Men’s fashion sure was interesting back in the late Eighties. Designs were bold and the colors were exuberantly bright as men went brave with their looks.
Given a few decades, men’s fashion has calmed itself down yet if you wanted to recreate a fabulous look then you need to head back to between 1987 and 1989.
Whether the looks were inspired by rock stars, hip-hop artists or simply pushed by menswear designers, certain ideas made themselves widely known. This is when chunky sneakers, denim jackets, the power suit, and roll-ups were all the rage.
There were several trends in the late Eighties to look out for and some that were seemingly unavoidable. Here we will detail some men’s fashion ideas from the years 1987 to 1989.
By the late Eighties, the rapper, MC Hammer, was at his peak with tracks like ‘Let’s Get It Started’ and ‘Pump It Up’.
He also pretty much always wore ‘hammer pants’ during his performances which were more widely known as parachute pants. These would be very, very baggy, and exceptionally bold while being made of nylon.
If the late Eighties had a motto, it could have been something like ‘go big or go home’.
Sneakers could certainly be included as they tended to be oversized rather than svelte.
These would typically be white or black sneakers though the Nike trainers worn by Marty McFly in Back To The Future II were decidedly of their time, even if the self-lacing technology was made up.
For a look that was fixed in reality, consider the chunky hi-top sneakers made popular by Run DMC or simply the rise of Doc Martens and leather boots.
As rappers and hip-hop stars raised their profiles, chunky gold chains became a popular fashion accessory.
You could see, or even hear, them jingle in music videos from N.W.A. and the Beastie Boys. The gold chains would come as part of an ensemble with baggy shirts and larger-than-required jackets.
These were largely seen as a status symbol so were certainly considered a bold choice.
Baseball and athletic caps were also made popular by hip-hop stars by the late Eighties. You could see them atop the heads of band members from the Beastie Boys, N.W.A., and Run DMC. The caps would either be worn conventionally or turned around to be and worn at an angle, or backwards.
The Power Suit
Anyone that has seen the film American Psycho should be aware of the power of the power suit. Though the film was released in 2000, it was set in New York City in 1987 when greed was good and money reigned supreme.
Sharply-tailored suits, typically pin-striped and double-breasted, were created with broad shoulders.
These suit jackets normally featured wide lapels which were sported by white-collar workers on Wall Street, the City of London, and beyond.
The ties were also important as they were suitably wide and the look was completed by a patterned shirt and perhaps a large overcoat. You could expect to see suspenders worn to keep a pair of trousers up instead of a leather belt.
As technology progressed, so did material for clothing which could be seen in the popularity of tracksuits in the UK and the US. This trend was also aided by the rise in popularity of outside exercise such as jogging where tracksuits could be readily worn.
Workout fashion became huge and sportswear would be worn, even when people were not being particularly active. The tracksuits would be made from synthetic material and worn with a pair of sweatpants or shorts.
Rolled Up Sleeves
Celebrities seemed to start a trend of wearing jackets with the sleeves rolled up. You can think of Michael Jackson and Jon Bon Jovi who were seen wearing leather jackets with the sleeves scrunched up at the elbow.
Even Tom Cruise would cotton on to the trend following the release of Top Gun. As their photographs appeared in the press, more men decided that this was the way they were going to wear their shirts and jackets.
By the late Eighties, glasses had seemed to reach their optimum size. Celebrities had begun to wear tortoise-shell glasses which became a signature look. Even the sunglasses were taking up large parts of people’s faces.
Films like Back To The Future and The Terminator had both come out in 1985 and a few years later, large sunglasses were worn by many, even if the sun was not out.
Brands to look out for included Ray-Ban for their Aviators and oversized Wayfarers while the likes of Cartier, Gucci, and Vuarnet also produced glasses with large frames.
The Preppy Look
The preppy look was decidedly from the United States and could include either a smart casual t-shirt or an even more formal button-down shirt worn with slacks or decidedly short shorts.
This particular element of men’s fashion was driven by the popular brands at the time, and though the trend was begun in the early part of the decade it did persist.
These brands included Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger, Polo, and Calvin Klein who would bring out the ranges that became popular amongst men. From the trousers up to the pastel-colored or striped shirts, polo shirts, all topped off with sweaters and college jackets.
If the preppy look was started by certain menswear brands, the trend of double denim was more or less started by celebrities. This was a huge Eighties look that was made popular by the likes of the Americans, Chuck Norris and Johnny Depp.
This could be in the form of denim jeans worn with a denim jacket or a denim vest. Men would also wear (Check out What Did Men Wear In The 80s?) their denim jackets with their sleeves rolled up or with high-waisted jeans like Marvin Gaye and Ben E. King which helped the Levi’s 501 jeans campaign.
Acid Wash Jeans
While denim jeans never truly went out of style, acid wash jeans certainly became popular towards the end of the Eighties. Brought into fashion by Rifle Jeans in Italy, denim jeans were washed in chlorine then a pumice stone was used to distress them.
The effect was a spotty, blotched appearance that became popular with heavy metal bands like Guns ‘N’ Roses as well as pop stars.
Towards the very end of the Eighties, tropical clothing had become trendy. This included Mao suits and safari jackets. As well as his mustache, Tom Selleck as Magnum P.I. also made the Hawaiian shirt seem fashionable.
These loose shirts would feature abstract prints and colorful designs that were exceedingly eye-catching.
By the late Eighties, it could be argued that minimal designs were making a comeback. That could certainly be seen in watches as those featuring Roman numerals became more popular.
These had an elegant design yet for sleekness you could not beat a Swatch watch. These were colorful, pretty much indestructible, and decidedly cheap.
Towards the end of the Eighties, post-punk went from the underground to become a fashion trend. That meant wearing a lot of black, including eye shadow, as perhaps sporting a skinhead.
Bands like Siouxsie and The Banshees as well as The Cure became fashion icons and typically wore their hair up. Spiked bracelets were in, as was the wearing of black nail polish.
It is worth noting that a lot of men’s fashion in the late Eighties was helped along by the rise of music TV channels like MTV.
As groups like The Beastie Boys, Run DMC, N.W.A. rose in popularity alongside solo artists such as Michael Jackson and MC Hammer their fashion choices would gain a large audience.
Soon enough, leather jackets were worn with the sleeves rolled up, baseball caps were turned around, double denim became acceptable, gold chains were round around necks, and parachute pants billowed around city centers.
TV shows like Magnum P.I. and films like Back To The Future II would also showcase fashion trends that would be adopted by men en masse. This included Hawaiian shirts, oversized glasses, and chunky footwear.
Some fashion ideas went overground seemingly by themselves including tracksuits. However, others were certainly pushed by designers as the preppy look came from menswear brands and acid wash jeans were an experimental look that rose in popularity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Accessories Can Help Complete A Men’s Fashion Look From The Late Eighties?
For a post-punk and decidedly Gothic look, you can consider wearing a spiked bracelet though that should go with dark eye shadow and black clothing.
The chunk gold chain works really well if you want to look like a hip-hop star and goes well with baggy clothes. Oversized glasses, plastic Swatch watches and bangles would also be accessories to go with.
Which Designs Were Considered Popular For Men’s Fashion In The Late Eighties?
If you were to look at men’s fashion in the late Eighties, overriding designs would be bright colors and geometric designs. Pinstripes were popular in men’s power suits and baggy clothes were also widely seen.
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