What Did Men Wear in the 80s?

Danielle Jennings
80s casual wear

Men's fashion in the 1980s was quite different than in decades prior. Gone were the styles from the 70s disco era and in were looks that were heavily influenced by androgynous pop stars, hip hop culture, hair-metal bands and action movie stars. The 80s men's fashion trends also reflected what was worn on TV shows by stars who ruled the decade with their bold fashion sense. Many of the styles knew no limits. It was common to see a man dressed for work in clothes they also deemed appropriate for leisure activities, such as an evening out at a nightclub.

Cool and Casual Styles

Although the average man may not have worn exactly the same casual wear as men in the movies or television, there were plenty of 80s influences in this area. The look that ruled the 80s was often cool and casual. Miami Vice was a popular 80s TV series and men followed the style of Don Johnson and Phillip Michael Thomas. Many men wore:

  • Casual t-shirts under designer jackets (which may have shoulder pads)
  • Suits in white, pastel, or bright colors
  • Loafers or boat shoes, minus socks
  • Men often wore pushed-up sleeves and open jackets.

It was also common to wear a shirt without a tie to the office. A Hawaiian shirt, as seen on the 80s hit series Magnum, P.I. could be seen both at the office and on the weekends.

The TV screen wasn't the only medium to influence 80s fashion, as blockbuster films of the decade did the same. Leather and sports-themed jackets, worn by Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop, Sylvester Stallone in Cobra and Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator were a few of the styles that men in the 80s favored.

Clothing Inspired from the Music Scene

80s style vest and shirt

Men also wore clothing that was inspired by some of the decade's biggest musical influences.

  • Michael Jackson: There was no icon bigger than Michael Jackson. His style defined much of the clothing in the 80s. From leather studded jackets to slouchy and oversized tops, men wore clothes that resembled Michael's unique style. Who could forget the sparkly glove on one hand look? Not only were studded leather jackets popular but leather bomber jackets were as well.
  • Heavy metal clothing: Totally opposite from the Michael Jackson look was the look of the hair bands. Men often mimicked the look of bands such as Poison or Metallica. They wore t-shirts. leather/spandex pants and torn jeans often with a bandana around their massively teased hair and studded boots on their feet.
  • Androgynous styles: For men who were as equally influenced by male fashion icons of the 80s as female, there was the hugely popular androgynous look that was seen on pop stars like Boy George, Prince and Annie Lennox. This fashion style featured men wearing women's blouses, high-heeled boots, large hoop earrings and faces full of make-up.
  • Hip hop looks: The 1980s also saw the emergence of a new music style that would greatly influence the urban fashion scene. This new music was of course hip hop, which popularized the fascination with designer sneakers, Kangol caps, thick gold rope chains, three/four finger rings and parachute pants.
  • MC Hammer: Parachute pants, also known as "Hammer pants," were popularized by rapper MC Hammer. The pants were very big and roomy, with a large space in between the crotch area that contained a massive amount of extra fabric.

Conservative Styles

Men of all ages and walks of life adored the 'preppy' look. This conservative style of dress originated in the 1950s and was known as Ivy League Dress, made a resurgence beginning in the late 70s and remained prevalent during the 80s. It consisted of items such as:

  • Button-down oxford shirts
  • Polo shirts with the collars turned up
  • Argyle sweaters -- often tied loosely around the neck
  • Sweater vests
  • Peg-legged jeans
  • Cuffed khakis
  • Penny loafers or bright white sneakers

Brand-Name Clothing

80s style green track suit

Pastel clothing often displaying brand logos was an extremely popular trend in the 80s. Some of the most prominent brands were:

  • Izod, which featured sportswear and dressy casual fashions
  • Gap, who popularized pullover sweatshirts, jeans and hoodies
  • Guess: They were one of the most popular denim brands of the 80s
  • Polo Ralph Lauren, a brand known for their colorful polo shirts and jackets
  • Benetton was largely regarded for their colorful sweaters and knits
  • Champion sweatshirts were a popular item for weekend wear for both men and women, often over turtlenecks

More 80s Clothing and Accessory Items

There were many other clothing items that were popular, such as:

  • Converse All-Stars sneakers in a variety of colors, high-top and low
  • Member's Only jackets -- lightweight jackets that came in a variety of colors that stopped at the waist and could be zipped up to the neck
  • Jean jackets adorned with buttons from choice rock bands, pop stars and movies
  • Sunglasses -- worn day and night
  • Acid or stonewashed jeans
  • Track suits
  • Fanny packs, filled with essentials such as keys, tools, identification and credit cards
  • A single earring

Memorable Styles

Men wore styles that expressed their individuality and creativity in the 1980s. Whether this meant a style all their own or one modeled after someone famous, the styles of the 80s varied from one group to another. The 80s saw fashions unlike any other decade, and some of the influences are still seen on men today.

What Did Men Wear in the 80s?