You’ve Forgotten Just How Bad 1980s Fashion Was
Tickets go on sale today for an August 5th concert at the Mann, with New Edition, Salt-N-Pepa and El Debarge. This is mind-blowing for a number of reasons, one of which is definitely not considering how long ago it was that a friend and I were known to give our very famous and spot-on performances of “Shoop.” It got us talking about ’80s fashion around here—I, for one, can attest to owning a thick stack of neon t-shirt clips (tying a knot is for amateurs) and sporting a pair of jellies with pretty much any and every ensemble. But perhaps nowhere are there better examples of stellar ’80s fashion than in music videos from that time, and here, we think, are some of the best. (Sorry for sticking some of these in your head.)
Pat Benatar: “Love Is A Battlefield” (1983)
We’ve got neon socks and neon tights in the first minute. We’ve got a lot of things tied around the neck and various leopard prints on bottom. But if you’ll skip to the amazing dance sequence at 3:20 (which is meant to, what—seduce? Threaten? I’m still not sure.), you will see a very fine collection of the whole formal-dress-and-stockings-gone-through-the-shredder look.
Duran Duran: “Hungry Like The Wolf” (1982)
The only thing better than a shoulder-padded slouchy jacket is a shoulder-padded slouchy jacket worn without a shirt.
Tiffany: “I Think We’re Alone Now” (1987)
True story: One very late night in the fall of 2001, when I was a junior at Penn State, Tiffany left me a voicemail. She was playing at Villanova’s homecoming, and my friend drunkenly decided, naturally, to go knock on her trailer door. She was a good sport about the intrusion, and my bright yellow Zack Morris-sized Nokia and I were the most popular things in all of State College that night. But I digress: I never did understand the wear-only-one-gigantic-earring/wear-two-totally-different-earrings thing. Was it about not being able to decide? Taking the opportunity to doubly show how stylin’ you were?
Cinderella: “Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Till It’s Gone) (1988)
A sequined man in pain is a heartbreaking thing to see, isn’t it?
Madonna: “Borderline” (1984)
Overload! Overload! Obviously, Madge provides us with endless options for gazing at ’80s fashion, but this one seems to be a fave. Immediately we have high-waisted pants, a crazy bandana headband thing, a denim vest, giant accessories, ripped denim, embellished denim, mesh, cropped pants, fingerless lace gloves, leather motorcycle jacket, neon socks, crazy hats with giant bows, scrunched … oh, I’m out of breath.
B-52s: “Love Shack” (1989)
Lots of oversizing going on here—shirts, jackets, lapels on the jackets. Lots of questionable prints. Though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly digging the orange fringe.
Debbie Gibson: “Only In My Dreams” (1986)
Deb—we’re supposed to call her Deborah now, aren’t we?—is sporting some of my very favorite ‘80s looks, here: Cropped denim jackets! Neck-breaking hair accessories! And the best ever: Tutus! Leggings! Tutus over leggings!
Michael Jackson: “Bad” (1987)
Kinda hard to choose just one with MJ, too (I mean, people still wear that red jacket from “Beat It,” don’t they?), but this is perhaps the best example we’ve seen of studded leather, so it gets a slot.
Cyndi Lauper: “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (1983)
Cyndi rivaled Madonna when it came to pulling off that strapless-dress-with-grungy-boots thing. I love moments like 1:28 when it’s just a blur of eye shadow and hair and off-the-shoulder wide-gauge knits.
MC Hammer: “Can’t Touch This” (1990, but c’mon, we’ll let it slide)
Parachute pants. That’s all.
Whitney Houston: “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” (1987)
Lady could rock a shoulder pad and a tight, bright dress alike.
Tina Turner: “What’s Love Got To Do With It” (1984)
Denim paired with very fancy jewelry is such a touchstone of ‘80s female fashion, and if you’ve seen anyone in this world pull off a mini better than Tina, I would be mighty curious to see it.
Bon Jovi: “Livin’ On A Prayer” (1986)
Obviously, no mention of the ‘80s, ever, would be complete without a Bon Jovi reference, but with this particular video, I’m not even sure I can get to the fringe and the scarves and the cowboy boots. It’s just all about the hair.