Like, Ohmigod! The 80s! They’re, like, back!

Hi, kids!

So the movie “Rock of Ages” opens today. Here’s the trailer:


It’s a rock opera/musical kinda thang, adapted from the Broadway production by the director of Hairspray.

It is now time to take a stroll down memory lane, and drag out our jelly bracelets, hair spray, Flashdance tops, leg warmers, and Duran Duran pins.

C’mon. You know you want to. And you know you want me to admit that I, like, totally dressed like that.

Ah, the 80s. Big hair, big music, big dreams. At the risk of making you all gasp in horror at my Methuselah-like age, I spent the 80s in high school and college. I thus know a bit about that decade and the often atrociously bad outfits and hairstyles that accompanied it. I can say that because yes, I partook. And I will proudly own it, proudly own the goofy, kitschy stuff I wore and the angst-ridden bad New Wave I danced to. Remember this guy? That’s Mike Score from the band A Flock of Seagulls. I tried to cultivate that kind of hair and did get voted “coolest hair” when I was a junior in high school. Bless all our hearts. WTF did we know? It was the height of the 80s.

I also pegged my regular and acid-wash jeans and wore thrift store trench coats and men’s black blazers with lots of band pins on the lapels. Which bands, you ask? Duran Duran, Culture Club, Depeche Mode, Big Country, Sex Pistols, Echo and the Bunnymen, Simple Minds, New Order, Siouxsie and the Banshees. Among others. Oh, and yes, I owned and wore a pair of “elf boots” and lots of jelly bracelets:

source: The Find

Madonna and Cyndi Lauper provide excellent examples of proper wearage of 1980s jelly bracelets.

My music fanatic self emerged in high school (and remains to this day), and fortunately for me (in terms of all the available fashion in the 80s), I got into a lot of music out of the UK and Europe, including punk and goth. I spent hours haunting import bins at the record store on The Hill in Boulder, Colorado and still have some seriously awesome stuff on vinyl. Because I discovered this music, I stopped wearing those elf boots and Culture Club shirts and suspenders and instead developed a penchant for Dr. Martens, beat-up jeans, and plain button-down shirts or tees with obscure band names. Kind of a hybrid between punk and new wave without too much fanfare.

I still own and wear Dr. Martens and to this day, I still think pegged jeans look super awesome with a pair of basic black Docs. I’d mix it up, too, and wear my red or black hi-top Converse. Classic looks, both, and I sport both still. I guess I never grew out of the timeless styles of “Mo” and “Lois” in early Dykes to Watch Out For (Alison Bechdel, you are a goddess among women). You can take the girl out of the 80s, but you can’t take the 80s out of the girl.

And, look! The 80s are back among us. People born either in the 80s or 90s seem to be resurrecting some aspects of the clothing and hair. Here are some sites to help you either re-live OR live those days, depending on your age.

Like Totally 80s (fashion, music, pop culture)

The Great 80s, with cringe-worthy photos of the “fashion.” Egads. Members Only jackets. Stop before someone gets hurt.

Top 10 80s fashion trends. You, too, can look like a linebacker with those enhanced shoulder-pad shirts and blazers.

80s music vids. Bitchin’. I can tell you exactly where I was when MTV debuted August 1, 1981. The first video they played was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. Let’s give a shout-out to Pat Benatar, because “You Better Run” was the second video. Shout-out to Rod Stewart. He was third.

Access Hollywood’s stars in the 80s. Grab your Wayfarers.

New Wave mullets. The 80s needed a hair intervention.

Relive the 80s. Punk and New Wave.

And watch some movies. My suggestions (anything John Hughes, basically): Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club (freaking CLASSIC), Pretty in Pink, Goonies (one of my all-time FAVES), Back to the Future, Road Warrior, War Games, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (hello. Tina Turner.), Purple Rain.

There are many, many others. But if you want to catch some of the 80s ethos, start there.

Back to hair. Don’t forget the big hair metal, as exhibited by bands like Poison, White Snake, Twisted Sister, Ratt, Def Leppard (yes, I listened to these, as well). Guns n’ Roses were a great power band in the 80s, too. Here. A list of 25 hair metal bands to keep you rockin’ in the free world.

Oh, my. This is quite a jog down memory lane. The 80s are part of collective pop culture history, now, so there you go. A primer into my sordid past. And the pasts of everybody else my age who is right now looking through high school yearbooks and shoeboxes of photos and realizing that Omigod our hair really was that nuts.

Happy Friday, all!


  1. Hey, we were totally rad in those days! Totally! Who DIDN’T have big hair? Didn’t we all have a special teasing comb?

    Leg warmers? Check. Members Only jacket? Check. Rubber bracelets? Check. Flashdance off-the-sleeve tees? Check. Ginormous Frankie Goes to Hollyood shirts. Check.

    YES, we WERE cool Pacman and Rubik’s Cube were amazing. And don’t mock the rock. Metal bands…well…rocked! Def Lepard was the greatest band EVER. (Would you believe me if I told you that I had a picture of KISS in my locker? The post-makeup KISS of the 80s.)

    That was a decade that will go down in history. I’m just not sure if it will be good history or bad. 🙂


    • NO. WAY. I totally had one of those Frankie shirts! I wore it all the time with my pegged jeans and Vans sneakers. It had a big enough collar to fit over my hair. And yes, I’ll own it. I had leg warmers. They were hideous. I kid you not, forest green. And I also had a pair of Kangeroos sneakers. Livid blue. Gads, they were hideous. And stop. I wore polo shirts WITH THE COLLARS UP. SOMETIMES DOUBLE POLO SHIRTS. I know. The image is painful. There’s therapy for that. I recommend it.

      KISS! WOOOOO! That decade is definitely going down in my history. I’m just owning it now in case photos ever surface…


  2. You know what hurt, gave me blisters, but I still wore them? Jelly shoes ( I had several colors, of course. I mean, come on, they HAD to match the jelly bracelets!

    I was all into prog rock (Pink Floyd, Rush, Yes, etc.) … and David Bowie. I LOVED David Bowie, and still do.

    I would love to see you in high school. Especially the hair. Mine was permed. DO NOT LAUGH. Okay, laugh. It looked great with the giant earrings… or so I thought.

    Doc Martens ROCK. I didn’t discover them until 1999, can you believe it? I was working in a lab, and part of the sole of one of my shoes started to dissolve, thanks to a mysterious spill. The guys in the lab (yes, they were all guys, that’s chemistry in some corners of the discipline) said that Docs were solvent-proof. I got a pair, and by God they could withstand anything anyone spilled.

    We were all afraid of The Bomb. Ultravox: “Dancing/With tears in my eyes…” or Alphaville “Are they gonna drop the bomb or not?”, or let’s go prog rock with Pink Floyd’s “Two Suns In the Sunset”:

    The wire that holds the cork
    That keeps the anger in
    Gives way
    And suddenly it’s day again.
    The sun is in the east
    Even though the day is done.
    Two suns in the sunset
    Could be the human race is run.

    Depressing, but that’s how things felt. So many Cold War songs, so little time, and songs about labor strikes in England, and the not-so-serious stuff, of course.

    Well, this comment is way too long, so I’ll stop there.


  3. “Forever young…I want to be…forever young.” Wow. Alphaville. THERE’S a blast from the past! Yes, we were all living in the shadow of the Cold War. And then when the Wall came down, a whole new kinda thang permeated global youth. Freaky.


    • We had a teacher who took photos of students. He’d just wander around on his breaks taking pictures, and then he’d have slide shows. I never went to one until Senior Week, and they played “Forever Young”. It was a weird moment for a lot of us, as strange as that sounds. Like, “Wow, we’re going to college in a few months, and nothing will be the same ever again.” Melodrama like that, getting all emo.

      And talk about emo, with the Wall coming down! It was so far away, but seeing the reactions, and hearing all the various broadcasts from the EAST side when it had always been the West side… wow.


  4. Nagel! OMG! I remember him!

    You know who captures the 80s really well? I can’t remember which of his books it is, but it’s one or two of the later ones: Armistead Maupin. They’re a combination of gentle humor and an almost melancholy feeling.


  5. I had a “Choose Life” Tshirt that I wore, a la Wham!, to my summer temp job at the DMV. My boss, a sweet Southern woman in her middle 50s, took me aside and told me that talking politics in the office was frowned upon. I didn’t know what she meant, and I wore the Tshirt again. This time, she explained that while she was herself anti-abortion, it really wasn’t appropriate to bring that up in the Personalized Plates Department. I was mortified! And not just because I’m pro-choice. But I was only 17 at the time, and I later moved well beyond Wham! and discovered Roxy Music, Talk Talk, and The Pretenders. The 80s were an exciting time for music, fashion, writing and more. Women began to reap the benefits of seventies feminism. It was all very heady. Next weekend, we’re having a barbecue, and I’ve put together 12 hours’ worth of 80s music. Looking forward to a fine time!


  6. […] I’m Gen X, which means I’m an immigrant to the digital world. I grew up without the interwebs, without voicemail (or answering machines), without cable, without cell phones, and without DVDs. VHS came along in the late 70s/early 80s, but most of us saw movies at the theater when they were released. (Oh, want more info about how primitive and weird things were for my generation? Here.) […]


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