80s Fashion for Men: Outfits & Trends That Define the Decade

The Fashionisto

/

Updated February 17, 2024

Explore iconic 80s fashion for men.Pin
Explore iconic 80s fashion for men.

For enthusiasts of bold colors, loud patterns, and eclectic style, 80s fashion for men defines a golden era of distinctive flair. Adopting 80s outfits was more than sheer dressing—it represented a bold statement of individuality and style.

Consider the scene from American Psycho where Patrick Bateman obsesses over his business card—this level of detail reflects the era’s serious approach to fashion.

80s Fashion for Men

80s Fashion Men Ferris Bueller Matthew BroderickPin
Matthew Broderick mixes prints as the title character in 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Photo: IMAGO / Allstar

The 1980s were all about excess. Men wanted to stand out and be seen as flourishing and powerful. This was reflected in the boldness of their clothing choices.

Suits with broad shoulders and accessories in bright hues became commonplace in offices across America. The preppy look also made a comeback, with polo shirts, khakis, and boat shoes becoming staples of the upper-class wardrobe.

80s Fashion The Breakfast ClubPin
A myriad of eighties styles takes the spotlight with Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, and Anthony Michael Hall in 1985’s The Breakfast Club. Photo: IMAGO / Allstar

But not everyone wanted to dress like a business person or prepster. Films like The Breakfast Club showcased the diversity of youth fashion, from preppy to rebellious.

Run DMC Beastie Boys 1987 Press PhotoPin
Run DMC and the Beastie Boys appear in a promo photo for their 1987 Together Forever Tour. Photo: Laura Levine, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

During the decade, the punk rock movement and hip-hop groups like the Beastie Boys greatly influenced men’s fashion. Leather jackets, gold chains, ripped jeans, snapbacks, and band t-shirts were all part of this edgy style that rejected conformity.

Fashion in this era was about aesthetics and a medium for self-expression, enabling men to showcase their individuality through attire.

Men’s 80s Outfits: Iconic Inspiration

80s Inspired Fashion Men Boxy Oversized Shirts High Waisted PantsPin
Pay a nod to 80s style with boxy, oversized shirts and high-waist trousers. Photo: Andreea Pop / Unsplash

When envisioning the iconic 80s outfits men sported, one conjures images of relaxed yet bold styles that defined the spirited fashion of the decade. Oversized and boxy shirts paired with corduroy or pleated trousers set the stage for a casual look that’s unmistakably 80s.

The 80s celebrated sporty chic, evident in vibrant windbreakers and contrasting pants, and welcomed the classic denim jacket as a staple, pairing it with everything from striped tees to aviator glasses.

80s Style Men Costume GlassesPin
Channel your inner geek chic with oversized glasses inspired by the eighties. Photo: Shutterstock

The era’s signature looks are a go-to for those seeking to embrace the nostalgic flair, whether in everyday fashion or for a themed 80s costume party. Consider vibrant patterns on short-sleeve button-down shirts and high-waisted trousers.

Additionally, a suit jacket’s pastel sophistication can make any outfit reminiscent of the 80s style. These classic pieces offer a sartorial nod to a decade known for its daring approach to menswear.

Classic 80s Trends

During the 1980s, men embraced the opportunity to express themselves, often opting for bold or unconventional styles.

Power Dressing: Suits, Shoulder Pads & Bold Colors

David Bowie 1987 Berlin Concert Red Suit 80s Fashion MenPin
David Bowie rocks a red suit for a 1987 concert in Berlin, Germany. Photo: IMAGO / BRIGANI-ART

When someone says 80s fashion, the first thing that probably comes to mind is power dressing. This was the era of big hair, bold shoulders, bright colors, and iconic style influencers like David Bowie.

1985 Fashion Boutique Men BerlinPin
A 1985 mannequin at a fashion boutique showcases the prevailing business style of the era. Photo: atlantic-kid / iStock

The power suit was the must-have item for any working man, and it wasn’t complete without a pair of shoulder pads to make you look broader and more powerful.

Popular brands like Giorgio Armani, who dressed Richard Gere in the iconic film American Gigolo, led the way in revolutionizing men’s suiting. These oversized blazers were often accompanied by equally bold ties in bright hues like neon pink or electric blue.

Pinstripe suits and oxford shirts also played a significant role in the power dressing movement. But it wasn’t just about the suits.

1989 Photographer Swiss MountainsPin
A 1989 photographer perfectly reflects the trendy silhouettes of the time. Photo: iStock

Power dressing also meant dressing up your casual wear with sophisticated touches like oversized blazers or vests. It was about projecting an image of success and sophistication in everything you wore.

Preppy Style: Polo Shirts, Khakis & Boat Shoes

80s Fashion Men Italy Prep Style TouristsPin
Tourists reflect preppy style as they take in a 1982 scene in Rome, Italy. Photo: atlantic-kid / iStock

While power dressing was all about projecting an image of professional success, the preppy style was more about projecting an image of casual sophistication. Think polo shirts with popped collars, khaki pants, shorts, and boat shoes.

This style was heavily influenced by Ivy League fashion from the 1950s and 60s but updated for a modern audience in brighter colors like pastel pink or mint green. Brands like Ralph Lauren’s Polo and Lacoste became pivotal, appealing to those aiming for a sophisticated yet casual look.

Punk Rock Influence: Leather Jackets, Ripped Jeans & Band T-shirts

80s Fashion Men Punk Rock StylePin
Two friends circa the 1980s show off their leather jackets and spiky mohawks or liberty spikes. Photo: Pax, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

While power dressing and preppy styles were in vogue, many men veered towards the rebellious punk rock aesthetic. Iconic to this trend were leather jackets, ripped jeans, and band tees featuring groups like The Ramones or The Sex Pistols, embodying a rejection of mainstream norms for a countercultural flair.

Punk wasn’t just about the clothes; extreme hairstyles, such as mohawks, bold makeup choices, and heavy black eyeliner, were vital to expressing this defiant spirit.

Popular Men’s Clothing

The color palette of the 80s men’s fashion has truly stood the test of time. Popular styles during this era included bold and vibrant colors and frequent patterns.

Athletic Wear

Couple Jogging 1984 Fashion Style AthleisurePin
A couple wears athleisure style as they are pictured jogging circa 1984. Photo: iStock

Athleisure and workout fashion was at the forefront of the 1980s, with sportswear becoming popular for everyday wear. Tracksuits, athletic shorts, workout tanks, and more were commonly worn for exercise and casual attire, blurring the lines between fashion and function.

Denim Jackets, Vests & High-Waisted Jeans

Teenager Denim Vest Jeans Sneakers Ghettoblaster 80s Fashion MenPin
A teenager in downtown New York circa the 1980s wearing a denim vest, carrying a boombox or “ghetto blaster.” Photo: atlantic-kid / iStock

The 80s were a golden era for denim, with double denim looks and acid-wash jeans becoming some of the most popular men’s styles. Denim jackets and vests paired with high-waisted jeans created a fashionable and versatile outfit, perfect for a night out or a casual day at work.

Sweaters

1980s Fashion Men Sweaters 1985 Fashion ShowPin
Models wear sweaters in a 1985 fashion show. Photo: Boer, Poppe de, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sweaters played a prominent role in men’s style, with preppy fashion trends emphasizing the importance of layering. Crewneck sweaters, V-necks, and cardigans in solid colors or simple patterns were often worn over button-down shirts for a polished yet relaxed look.

Parachute & Hammer Pants

In the late eighties and early nineties, rapper MC Hammer popularized Hammer pants, or harem pants, hitting a high point in his 1990 music video U Can’t Touch This.

Parachute and Hammer pants, popularized by MC Hammer, were a defining look, offering a unique and comfortable alternative to traditional denim jeans. These pants were characterized by their baggy fit and distinctive cinched ankles, which made them particularly popular among dancers and performers.

The influence of these styles can still be seen in modern harem pants, which maintain a similar aesthetic.

T-shirts

80s Fashion Men Graphic Tee Arnold Schwarzenegger Twins 1988Pin
Arnold Schwarzenegger wears a graphic tee, pictured alongside Danny DeVito in 1988’s Twins. Photo: IMAGO / United Archives

Graphic tees and shirts with slogans became increasingly popular, allowing men to express their personalities and interests through clothing. The versatile and comfortable nature of t-shirts has ensured their lasting popularity casually.

Members Only Jackets

Members Only jackets were everywhere—from TV shows to music videos to everyday life. These lightweight jackets had a distinctive ribbed collar and cuffs, a zippered front, and two slanted pockets.

Not only did they look stylish with their sleek design, but they also came in various colors—from basic black to bright yellow. Plus, they were versatile enough to pair with almost any outfit—whether you were going for the preppy aesthetic or a punk rock vibe.

Varsity Jackets

Michael J Fox Varsity Jacket Teen Wolf 1985Pin
Michael J. Fox wears a varsity jacket in 1985’s Teen Wolf. Photo: IMAGO / United Archives

Varsity jackets were iconic, capturing the essence of casual fashion and preppy style. These jackets, often featuring bold lettering and team logos, were trendy among young people.

Paired with white sneakers or high tops, the varsity jacket remains a staple in popular men’s style even today.

Printed Shirts

80s Fashion Men Weekend at BerniesPin
Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman make a splash in the beloved 1989 comedy Weekend at Bernie’s. Photo: IMAGO / Allstar

Hawaiian shirts and other printed button-down shirts were all the rage as men sought to make a statement with their wardrobes. Hawaiian prints, in particular, brought a fun and tropical vibe to the casual outfit, often paired with blue or black jeans.

Short Shorts

Steve Guttenberg 1984 Police Academy Short ShortsPin
Steve Guttenberg wears denim short shorts in the 1984 classic Police Academy. Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Short shorts were a staple, showcasing a more daring and athletic side to the casual look. These shorts were often worn in solid colors or with bold patterns. Although the lengths have varied over time, the popularity of athletic shorts has remained consistent.

Iconic Accessories

Ray-Ban Wayfarer Sunglasses

1980s Fashion Men Hipsway Wayfarer SunglassesPin
Pim Jones and Grahame Skinner of Hipsway circa 1986. Photo: Andwhatsnext at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses, introduced in the ’50s, became an essential accessory in the 80s after Tom Cruise donned them in Risky Business. Their black frames symbolized coolness and sophistication, making them popular among musicians, actors, and the public.

Their appeal persisted into the 90s and remains strong over 30 years later, now available in various frame colors and lens tints for a contemporary update on the classic design.

Casio Digital Watches

Casio Calculator Watch Digital Back to the Future 80s Fashion MenPin
Casio’s digital calculator watch was widespread, appearing in Back to the Future. Photo: Galeh Nur Wihantara / Shutterstock.com

Casio digital watches became essential, known for their functionality and iconic style. Their sleek designs and innovative digital displays, often featuring stopwatches and calculators, distinguished them from traditional watches.

The Casio digital watch’s status as a cultural icon was cemented when Michael J. Fox, as his character Marty McFly in Back to the Future, sported one, showcasing the watch’s coolness and technological edge.

Converse Chuck Taylor Sneakers

80s Fashion Men Converse Chuck Taylor All StarsPin
Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars prove to be timeless. Photo: Serhii Ivashchuk / Shutterstock.com

Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers have been around since the early 1900s. However, they didn’t become fashion icons until the ’80s. Their simple yet stylish design made them perfect for pairing with jeans, shorts, or even suits (if you were into the power dressing trend).

The most popular Chuck Taylor style was the high-top version. They came in various colors and patterns—from basic white to neon green. Plus, they were affordable and durable, so you could wear them daily without worrying about ruining them.

1980s Hair for Men

For men’s hair, the eighties were a time of excess, neon colors, and unique hairstyles. Hair was about taking risks and standing out from the crowd. Here are some of the most iconic hairstyles from that decade:

Mullet Haircut

80s Fashion Men Hairstyles MulletPin
Mullet haircuts were an edgy hairstyle that has found its rebellious footing once more. Photo: iStock

The mullet haircut was characterized by short hair on top and long hair at the back. Think Billy Ray Cyrus or MacGyver—they rocked a style mullet. The mullet was often paired with a mustache for maximum impact.

It was also popular to have shaved sides with a long strip of hair down the center, creating a “racing stripe” effect.

Spiky Hair

Billy Idol Bleach Blond Spiky Hair Leather Pants 80s Fashion MenPin
Famous for his spiky bleach-blond hair, Billy Idol performed in 1987. Photo: IMAGO / Allstar

Spiky hair was another popular hairstyle for men. This involved using gel or mousse to create sharp spikes on top of one’s head. This look was often paired with an undercut or shaved sides to make the spikes stand out even more.

It could be seen in everyone from punk rockers to preppy kids trying to add a rebellious edge to their look. Creating this hairstyle required a lot of product and maintenance—spiky hair wasn’t just something you could wake up with naturally.

Side-parted Hair

River Phoenix 80s Fashion MenPin
An eighties photo of River Phoenix by photographer Sylvia Norris. Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

For those who preferred a more classic look, side-parted hair with a comb-over was another popular choice. An off-center part, this style involved combing one’s hair from one side of the head to the other.

The part would be prominent, creating two distinct sections on either side of your head.

Pop Culture Influences on Fashion

Miami Vice: Suits & T-Shirts

Actors Philip Michael Thomas and Don Johnson portray Detective Ricardo Rico Tubbs and Detective James Sonny Crockett in the iconic 80s television series Miami Vice.Pin
Actors Philip Michael Thomas and Don Johnson portray Detective Ricardo Rico Tubbs and Detective James Sonny Crockett in the iconic 80s television series Miami Vice. Photo: IMAGO / Allstar

Discussing 80s fashion inevitably brings up Miami Vice, famed for its stylish crime-fighting aesthetic. The show popularized the iconic look of suit jackets over colored t-shirts and white pants, a combination that defined cool in the era.

Characterized by bold, fitted suits in vibrant shades like pink, blue, or yellow, the look was accessorized with sunglasses and sockless loafers. Don Johnson’s Sonny Crockett emerged as a style icon, influencing men to emulate his trendsetting attire.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller: The Red Leather Jacket

The popularity of red leather jackets soared after the 1982 release of Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video.

Another significant influence on fashion was Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video. In this iconic video, Jackson wore a red leather jacket that quickly became one of the most sought-after fashion items of the decade.

However, it wasn’t just the jacket that people copied. Jackson also popularized another trend that became synonymous with his name: wearing one glove, whether black or white leather or sequined fabric, a single glove worn on the one hand became a must-have accessory.

Top Gun: Bomber Jackets & Aviator Sunglasses

Tom Cruise Leather Jacket Aviator Sunglasses Top Gun 80s Fashion MenPin
Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis in 1986’s iconic film Top Gun. Photo: IMAGO / United Archives

Top Gun, featuring Tom Cruise as the ace pilot Maverick, reignited the cool factor of bomber jackets. These jackets, often adorned with personalized patches and the iconic aviator sunglasses worn by Maverick and his squadron, set a trend that men eagerly embraced for style and personality.

Subcultures that Influenced 80s Men’s Fashion

Hip-Hop Culture: Adidas Tracksuits, Kangol Hats & Gold Chains

Run DMC 80s Fashion Men HipHop StylePin
RUN DMC circa 1985 brings athletic fashions to the forefront with FILA, Adidas, and Kangol. Photo: Jeff Pinilla, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Emerging from the Bronx in the late 70s, hip-hop fashion, characterized by its emphasis on comfort and movement with loose Adidas tracksuits, spread nationwide. Kangol hats, worn with a unique tilt, and gold chains, flaunted by artists like Run DMC to symbolize success, were key accessories.

Essentials also included bright Adidas Superstars, oversized t-shirts layered over long sleeves or turtlenecks, and bucket hats, cementing hip-hop’s transition from music to a lasting cultural and fashion influence.

New Wave Music Scene: Skinny Ties, Trench Coats & Fedoras

Duran Duran 80s Fashion MenPin
Duran Duran hits the photo studio for a 1983 image showcasing their eclectic and defining style. Photo: IMAGO / Allstar

The New Wave music scene, evolving from punk rock in the late 70s with its synthesizer-driven sounds and stylish flair, championed androgyny. Men’s fashion featured skinny ties over collared shirts, while trench coats, often accessorized with fedora hats, added a sophisticated touch.

Suspenders or braces over button-ups enhanced the look. As bands like Duran Duran gained international fame, this style influenced mainstream fashion, leading to the New Romantics movement, which blended punk aesthetics with New Wave elegance.

Heavy Metal Scene: Black Leather Jackets

Black Sabbath 1986 80s Fashion Men Heavy Metal RockPin
Black Sabbath rocks leather jackets and black fashions for a 1986 promotional image. Photo: Warner Bros. Records, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The heavy metal scene was perhaps the most straightforward in fashion—black was the go-to color for everything from t-shirts to leather jackets. Band logos were often emblazoned across clothing items to support one’s favorite group.

Biker jackets were trendy among metalheads—offering both protection and style. Studded belts, tight pants, and combat boots were also commonly worn by fans of the genre.

The Enduring Legacy of 80s Men’s Fashion

Fashion brand GANT shows how the 80s continue to inform modern men's fashion.Pin
Fashion brand GANT shows how the 80s continue to inform modern men’s fashion. Photo: GANT

Reflecting on 80s fashion for men, it’s clear how the decade’s creativity and boldness left an indelible mark on how we view style and self-expression. This period introduced various trends, from power dressing to rebellious punk rock, that showcased a departure from the conservative approaches of earlier times.

Through an 80s outfit, men found new ways to articulate their identities, influenced heavily by the era’s pop culture icons who championed the importance of individuality. This fearless experimentation of the 80s celebrated a wide-ranging palette of unique looks and set a precedent for the fashion landscapes that followed.

As we continue to draw inspiration from the eclectic styles of the 80s, it’s evident how these influences paved the way for the distinct trends of the 90s, marking a seamless transition into a historic chapter of fashion innovation and expression, deeply rooted in the past yet continuously inspiring the future.


Recent Updates

Alexander McQueen Fall 2024: At a Crossroads

Alexander McQueen Fall 2024: At a Crossroads

In a season of transition, Seán McGirr's debut collection for Alexander McQueen's fall-winter 2024 attempts to toe the line between ...
See Timothée Chalamet's Bold Dune Press Outfits

See Timothée Chalamet’s Bold Dune Press Outfits

Timothée Chalamet, renowned for his wavy locks and fashion-forward style, has again captured our attention with his latest press tour ...
Bai Jingting Signs On as Versace Fragrance Ambassador

Bai Jingting Signs On as Versace Fragrance Ambassador

Versace makes a definitive statement with the unveiling of its official images announcing Chinese actor Bai Jingting as the new ...
What is Raw Denim? Learn About Untreated Jeans

What is Raw Denim? Learn About Untreated Jeans

Raw denim, often characterized by its unwashed and untreated state, presents a unique opportunity for men to imprint their style ...
Mark Vanderloo Dons Modern Menswear for Holt Renfrew

Mark Vanderloo Dons Modern Menswear for Holt Renfrew

As spring blossoms, Holt Renfrew unveils its curated offering under the banner "Modern Menswear," showcasing a refined blend of tailoring ...
LuisaViaRoma Proposes Chic Winter-to-Spring Styling

LuisaViaRoma Proposes Chic Winter-to-Spring Styling

Inspired by the last winter month, LuisaViaRoma's editorial, "Tranquil Transition," unveils a mood of ease and refinement. The luxury retailer's ...