How To Dress Like You’re From The ‘80s (Bc Everyone Deserves To Wear Shoulder Pads)

The 2010s were all about that ‘90s nostalgia: chunky dad shoes, colourful iconography, bucket hats, Tamagotchis (just me?)… Defined by the rise of the Internet and the optimism of being on the cusp of a new millennium, the ‘90s aesthetic is multitudinous and one I’m a huge fan of.

But fashion, like everything, is cyclical. Before we get ahead of ourselves and start having nostalgia for the late-’00s or 2010s (What even is 2010s style? Tattooing a moustache on the inside of your finger like an arsehole?) why don’t we take a step back and revive some of the best parts of the ‘80s?

The ‘80s were grittier and way more outrageous than the ‘90s. The Cold War was reaching fever pitch. Neon everywhere, on buildings and our clothes; shoulder pads, suspenders and power lunches; Bob Hawke wearing the best jacket of all time; punk, new wave, hip-hop and the first Jordans—‘80s fashion is fun as hell. 

Syrup’s made a shortlist of all the best ‘80s style innovations that we’d like to see dusted off and brought into 2020. You know what to do.

The androgynous look

Artists like Grace Jones, David Bowie, Annie Lennox and Prince are legends not only because they made some of the best music of all time in the ‘80s but also for bringing androgyny to the mainstream.

Deliberately defying the highly gendered, bouffant mainstream style of the time, artists like these and creatives all over started rocking short hair, loose suits, wild makeup for men and women and everyone in between… 

The key to blurring the lines between hyper-femme and masculine is to embrace unisex shapes. Think about investing in straight- or wide-leg trousers, fitted button-ups, suspenders, ties, cut-up tees and blazers. Add an extra kick by tying up or braiding long hair and throwing in a graphic makeup twist.

Put on your red shoes and dance the blues, bb.

Preppy fashion… but done properly

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Big comfy corduroy pants 😘

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While the punks and goths were lacing up Doc Martens, Run-D.M.C. were rapping about Adidas, and Vivienne Westwood was out dressing people like (chic!) pirates, many young people in the ‘80s decided to bring Ivy League style back, in a big way.

Boat shoes, argyle patterns, Ralph jumpers wrapped around your neck… Preppy can work really well but it can also make you look like a Toorak dickhead. Take some of the classic preppy cues—heavy knits, chinos, Oxford shirts—and put your own spin on it. Mix in some denim, or maybe flex some designer sneakers. 

Be mindful of silhouettes, too. A key styling trick of the ‘80s was oversized everything, but that can drown you, if you’re not careful. Play with proportions by mixing an oversized elements like a blazer or trousers with something more fitted like a button-up or sweater.

Side note, when’s the last time we saw an Ascot tie? If Fred from Scooby-Doo can make it work, so can you.

Power dressing

My personal style trend from the ‘80s, power dressing was a bona-fide phenomenon. Basically: shoulder pads for everyone! The oversized suit look is fkn hot and looks good on just about anyone (if done right—don’t go full David Byrne).

Other corporate-inspired trends from the ‘80s include coloured business shirts with white colours, biiiiiig belt buckles, and double-breasted suit jackets. Greed is good!

‘80s x ‘30s looks

In the same way late-’90s style is huge rn, ‘30s style cues re-emerged in the ‘80s as well. Taking some of the accessories of the interbellum period and updating them to an ‘80s sensibility, then bringing that into 2020? That’s a powerful move.

Bolo ties, collar tips, dealer armbands, brogues, pocket squares and driving caps? Get all Peaky Blinders in this shit. Combine that with the suspenders and suits of ‘80s power dressing and you’ve got an even hotter style.

Big hair

The ‘80s was a time of excess and peacocking. Hair was big and styles even bigger, and people really used this decade to really express themselves through outrageous haircuts.

Mousses, hairspray, crimping or rollers—‘80s hair is really easy to achieve and is a great way to turn any outfit into an 80s one. If you’re lucky to be born with curly hair, get a perm and put on your favourite band T-shirt. Bam, instant throwback. You’re welcome.

Hammer pants

Note:this is only a semi-ironic suggestion. Hammer pants (or parachute pants) are a huge mood. This ain’t Bieber shit-myself trackies though, this is proper billowy goodness. Normally made out of ripstop, you can also get hammer pants in more traditional materials like cotton, nylon or denim.

Plus, hammer pants are lowkey comfy af. They’re great in summer bc they’re so light and fresh… Fresh stylistically, too. Just don’t wear a flatcap on an angle and actually pretend to be MC Hammer. That would look dumb as shit.

Miami Vice Vibing

TV shows like Miami Vice and Magnum PI had super macho main characters who dressed like an ‘80s fever dream. Jumping out of Italian sports cars in sports jackets, big moustaches and big sunnies, bright colours and even brighter teeth… Toxic masculinity aside, these guys looked fkn mint.

It’s all about classy but relaxed. A little bit cheesy. Hawaiian shirt under a blazer? Turtleneck and chain? Members Only racer jacket and Levis 501s? Imagine you’re chasing down a coke dealer and your Corolla is actually a Testarossa.


Let’s face it, goths have never gone out of style. Ever since emerging as a genuine subculture in the ‘80s, goth fashion has been deeply influential and continues to enjoy great success today. 

What we’d like to see here at Syrup is a return to a more playful goth aesthetic, as championed by Madonna during her debut 1985 Like A Virgin Tour. A little more raggedy, colourful and campy than the heavy eyeshadow and black leather we associate with goths more readily, the nascent goths of the ‘80s were more experimental and more lighthearted, shall we say.

Go hard in the paint

Don’t want to commit to huge shoulder pads, ripped fishnet stockings or backcombing? Try incorporating signature ’80s bold colours – think fire-engine red or ultraviolet purple – into your outfit to punch up greys, whites and blacks.

Australia was actually at the forefront of the ‘80s bright colour revolution, with Jenny Kee, Weiss, Ken Done and Coogi popularising iconic items like multicoloured neon sweaters and summery patterns. If you can get your hands on some vintage Aussie casualwear, you’ll be the hottest shit since Elle Macpherson.

‘80s sneakers

Finally, the ‘80s was a golden time for footwear. Ok, so there were a few ugly trends: jelly shoes, brothel creepers, light-up trainers (on second thought, these are maybe pretty hot). But it was an era of innovation and unbridled ingenuity when it came to sneakers.

Nike Air Force 1s, Reebok Pumps, Adidas Micropacers, Avia high-tops, LA Gear, New Balance 900s… Icons of the streetwear world were forged in the ‘80s. The intersection of sports and fashion was never stronger than in the ‘80s, and while sneakers are by no means unpopular now, I reckon we can get a little more creative with what we rock.

Basketball was incredibly influential in driving sneaker design in the 80s so I’d like to see more obscure basketball sneakers come back in 2020. Air Raids, Rivalry Highs, Ewings, Converse ERXs… There’s so much to pick from. Add an extra ‘80s element by wearing them with high tube socks and loose, cuffed pants.

Jamie is a journalist, radio presenter, music nerd and shameless sneakerhead. When he's not writing, he's obsessing over the latest hip-hop and Nike releases. Is also baby.

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