1980s Mens Fashion: Romantics and Power Dressing

In contrast to previous decades, 1980s mens fashion was not all about teen styles and tastes. This was the era of the yuppie, with important fashion trends dictated by the image and aspirations of the well-heeled and upwardly mobile.

The radical ideas and fashions of the sixties and, to some extent, the seventies gave way to an all-round conservatism as Reaganomics and Thatcherism took root.

Business & Formal Return to Convention

The eighties was the decade where designer labels took off, as part of a philosophy that was the direct opposite of the home-made, tie-dyed t-shirt. Convention returned in social behaviour, with a resurgence of interest in formal wear.

Marriage had taken a bit of a beating during the sexual revolution but was back in vogue, along with other formal occasions where people could display their wealth and status through clothing.

All year round black tie events, with male guests immaculately attired in black tuxedos, or white in summer, surged in popularity. Though the tux might be accessorised in a strong color such as red, there was a new restraint in formal menswear.

Bow ties, lapels and cummerbunds became narrower. Jackets with notched lapels, wing collared shirts and suspenders got the nod of approval from the experts.

Men's business suits followed the trend towards narrower detailing, and the waistcoat that had been mandatory in the eighties lost popularity.

The silhouette changed. Jackets were looser and waists lower, while trousers (and women's skirts) became tighter and skinnier. The smart double-breasted suit began to reappear as the years passed.

The individualism of previous years had not entirely vanished. In formal and work wear, there was scope to bend the rules, especially in summer.

"Informal Formal" was a designer buzzword of the earlier 1980s, blurring the boundaries between dressed-up casual and dressed-down formal.

Key Influences of 1980s Mens Fashion

TV was a major influence on 1980s mens fashion, from the over-the-top power dressing in 'Dynasty' to the lasting influence of 'Miami Vice' on menswear, with designers playing with the formal-informal distinction.

Don Johnson popularized wearing a designer jacket (and stubble) with a T-shirt, teamed with linen trousers and loafers without socks.

Sport coats and unconstructed blazers in pastel colors made for ideal day wear. Conservative, class-conscious American youths adopted the clean-cut, preppy look, favoring muted colors, natural fibres and a country club image. Gold buttons were popular on semi- formal jackets.

Pop music also left its mark on 1980s fashion for men. In British nightclubs the New Romantics and New Wave fashions held sway briefly and clumpy Doc Martens shoes were de rigueur in counterculture style.

Michael Jackson's fashion style enthralled fans, and leather jackets gained new appeal. Grunge was popularised by Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. This was another counterculture trend, a late eighties reaction against designer labels and materialist values.

Devotees wore baggy, well-worn, outdoor and vintage clothing, often acquired cheaply from thrift stores. Manufacturers tapped into the look with stone-washed (or acid- washed) jeans that replicated the tatty, grungy image.

If fashions for men in the eighties started out in a conservative vein, this trend was undercut in the years that followed. Yuppie values lost some of their gloss, although designer labels were here to stay.

In fact, part of the legacy of the decade is the blurred divide between formal and informal wear, and an ongoing loosening of sartorial conventions.

1920s Mens Fashion

1930s Mens Fashion

1940s Mens Fashion

1950s Mens Fashion

1960s Mens Fashion

1970s Mens Fashion

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