Crazy for the ’80s
Society's nostalgia for the 1980s is the reason behind the cycle of trends in today's culture
WRITTEN BY LOGAN HUGHES
COLLAGE ILLUSTRATION BY KATIE HOWARD
Pop culture trends are on a constant loop, a cyclical beast that traps us into repeating even the worst trends of decades’ past. When the time comes, we start to see trends from the past bubbling back up to the surface whether we want them to or not. In the 1970s, pop culture reflected the ‘50s with “Grease” and “Happy Days,” while in the ‘80s, movies like “Dirty Dancing” showed an obsession with the ‘60s. Trends of the ‘70s snuck their way into the ‘90s and the ‘80s began to reemerge in the 2000s.
From the music of Whitney Houston to Zac Morris crushing hearts on “Saved by the Bell,” to the obsession with Princess Diana, the 1980s were a turning point in pop-culture that saw some of the biggest changes in trends and culture. The ’80s steered away from the relaxed flower child and free love mentalities of the ’60s and ’70s, witnessing the birth of classic rock, the death of John Lennon, and the introduction of some of the most iconic fashion trends of all time: leg warmers, shoulder pads, giant hair and neon colors. All the flowy, Bohemian style of the ’70s was gone, and oversized structure and color ran wild through the decade.
But why, in 2018, are we still so obsessed with the 1980s? In films, we’ve seen recent remakes of staple ’80s movies and television shows like “Tron,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Footloose” and “21 Jump Street” — even the hit Netflix show “Stranger Things” is set in the ’80s, which causes everyone to gush over the nostalgia of pop-culture references in the show and admire the clothing of the kids from Hawkins, Ind. And, of course, “Star Wars” is back.
Crop tops, leopard print, power suits, and denim jackets were hallmarks of style in the ’80s, and now we can see them on just about every street we turn down. The reemergence of drop-crotch pants (unfortunately) and fanny packs (also unfortunately) were huge in 2017, and don’t seem to be going anywhere in 2018. Even athleisure — that means your favorite pair of leggings — have roots in the spandex craze of the ‘80s. It seems like the only thing that hasn’t returned is the massive hair (and I pray it never does).
Most of us in the younger generations who eat these trends up weren’t around during 1980s. For most of us, the ’80s were the generation just before ours, a bright, retro era we’ve only heard about, and I think that plays a big part in why we fixate on the decade so much. We grew up with stories from our parents about the ’80s, their lives just before we were born; all the celebrities we grew up watching in movies and on television started emerging in the ‘80s. It’s easy to romanticize something you didn’t experience, or don’t fully understand. But maybe the true appeal of the ’80s is that the decade represented a time of rebellion, freedom and self-expression that we feel we need or can relate to right now. The decade was about color, music, ridiculous clothes and most importantly, about standing out.
In the overstimulated world we live in now, it makes sense we’d feel a connection to that sense of individuality. And though the reemergence of the ’80s is exciting, if you’re tired of the shoulder pads, spandex and crazy colors (and fearing the return of teased hair), don’t worry — the ’90s will be here soon enough.