Most Ridiculous '80s Things We Want to Forget
The 1980s brought us some undeniably awesome things. Like Guns N' Roses, "Back to the Future" and Princess Diana. We are thankful for that.
But not everything in the '80s was awesome. The decade also delivered some absolutely terrible trends. In the race to be louder, wilder and more creative, some absurd fads were taken a little too far.
These are the most ridiculous 1980s trends.
45. Giant Scrunchies
Famously seen in: "Heathers"
Listen, we love scrunchies. They're definitely gentler on the hair than wristbands, even if they don't have as much hold. But why did they have to be so gigantic? Yes, the '80s loved everything to be big and loud, but some of these scrunchies looked half the size of a human head.
The 1980s had a knack for getting things that were OK and taking them way too far. The trend is coming back in the 2020s, most notably sported by singer and actor Jojo Siwa.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback oversized scrunchies.
44. Acid Wash Jeans
Famously seen in: Early punk fashion
Acid wash jeans started as a punk protest against consumerism. Punks would splatter their jeans with bleach or simply keep wearing old and worn-out jeans rather than buy new ones. As it always happens, the worn-out look became trendy, and it wasn't long before stores started making acid wash jeans.
The irony of buying new pants that looked old was not lost on anyone, but nobody cared because fashion comes before logic. Although the trend hasn't exactly disappeared completely, it has never regained the jean throne it once held.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback acid wash jeans.
43. Slap Bracelets
Famously seen in: Every elementary and middle school in the 1980s
It's a bracelet that you slap on. That was enough to make every kid in the '80s want an entire collection. Sure, you could always kill time slapping the band on and off, but the novelty of it wore off pretty quickly. Besides, the bracelets weren't actually pretty.
As with most children's fads, slap bracelets had a short but sweet life.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback slap bracelet package.
42. Stirrup Pants
Famously seen in: Every aerobics studio in the 1980s
What was the deal with stirrup pants? They were the precursor of the legging and the jegging, except they had a little hole that you looped around your heel, purportedly to keep the leggings from riding up. They were made for horseback riding at the beginning of the century but then became part of street fashion in the '80s.
The issue is that they ended up pulling your pants down, and it was uncomfortable to wear shoes and socks with them. If it's not going to look good, it should at least be comfortable. Stirrup pants lasted well until the mid-1990s, at which point we collectively decided to simply make better leggings. The trend isn't completely gone, but it is mostly obsolete.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback stirrup leggings.
41. Rah-Rah Skirts
Famously seen in: "Heathers" (yes, it had everything)
The so-called rah-rah skirts were pretty much ruffle skirts that were meant to imitate the style of cheerleading uniforms (hence the name). We will be honest and just say that, outside of cheerleading practice, these skirts almost never look good.
The ruffles are unflattering, and the look feels somewhat childish. The style pretty much died down in the '90s, but it did come back for a brief moment in the early 2000s. Note: If Wynona Ryder can't pull it off in "Heathers," neither can you.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback ruffle skirt.
40. Sequins Overkill
Famously seen in: Several Michael Jackson outfits
We love sequins, but too much of a good thing tends to be bad. Unless you're the King of Pop himself, you probably can't pull off an outfit that shines brighter than the sun. This fact didn't keep many, many people in the '80s from trying.
The result was tragic for mostly anyone and led to sequins being fairly ignored in later decades. Though sequins have never fully gone out of style, we have toned it down a lot, letting them accessorize part of the outfit without overtaking it.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback silver sequin glove.
39. Really Awkward Family Photos
Famously seen in: Family photo albums your grandparents and parents tried to hide
Ah, the dreaded family portrait. Before everyone was a wannabe professional photographer, people used to go to malls to get family portraits done. The results were always hilariously bad and awkward.
The issue with family portraits in the 1980s is not so much the concept but the execution. Fashion, hair and makeup were a hot mess for everyone, so most people just look funny in retrospect. The backgrounds and the poses were also cheesy. It all combined to make hilarity happen.
The 1980s family portrait is so notorious, people have mimicked it for gag photoshoots.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback vintage floral photo album.
38. And Cringey School Photos
Famously seen in: Any yearbook from the 1980s
Look, we're not going to come here and claim that there has ever been a non-awkward school photo in the history of school photos. They are all bad, no matter the decade.
It's just that the '80s really took something that never works and made it even cringier by adding weird effects. One of the worst — or best — ones is superimposing a closeup on the background of a portrait picture. Who thought this would be a good idea? And why did everyone go along with it? We need answers.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback 1980s photo backdrop.
Famously seen in: Every teen show and movie since the 1980s
The valley girl voice has been satirized for years, but the original satire was Frank Zappa's 1982 song, "Valley Girl." Practically coining the term, the song is interposed with a valley girl's voice talking while using terms such as "totally," "rad," "super" and, of course, "like." A movie also titled "Valley Girl" was released in 1983, starring a "punk" Nicholas Cage.
Unlike most other trends on here, Valspeak has not died down. If anything, it became aspirational in the 1990s thanks to "Clueless." Even 40 years after the song, people have a hard time not inserting "like" into every other word.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback signed "Valley Girl" album.
36. Shoulder Pads
Famously seen in: "Heathers"
Shoulder pads are not always bad. When styled correctly, they can actually look good. The tragedy is that most people in the '80s seemed to not know how to get it right.
Either that, or every picture we have available is of someone who didn't.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback Nasty Gal shoulder pad suit.
35. Fingerless Lace Gloves
Famously seen in: Madonna's "Like a Virgin" album cover
We can understand fingerless gloves at the beginning of winter when you want to keep warm but still need more function of your hands. What we can't understand are lace gloves that are fingerless. Just, why?
Our guess is that taking something that was normally seen as elegant (lace gloves) and making them "punk" by cutting off the tips was very edgy. Once the shock factor of the trend wore off, people decided that it actually didn't make sense, nor did it look good. Today, the style is mostly seen in '80s costumes. We hope it stays that way.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback fingerless lace gloves.
34. Wild Leggings
Famously seen in: Almost every Madonna music video
Going out in leggings is no longer taboo. In fact, many of us almost live exclusively in leggings. But leggings in the 1980s were something else.
Bright neon colors, animal prints, neon animal prints were all the rage. It seems as if the mentality was simple — the uglier, the better.
The good thing is that not everyone was wearing them like this at the time. But they shouldn't have even been a thing.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback '80s-style leggings.
33. Chunky Plastic Jewelry
Famously seen in: Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam's "I Wonder If I Take You Home" music video
The '80s were full of bright neon colors and geometric shapes, a fashion choice that carried over to jewelry. Earrings, necklaces and bracelets became chunky and shiny. But what really made jewelry ugly is that it was made of plastic.
Previous generations were all about diamonds and gemstones. Perhaps, this is why the "trendy" youth decided to go for the cheap material. Mother doesn't always know best, but in this case, she definitely did.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback '80s jewelry set.
32. Sweaters Tied Over Your Shoulders
Famously seen in: Carlton Banks in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"
Nothing outed you as a preppy jerk during the '80s more than a sweater draped over your shoulders. The style has held out among certain circles even today, and it has not lost its snobbish connotation.
One of the most famous examples of this was Carlton Banks, who everyone ended up loving but who began the show as a complete elitist.
Though this particular part of the preppy look was bad, the entire ensemble was worse.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback cashmere sweater.
31. The Preppy Look
Famously seen in: The "Official Preppy Handbook"
It's not that the preppy look was new to the '80s. If anything, the look was the natural child of "Mad Men"-era fashion, toned down to be more casual while still exuding wealth.
But the look was cemented in the 1980s when Ivy League students made the satirical "Official Preppy Handbook." Ironically, rather than making preps realize how ridiculous their style was, it popularized it outside of the New England elite. The world has never been the same.
The look includes staples like the aforementioned sweater draped over the shoulders, layered Polo shirts, ribbon belts, nautical themes and khaki pants. And while the whole ensemble hasn't fully survived, you can still see remnants of it at places like Martha's Vineyard.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback Polo shirt.
30. Windbreaker Suits
Famously seen in: Every ski resort in the '80s.
We all know we look bad in the snowsuits we have to wear when we go skiing or snowboarding. Of course, we still wear them to keep warm and dry.
Somehow, people in the 1980s had the illusion that they ski-type suits actually looked cool enough to wear outside of slopes. They actually paraded around town with shiny, bulky jackets without it being necessary.
We don't wan tot say the '80s were the epitome of bad fashion, but this kind of thing makes it hard for us.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback colorblock windbreaker.
29. Shutter Shades
Famously seen on: Wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage
Sometimes, people really are willing to put fashion over anything, including the ability to see. Nothing proves this as much as shutter shades, which became all the rage with youngsters for a brief period in the '80s.
People grew tired of the trend pretty quickly until Kanye West briefly brought it back in 2007.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback 12-pack of shutter shades.
28. The Mustaches
Famously seen in: Tom Selleck's "Magnum, P.I." character, Freddy Mercury
There's no way around it: Tom Selleck is a beautiful man. He and Freddy Mercury rocked their facial hair in a way us mere mortals could only dream of doing. And that was exactly the problem.
Wanting to imitate the look was the pitfall of many dads in the 1980s, who ended up looking, erm, not their best. Sometimes in the mid-1990s, people realized not everyone could pull the mustache off, and the trend mostly died.
Other wild mustache trends of the '80s never looked good on anyone. Sorry, Hulk Hogan.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback fake mustache.
27. Puffed Sleeves
Famously seen in: Every movie of the 1980s
Like shoulder pads, puffed sleeves aren't necessarily tacky. With the right material and design, they can look very pretty. The problem is that when they're not done right, they look awful.
We think the culprit for so many 1980s puffed sleeves mishaps is the materials used in clothing. Puffed sleeves already call attention, but when they're combined with wild patterns, shiny fabric and chunky jewelry they end up being too much.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback puff-sleeved dress.
26. Terrible Music Videos
Famously seen in: "Total Eclipse of the Heart," "Like a Virgin"
We get that special effects and camera quality were not what they are now. But that doesn't explain the complete and utter randomness of basically every music video from the 1980s.
Most of the time, you're just there trying to figure out what in the living heck you're seeing and how it connects to the song.
Thankfully for us, music videos from this decade have provided the modern world with endless meme material.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback hits of the '80s music video DVD.
25. Snow Gloves That Revealed Cheesy Designs
Famously seen on: Freezy Freakies
Unlike other items on here, many people who were born after the '80s have no idea these even existed. The idea behind Freezy Freakies is actually cool: The normal-looking gloves would reveal hidden designs when it was cold outside.
The issue is not the idea, but in the kitschy execution. The designs were sometimes unicorns with floating hearts around them or, worse, skiers in awful windbreaker suits.
Now that's something to make you shudder.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback Freezy Freakies.
24. Jelly Shoes
Famously seen in: Every girl's closet in the 1980s
Can we be morally justified to criticize jelly shoes when we have Crocs? Probably not. Still, as useful as these shoes were when you went to rivers, we're happy cute water shoes are a thing now.
The jelly shoes were also cheap, which means people purchased a lot of them and then threw them away quickly. Translation: They were bad for the environment.
Jelly shoes are only appropriate for kids under the age of 10, and it's truly embarrassing to think full-grown adults were going out in what looks like a shoe made with dried glue.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback colorful jelly shoes.
23. Wearing Multiple Watches
Famously seen in: Numerous Swatch commercials
The 1980s were famously decadent. Everything needed to be what we would call "extra," and practicality was often synonymous with boring. This translated to watches which people began stacking on their wrists. Why? Because why not?
The trend is coming back with certain celebrities like Billie Eilish and Justin Bieber, though it doesn't seem like it'll possess normal people again.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback unisex Swatch watch.
22. Bucket Hats
Famously seen in: LL Cool Jay's wardrobe
Gen Z has tragically fallen for the trap of bucket hats, just like people in the 1980s and early 2000s.
Alas, there is nothing we can do but let them repeat the mistakes of our youth and rejoice in the fact that social media will make it impossible for them to erase the evidence.
As for you, keep those bucket hat pictures deep in your memory shoe box.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback checkered bucket hat.
19. Dungeons & Dragons
Famously seen in: "E.T. The Extraterrestrial"
We don't want to insult anyone. "Dungeons & Dragons" is still a very popular game and a legitimate way to escape reality. But if we're honest, it's a little cringey to think of a bunch of people in a basement pretending to be wizards and whatnot.
Hey, we like dorky things too. It's just a matter of accepting that it's OK to be a dork.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set.
20. Leg Warmers
Famously seen in: Jane Fonda's exercise videos
Leg warmers are great to warm your legs. Nowadays, you would only wear them inside the house where no one can see you. Somehow, back in the '80s, people decided to wear them all the time and for no reason other than "fashion."
The accessory is now mostly connected to the decade's embarrassing exercise clothes (don't worry, we'll get to it), but it was also worn in everyday life.
That doesn't mean every person was out there going to the office in leg warmers, but enough people wore them out in the street to become part of the classic 1980s look.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback two pairs of leg warmers.
19. Puffy, Shiny Prom Dresses
Famously seen in: Your parent's prom pictures
If you've ever seen a cute '80s prom dress, please let us know because we most certainly haven't.
Prom in this fashion-backward decade was all about shiny dresses with giant ruffles, tulle and more bows than anyone should ever wear in an entire lifetime.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback '80s prom dress.
18. Ugly Car Designs
Famously seen in: The DeLorean
Cars in the 1980s were very much like the clothes: chunky, geometric and trying way too hard to look futuristic.
They didn't always have bright neon colors, but they couldn't escape the lack of taste that pervaded throughout the decade.
Not very many car collectors are trying to get their hands on a 1985 Chrysler LeBaron and we think that's a good thing.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback DeLorean toy car.
17. Popped Collars
Famously seen in: Corey Hart's "Sunglasses at Night"
In the 1980s, every cool guy and gal wore a popped collar. They were a sign of confidence, power even.
The style has had its comeback moments but has hopefully seen its last days. If you popped your collar now, you would more likely be associated with a fraternity house than a cool cat.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback collared shirt.
16. Patches That You Ironed Into Your Clothes
Famously seen on: The Sex Pistols
Where to even begin with this one? Ironing things onto your clothes is a cool childhood activity, especially in the age before the internet when we had to find things to do. But why was it ever a thing for grown-ups to iron patches onto their jackets?
The trend carried over from the hippies in the '60s and '70s. Still, it's a tad bit more embarrassing in the '80s because it was often a punk thing to do.
Yes, it was considered punk to spend your time doing something that you could have gotten at the kid's section at Michael's.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback custom iron patches.
15. Headbands Worn at All Times
Famously seen in: Everyone's style from Cyndi Lauper to Olivia Newton-John
When you got hair as big as it was in the '80s, you need to keep it back when you exercise. We get that.
What we don't get is how headbands became a fashion statement to be worn at any time of day or night.
Let's be honest. Absolutely nobody ever pulled this look off.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback exercise headband.
14. Shell Suits
Famously seen in: The streets of the 1980s
The '80s invented athleisure before it was a thing. We'll give them that. But the problem is that it came in the form of ugly shell suits. Made with shiny material, these suits looked like colorful trash bags and were unflattering on absolutely everyone.
Athleisure has thankfully evolved and, while we don't love every modern casual trend, nothing has ever come as close to the disaster of these shell suits. On the plus side, they do make for a fun '80s costume idea.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback '80s shell suit costume.
13. Crimped Hair
Famously seen in: Cyndi Lauper's style (again)
As technology got better, it allowed people to do things to their hair they had never been able to do before. And the choice was crimping.
New special hair irons allowed you to style your hair in tiny waves that made it frizzy. It was all the rage.
The style came back in the early 2000s, mostly thanks to "Lizzie McGuire." The resurrection didn't last long. To the betterment of humanity.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback hair crimper iron.
12. Side Ponytails
Famously seen in: Basically every teen show
Worn either halfway up or fully up, the side ponytail was a stable hairstyle of the 1980s and 1990s. It was different from anything previous generations had done — at least from the time they turned 6.
Though not the worst hairstyle, it is just simply too childish and not cute enough for us to ever want it to come back.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback metallic scrunchies.
Famously seen in: Madonna's "Lucky Star" music video
We don't really get what the deal with mesh is. This unfortunate style refuses to die, popping up every once in a while on runways and in stores.
It's been around for so long it's no longer edgy, which was the only excuse anyone ever had to wear it despite it looking terrible.
We admit some modern mesh clothes don't look as bad as their 1980s counterparts, but they still don't look great, so we'll pass.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback long-sleeved mesh shirt.
10. Patterns That Were Over the Top
Famously seen in: Every 1980s fashion magazine
We love colorful, geometric patterns. They can be absolutely gorgeous. But whoever designed them in the '80s simply seemed to miss the mark. Rather than looking bold, many of the designs of the decade were tacky.
A lot of the fashion stole and appropriated from African patterns and fabric traditions. It didn't do a very good job at replicating the beautiful styles.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback 1980s geometric shirt.
Famously seen in: Billy Ray Cyrus' style
What can we even say about mullets? A hairstyle with the tagline "business in the front, party in the back" is already cringeworthy.
We want an anthropologist to explain how mass hysteria and delusion could've led an entire generation to think this haircut was cool.
Famous mullet wearers include Billy Ray Cyrus, Axl Rose, Paul McCartney and Bono.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback mullet wig.
8. Parachute Pants
Famously seen in: MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" music video
It's probably not a good sign when your pants look like they can save you if you jump off an airplane. Parachute pants were the rage for a hot second in the 1980s until people realized they were simply too ridiculous to justify. To make matters worse, the shiny material they were usually made of made them uncomfortable.
The trend has made appearances from time to time, though the materials used now are sleeker and softer. Not surprisingly, that makes all the difference.
There is one thing we will concede about these pants: MC Hammer actually makes them look cool. They also gave us a baby Ryan Gosling dance video that is simply a gem.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback silver parachute pants.
7. A Show About a Magic Rubik Cube
Famously seen in: "Rubik, the Amazing Cube"
We get that the 1980s were a period of social and political turmoil, and that means that people were confused and desperate for comfort. But why, oh why, would anyone make a show about a magic Rubik's cube?
To make matters worse, the cube is absolutely terrifying, with teal legs and a creepy face peeping out from the sides.
Thankfully, this publicity stunt from hell only lasted 13 episodes.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback Rubik's cube.
6. Rock/Metal/Punk Fashion
Famously seen in: The Sex Pistols
How do we say this without being mean? Heavy metal fashion was, um, laughable. We get that it was transgressive at the moment, but it is just so desperate to be different that it gives us secondhand embarrassment.
This isn't exclusive to the '80s. After all, Kiss started in the '70s, and they thought having men paint their faces with stars and kitty whiskers was metal.
We can't stop laughing.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback Sex Pistols Queen Elizabeth shirt.
5. Mismatched Neon Clothes
Famously seen in: Every corner of the 1980s
Brighter, bolder bigger. Sure, sure we get it. But did it have to be this exaggerated? One neon thing is enough, but layering neon piece after neon piece is just a hostile attack against the senses.
On the other hand, the colors probably helped prevent car accidents.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback neon green jacket.
4. Over-the-Top Makeup
Famously seen on: Madonna and Cyndi Lauper
Blending was basically unheard of in the 1980s. You wanted everyone to see the exact brush strokes you used to get neon-pink cheeks. To match those cheeks, you used bright eye shadow, heavy eyeliner and even brighter lipstick.
Besides the horrid blush, all of the makeup looks good in isolation. The problem is the sum of all parts, which is just too much.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback eyeshadow palette.
3. Overuse of Hair Spray
Famously seen in: Every 1980s yearbook
It is a truth universally acknowledged that anyone in the 1980s wanted enormous hair.
OK, not everyone tried to build to Tower of Babel with their hair. Cindy Crawford and Julia Roberts always had volume without looking ridiculous. But many, many poor souls never achieved this balance.
Seeing pictures of 1980s hair is almost shocking. Plus, all the hairspray necessary to achieve it is probably responsible for some of the holes in the ozone layer we still have today.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback hairspray.
2. Wedding Dress Fashion
Famously seen in: Jennifer Connelly’s wedding dress in "Labyrinth"
Everyone wants to look beautiful on their wedding day. Some people who got married in the 1980s might not feel that way when they see the pictures.
The culprits are the gigantic puffed sleeves paired with large ruffles and bows and big veils.
It's like the prom dressed evolved to be even uglier.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback vintage 1980s wedding dress.
1. Flashy Exercise Clothes
Famously seen in: Exercise videos
In this current age of fitness, we care a lot about looking good when we exercise. That is exactly what people in the '80s wanted to do. Once again, they suffered a case of trying-too-hard and went way over the top with it.
Exercise fashion has become one of the defining looks of the 1980s. A lot of it has to do with the fact that it puts together some of the worst trends of the decade: lycra leggings and leotards, hairbands, leg warmers and colorful animal prints.
For being a tragic melting pot of bad fads, 1980s workout clothes deserve the top spot on this list.
Nostalgic? Get the throwback '80s workout costume.