Ask what was big in the ‘80s, and the answer is a lot. Our hair, our shoulder pads, our electronics. Our favorite pop stars definitely seemed bigger than life.
Heck, we even had a movie star as our president. And in the Reagan era, we also liked to chase after big bucks.
Yes, looking back, it all seems a bit excessive at times.
But whether you find the ‘80s nostalgic or cringe-worthy (or both), there’s no denying this decade had a significant impact.
So let’s go back and look at some of the big trends, big fashions and big moments of the 1980s.
Fasten your seat belts. It may be a bumpy ride!
1. The It Couple
Our video games hadn’t gone small yet, and we were super into Mr. and Ms. Pac-Man.
We spent hours in the video arcade trying to better our score.
Yep, this voracious couple ate up a lot of our time. Not to mention, it ate a lot of our weekly allowance.
2. The Big Boom Box
This is how we shared our music with friends.
And anyone else within a 200-foot radius. Portable music in the ‘80s meant you could carry it on your shoulder. It was a stereo and a workout.
3. This is Your Brain on Drugs
Also big in the ‘80s was the anti-drug campaign.
This public service announcement was all over TV at the time. Everyone knew the “This Is Your Brain On Drugs” commercial. Was it really effective?
Guess you’d have to ask a drug lord.
4. Rubik’s Cube
If your brain wasn’t on drugs, you might have been into the Rubik’s Cube.
It’s incredible how many hours we spent trying to get the colors on the little cube to lineup unless you were a genius.
Which most of us weren’t.
5. The King of Pop. And Pepsi.
Michael Jackson was undoubtedly the biggest male pop star of the decade.
We were captivated by “Thriller”, “Billy Jean”, the hat, the glove, the moonwalk. And let’s not forget Bubbles the chimp.
1984 was also the year that Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial.
It resulted in a head injury and an addiction to painkillers. After which the eccentric pop icon became even more eccentric.
Despite his personal ups and downs, his music left a mark on the ‘80s and every decade that’s come since then.
6. Cassette Tape
Ah, the joy of making your very own mixtape.
A labor of love that we put together by recording songs from the radio.
Making it all the more tragic when it got eaten by our cassette player. Love hurts.
7. Do you Recognize this License Plate?
You should recognize this if you grew up in the ‘80s. It was on the time-traveling DeLorean that Michael J. Fox drove into history. And back.
In 1985, we flocked to the theatre in droves to see Back To The Future. The story of a guy that messes with the space-time continuum and lives to tell about it, even if his mother does try to hit on him.
8. I Want my MTV
1981. The year MTV was launched, and the music industry changed forever.
Now our pop stars needed to look as good as they sounded. Actually, they didn’t always have to sound that great. Just ask Milli Vanilli.
Still, there’s no denying we were blown away by some of the classic videos of the era. “Thriller”, “Take On Me” and “Like a Virgin” are just a few that will be remembered for a long time to come.
9. Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall between East and West Germany finally fell in November of 1989.
This historical world moment marked the end of the cold war.
Up until then, it was a big reminder of the iron curtain between us and the communist world.
10. The Recurring ‘80s Nightmare
Freddy Krueger. He stalked and killed teenagers in their dreams. The slasher film A Nightmare on Elm Street hit theatres in 1984 and was followed by a string of sequels.
I’m not sure what was creepier, Freddy or his ugly sweater.
Either way, some of us never slept the same again.
11. Jazzercise Girl
She frequented the gym and the mall wearing the same clothes.
Spandex, leg warmers, and the requisite headband.
Who needs clothes when you have a leotard?
12. Nancy Reagan
Nancy Reagan. Whether you liked her and her helmet hair or not, there’s no denying she was an influential first lady.
This photo is the absolute epitome of the First Lady of the ‘80s.
The big shoulder pads, the chunky jewelry and the “Just Say No” button. To drugs, that is.
Ah Nancy, if it were only that easy.
13. VHS Tapes
Streaming was decades away, but we loved our videotapes.
Except when we had to rewind them and they got stuck in the VCR, it wasn’t always a happy ending.
14. Ferris Bueller’s Day as a Pop Star
Ferris Bueller. He lived every kid’s fantasy of skipping out on school and becoming the star of a giant parade.
Mathew Broderick singing “Twist and Shout” in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was definitely one of our favorite movie moments.
15. Oh No, Here He Comes Again!
He may be one of the most annoying things about the ‘80s. But he did mean well. The Flamboyant Richard Simmons was a fitness Guru that seemed to pop up everywhere in the ‘80s. TV, parades, workout tapes.
Hard to believe a man in a leotard was such a big celebrity.
16. Fanny Pack
In the ‘80s, Americans started carrying their belongings marsupial style.
The fanny pack was a definite blow to fashion. Made even worse if you wore it with a pair of acid-washed jeans.
This is what the “Just Say No” campaign should have been about.
17. Madonna. Nothing Like A Virgin.
In 1984, Madonna sang “Like A Virgin” at the VMA’s. In full bridal attire, she writhed around on the floor and humped her wedding veil while singing, “It feels so good inside.”
It was a performance that shocked and electrified the audience.
And to think, Madonna was just getting started.
18. ‘80s Hair
One of the biggest things in the ‘80s was our hair. We used mousse, hairspray and whatever other means necessary so that it would take up as much space as possible.
No one really knows why this mysterious grooming ritual emerged. Or why it ended.
Maybe because we used all the hairspray?
19. Attack of the Preppies
Ah, the flipped collar dude.
He was oh-so-cool in his brightly colored Izod shirt with the collar turned up. It was the number one fashion choice for snotty preppies. It was also great for hiding hickeys.
20. The Royal (sham of a) Wedding
Charles and Diana had us all convinced that they would live happily ever after, until they didn’t.
But at least on that one magical day in July of 1981, we all lived into the fantasy. Sigh.
21. We Have Lift Off
Patrick Swayze lifted Jennifer Grey up above his head in this famous dance sequence from the 1987 film Dirty Dancing.
And we girls have been fantasizing about it ever since.
The movie was hugely popular, and soon we were all tying up our shirts and wearing knee-length jean shorts.
The movie also featured one of the most famous (and corny) lines in ‘80s movie history.
“Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”
Now there’s a guy that stands by his woman! Right before he spins her around.
Well, those were just a few of the things that were big in the ‘80s.
It’s been fun traveling through time, but now we have to get back.
Does anyone have a DeLorean and some plutonium?