads. They came to us from designers like Armani Versace, who employed bolder colours and lighter fabrics than his predecessors.
If you were around in the ’80s, you saw power suits on Gordon Gekko in Wall Street and then you saw them on the actual Wall Street. Women were power dressing too, by way of tailored pantsuits and discreet jewellery. It was a good time to be ambitious!
Now: The power suit is alive and well today thanks to a host of mainstream television and streaming shows such as Madmen and The Wolf of Wall Street. The power suit is the choice suit for powerful businessmen or those who seek to become such. If you wear a suit on a daily basis, take your preferences to a tailor and have them design the ultimate fit for your day-to-day get around.
12. Highlights and a Pierced Ear
Then: “But Mooooom, everyone has one!” that’s the sound of a bratty ’80s teenager begging his mother to let him get his ear pierced. By the time he shows up in school with his radical piercing, no one will know he whined for hours just to make it happen. Sealing the deal are some choice highlights in his hair, a sign of being cool if there ever was one.
Now: Ear piercings and highlights were to 1980s what tattoos are today. In other words, half the male population had them and only a sliver of that population actually had the attitude to back it up. It was a trend that carried well into the ’90s until getting killed by boy bands like *NSYNC. If you’re interested in getting some piercings for yourself, we recommend keeping it simple.
13. Slogan and Logo T-shirts
Then: Already worn by sports fanatics and frequent concertgoers, logo t-shirts were definitely nothing new in ’80s men’s fashion. The decade saw merchandising and sloganeering go to extremes, as brands and logos all but took over the nearest apparel store or gift shop.
Now: To this day, the logo and slogan t-shirt industry remains quite robust. Step outside and it’s inevitable that you’ll see a witty slogan splashed across the front or back of someone’s shirt. Along similar lines, no one argues with a rock band shirt of either the retro or contemporary variety.
What Was Men’s Fashion Like in the ’80s?
It’s impossible to think ’80s fashion without conjuring words like decadent, bold, colourful, and excessive. Trends such as ripped jeans and biker jackets ruled the decade, however, it was about far more than its loudest style statements. Indeed, there’s quite a lot of ground to cover between The Lost Boys and Wall Street.
As such, ’80s men’s clothing can mean everything from Air Jordan sneakers to baggy hip-hop silhouettes with a boombox, to athleisure and preppy fashion. Maybe more important than the outfit itself was the hair on the head top. We’re talking, heavy metal perms, spiky mohawks, slicked-back ‘dos, buzzcuts, and casual side parts. The moral is, that the 1980s were like any other decade, they just contained a little bit more of everything.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to extremes when coming up with ’80s-themed outfits. Whether you’re interested in getting off an ’80s fit for the gram or attempting to relive the nostalgia of your youth, why not have a little fun with it?
Your 1980s FAQs Answered
In the ’80s, bomber jackets and leather jackets were extremely popular and appeared in a few different forms. There was the Air Force bomber, which delivered straightforward military vibes. The casual bomber served up a preppier aesthetic. And the letterman (aka varsity) jacket, with the sole purpose of layering.
Put simply, Air Jordans. They struck a balance between fashion and function while paving the way for an industry-wide trend. More than must-have footwear, they also turned Nike into the global behemoth it is today. Notable mentions go to the Converse Chuck Taylor and Adidas Tennis shoes such as the Stan Smith, Superstar, or Spezial.
The Hawaiian shirt is making a full-blown bonafide comeback today with many luxury designers such as Gucci, Off White, Aries, and AMIRI hopping on the proverbial bandwagon to bring back the flat collar staple. If you’re going to attempt the Hawaiian shirt fit we recommend pairing the outlandish printed shirt with a pair of brown corduroy pants like the Biebs or tone the shirt down with a pair of blue denim jeans or chinos.
You’ll also like:
- Best Dive Watches For Every Budget
- Best Messenger Bags for Style, Tech, and Travel
- Best Dad Shoes to Make You King of the Cookout
Featured Video from Man of Many