Pages

8.5.10

Early '80s Youth Fashion... And The Changing Years Of The '80s...

1983: donkey jackets for both genders...

Ah, the 1980s! So big! So flashy! The donkey jackets (£9-95 - a snip!). The deelyboppers (you could get 'em for fifty pee if you were lucky!)! The pineapple knits (£8-99 - bit pricey!). The ra ra skirts (£5-49!) and so on.

'Ere, wot's goin' on? you say. The '80s were all about being flash! Spendin' loads of dosh on clothes! Kids getting into designer labels! Don't you con me, matey!

And yes, you are quite right. But then there were '80s and '80s...

The early 1980s were so poor they hurt. In fact, I'd found the '70s to be the same.

And it was useless looking for big hair and shoulder pads in the early 1980s youth clubs and comprehensive schools. No, no. You would have found manky flared trousers instead.

Flared trousers? Sooo '70s, you chortle. Wrong, actually. Flares dated back to the late 1960s, and had been on their way out of fashion since at least 1978. In fact, I have a newspaper article from 1975, advising dedicated followers of fashion to get rid.

The trouble was, flares had been around so long, and people were so poor, that they didn't just chuck out perfectly good, wearable trousers.

It was said that Punk was the '70s way of washing the '60s out of their hair.

But, bizarrely, the '70s then washed the '60s straight back in with a Ska revival. The revival spanned from 1979 to around 1981, and for good measure the late '70s also reintroduced '60s Mod fashions.


The new fashionable trousers to be wearing in the late 1970s and early 1980s were black straights - also known as drainpipes. And white socks were a wow.

So '50s/'60s.

But wonderful.

However, at school, whatever we boys wore, flares or straights, the girls took the mickey.

Flares had been relegated to their late '60s origins, so if we wore them some waggish girl would always taunt:

"Flaredypops! Come on, pop pickers!"

And if we wore drainpipes instead we got a dose of heavy sarcasm:

"Oooh, I like your straights!"

It was terrible!

Fortunately, in the early 1980s, stone washed jeans arrived.


And that was better. Something new.

Ad from my local newspaper, 1983: donkey jackets were so desirable in 1982/83. Yes, we trendy kids actually wanted to dress like the dustman.

'Cos we woz the embattled working classes and we 'ated Thatcher.

Well, at least I think that's what it was all about.

Even girls wore them, as shown in the photograph at the top of this post. The "fairer" sex liked to have their names emblazoned on the back in nice pink lettering or similar.

Yale cardigans, the cardigans with the big "Y" on the front, were another huge early '80s youth fashion trend. And leg warmers were suddenly fashion items, inspired by the Fame TV series. Wear 'em anytime. Wear 'em in the height of summer. Enjoy sweaty ankles.

And then, in 1982, came the fashion statement to end all fashion statements. Deelyboppers. Absolutely fabulous, darling! Were the '80s now aspiring or what?!!

Cor, we were chuffed! Dead posh these!

Upwardly mobile? Not 'arf, mateyboots!

In the early-to-mid 1980s, pineapple knits were regarded as being very excellent. I had both the jumper and the cardigan illustrated in this 1984 mail order catalogue. Yes, honestly!

Ah, the ra ra skirt! You could get mini ra ras or... er... ra ra ra ras. In 1982 and 1983 every young girlie had at least one.

Or so it seemed.


Stonewashed denim and mirror sunglasses - the new fashion "must-haves" - seen in this 1983 mail order catalogue. Strike a pose - there's nothing to it!


Fame had started life as a film in 1980, and became a TV series in 1982.

And once they'd seen Leroy and co on the small screen, suddenly all the girlies wanted to wear leg warmers.

And not just the girlies.

My tough mate, Pete, underwent a sudden transformation circa 1983.

He'd begun the decade by buying and wearing a studded dog collar. He was a Punk, he declared. I must say, I saw more Punks on the streets from 1979 to circa 1982 than I ever did in 1977 or 1978.

The death of Sid Vicious seemed to propel the trend into the mainstream, and whilst one or two media worthies waffled on about "post Punk" (a nebulous phrase, so beloved of pop music "historians" these days), the declaration on the common, council estate streets seemed to be "Punk's Not Dead"!

But around 1983 my mate Pete dropped his Punk image and suddenly started wearing leg warmers. And little pixie boots. And skin tight stone washed jeans. And he had his hair streaked blonde. And cut in a style rather like David Sylvian's of synth pop group Japan.

Evidence that the early 1980s New Romantic movement was beginning to impact on the glum council estate where I lived.

Of course, I was amazed.

But nobody dared to challenge Pete.

'Cos he would have bashed their face in.

Push up those sleeves and streak that hair. Male youth fashion from a 1983 mail order catalogue.

So, there were definitely '80s and '80s. Useless to categorise the decade as one long shoulder pad fest.

I look at the '80s this way:

Imagine you're in a pub, looking around at a bunch of rather odd people.

In a corner sits 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983.

1980 is having a fag and listening to Going Underground by the Jam on the jukebox. It's considering having a game of Space Invaders in a minute; 1981 has forked out for a personal stereo, and is listening to winky wonky synth music, whilst twirling a Rubik's Cube; 1982 can't afford a ZX Spectrum, but has deelyboppers, a ra ra skirt, nasty black leggings ending around the knee and pixie boots. 1982 is also eating cheese and onion crisps and trying a little body popping; 1983 has a ghetto blaster but can't get the hang of break dancing at all.

On the other side of the bar sit 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987.

1984 wears a "Frankie Say Relax" t-shirt and is terribly into Trivial Pursuit. And as for the Apple Mac - "we live in technological times, darling," it trills excitedly! 1985 is also into Trivial Pursuit and computers, but far more into its unwieldy mobile phone - and charitable events, being the year of Live Aid; 1986 is into everything, including the new House Music genre, and has designer stubble; 1987 is sleek - by '80s standards. All four years wear shoulder pads and jackets with the sleeves pushed up. All four years have unlikely gelled or moussed hair. But 1987's shoulder pads are the biggest and its hair the most unlikely. It's sleek... but schizoid. Suddenly, it's a terrifying wild beast, ranting and roaring as it turns against all it has held dear, putting the wind well and truly up the yuppies with Black Monday.

1988 and 1989 thrash around to the new music sensation - Acid House. It's too much for one small pub, and they're going to take the scene outside. As well as Smiley "On One Matey!" T-shirts, another new fashion wow, the colourful shell suit, is also much in evidence.

These years all existed as part of the same decade. But, preparing for a New Year's Eve party in 1989, listening to the radio with the DJ telling me that the '80s were dying now, I found myself looking back... and finding it hard to believe that the decade had contained so many changes...


1 comment:

  1. AnonymousMay 09, 2010

    leg warmers!! argh! they were infectious! and being a man was no bar to wearing them with stretch jeans (the embarrassment!) and the only colour that men could wear with the stretchy jeans was burgundy...i am so glad that there were no digital cameras or camera phones in 1982/83 to record those particular fashion misdemeanour's...at the time i did think they looked cool. well, different anyway

    ReplyDelete