The 1980s is often referred to as the decade of self-discovery, when young people were trying to find their own identity and create their own unique personas. Vintage '80s clothing reflects that theory. The main fashion trends were inspired primarily by the rise of several different forms of music, including punk rock, heavy metal, and new wave. Young professionals created the more conservative trends, including the polo shirt and shoulder pads.
The rise in punk rock actually began in 1977, but reached the height of its popularity in the decade that followed. Punk-inspired vintage '80s clothing trends include leather jackets covered in metallic studs or spikes, ripped jeans, and leather mini-skirts for the women. Combat boots, often covered with metal spikes, chains, or other accessories, were a common site on both men and women. Men often shaved their heads, leaving only a small amount behind, and women often used bright colored hair sprays to paint their hair various different colors.
The popularity of the movie Flashdance inspired numerous vintage '80s clothing trends, including leg warmers, sweatshirts with the neck cut off and draping off one shoulder, and sweatpants with the legs cut off halfway down. Many women wore brightly colored high heel shoes and giant barrettes in their hair to accessorize this look. Stirrup pants were also popular during this decade. These pants were typically lightweight leggings, although some were made of thicker material, with a band of elastic that looped beneath the foot to hold them in place. Oversized socks and leg warmers were often paired with stirrup pants.
Several popular vintage '80s clothing trends were made famous by the female pop singers of the decade. Such trends include fishnet stocking and gloves with the fingertips cut off, oversized headbands or bandanas, and ruffled skirts paired with tank tops. Gel, or “jelly,” bracelets and large bangle-style bracelets, usually worn by the dozens, completed the look.
The 1980s also gave rise to the young urban professional, commonly referred to by the slang name “yuppie.” This group fell into the complete opposite end of the fashion spectrum than those inspired primarily by artists and musicians did. Common “yuppie” vintage '80s clothing included polo shirts, freshly ironed pants, and brown loafer shoes. Women trying to make their way into the corporate world often dressed in monochromatic three-piece suits. Thick pads were sewn into the shoulders of suit jackets, blouses, and other women’s tops, effectively hiding the woman’s smaller, more rounded shoulders and psychologically placing her on more even keel with the men in the workplace.