Acceptable in the 80s

The 90’s are Dead… Long Live the 80s

In fashion, pop-culture and creativity there’s always a set of vintage reference points that are en vogue, a place in time that’s revisited time and again across channels, platforms and genres. In recent years, 90s-mania has firmly taken hold in the hearts and minds of fashion designers, music artists, creatives and consumers alike. And what’s not to love? Throwback sportswear and the second-coming of house music are welcome additions to our wardrobes and weekends. Instagram, by comparison a very modern invention, has been awash with glitchy-VHS effects and humorous reworkings of the early-internet’s graphic stylings, both rooted firmly in the 90s.

But perhaps, as the 2010s wheeze towards an end, our tastes are beginning to turn. Trend-forecasters and tastemakers have been pointing to signs that the brash and bright 1980s are making a comeback. In their annual report on creative trends for the coming year, leading image library Shutterstock placed ’80s Opulence’ as a major trend in creative for the coming year. Compiled by combining a wealth of back-end data on user searches with wider industry insight and trend forecasting, this annual report has proven itself to be a reliable barometer of tastes and trends about to hit the mainstream.

Shutterstock reported that in the run up to this year, maximalist 80’s-inspired search terms like ‘chain print’ are up 731% year-on-year and ‘snakeskin’ was up 157% on previous. Searches for perennial 1980’s favourite leopard print were also up 168% on last year. Vibrant pink and purple duotone gradients, bold vector graphics and an arcade-inspired retrowave style looks to be the order of the day. In Shutterstock’s words, “the 80’s are back and ready to party with gold, animal prints, and attitude. Forget good taste, this is about good times”. Quite.

Meanwhile in fashion, hopeful nostalgia is on the minds of many. At a time when the world feels not only uncertain but sometimes threatening, and occasionally almost certainly doomed, harking back to a sunnier past seems inevitable. Earlier this year Tommy Hilfiger made headlines by showing an entire nu-disco collection, sound-tracked live by the crown princess of postmodernism herself, Grace Jones. Brands like Balmain are bringing back the tight waist and power shoulder, while last season editor’s favourite Halpern spun his signature sparkling, sequined dresses into a huge collaboration with Topshop.

“I guess we should have expected it,” says The New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman “given the current conjunction of political and cultural events, all of which seem to steer a designer’s thoughts naturally to the go-go decade”. She goes on to add that given the explosion of #MeToo and #TimesUp, combined with ever-louder demands for equal pay, is it any wonder that power-shoulders and a self-assured attitude should make a comeback as workplace armour.

This same empowerment message with a vintage feel is alive and well on Netflix. Shows like GLOW (the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, FYI) combine a strong female-first attitude with 80’s LA as a glamorous setting, while others like Sex Education preach diversity draped in throwback fashion. These camp-but-clever programmes are two of many Netflix originals that have captured the public’s attention and hearts, as the streaming-giant continues its quest to make broadcast TV seem as outdated as a Commodore 64. Meanwhile, infamously scary Stranger Things very openly takes inspiration from the work of Stephen King and classic 80s teen-horror movies. Last Christmas’ Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror cleverly aligned a Frankie Goes to Hollywood track with its thoroughly-modern ‘choose your own adventure’ story.

Call it escapism, frivolity or fun – it’s clear that the 1980s are making a comeback. Time to fire up an episode of GLOW on Netflix and start a perm-spiration Pinterest board because the big-hair, big-colour, big-fun decade is coming back in big way.

Back to all News & Views