1980s Rewind: The Lost, the Grody and the Totally Awesome


Come with me back in time...

To the era when MTV was new, Michael Jackson still had a nose, and a t-shirt reading, "Where's the Beef?" evoked high fashion and big laughs.

There are some excellent lists of "What it Was Like to Grow Up in the 80s" out there, but I figured today we'd tackle some of those details left unmentioned-- Cabbages style. So grab your jeans jacket and hold onto your slouch socks, my babies, because we're about to drive our muscle car up over that hidden ramp...

Can I get a "yeeeee-haw"?

  • Shoelaces so funky, tying them was taboo. What was it about the 80s that had us so focused on our footwear? Even though Velcro had just been invented, the boys preferred these enormous fat shoelaces in their high-top sneakers. Sometimes two sets in two different colors, like red and black. But in spite of spending all that time lacing up those shoes, you never TIED them. Oh, no. You tucked them inside your shoe with no knot, no bow. That way, when you went to play kickball, your shoe would also soar up, up, up... giving an all-new meaning to those “Air Jordans.” Many a recess created one-shoed boys. Also the clomping and scuffing noise in the hallways was astounding. Note: Girls often had rainbows or hearts or smiley faces or unicorns printed on their shoelaces. We tied our shoes.

  • Hair with its own zipcode. A girl in my junior high class said she used an entire can of hairspray on her hair each day, proving there really was something stronger than the Law of Gravity—80s Aquanet. I myself wasn’t quite that zealous, but I did experiment one year with bangs (for my British friends, “fringe”) which curled up high enough to tune in the aerial television set. If you wanted to wear a ponytail, you wore it in a banana comb, thus creating a sort of hair-covered mohawk look. You still teased your bangs.

  • Murder, mayhem and mustaches. Every night there was at least one detective program on television. Hart to Hart…. MoonlightingMagnum, P.I.… Simon and Simon…. Matt HoustonRemington SteeleProbeRiptide… The list went on and on. And there was an 80% Chance of Mustache on at least one detective per program. One noticeable exception would be on Remington Steele, though I think Stephanie Zimbalist might have waxed.

  • Paranoid Playlists. "Who Can It Be Now?"... "I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me"… "Eye in the Sky"… "They're Coming to Take Me Away..." Pink Floyd's entire "Wall" album... Kids in the 80s grew up in a time so paranoid, even our pop music was nervous.

  • Safety pins plus beads equaled awesomeness. I recall spending amazing amounts of time putting small colored beads onto tiny safety pins and giving my chums these personalized works of, er, art. These went on our sneakers. If you were a girl who didn’t have any friendship pins, you were a girl without any friends. (Yeah, yeah, you could just make a bunch for yourself, but that was cheating. Also, don't forget-- each of us tried to have our own signature beads and beading style!)

  • Made-for-TV horror movies that still cause nightmares. The 80s were great for cheesy, original, made-for-TV movies that scared the Kool-aid out of us kids. Like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, where those little monsters lived in the fireplace. Or the Trilogy of Terror with Karen Black. Or Don't Go To Sleep with Valerie Harper. Or From the Dead of Night with Lindsay Wagner. Bad choices had ramifications. Even kid characters faced danger and possible death. No one was spared. And for some reason we, as kids, were allowed to watch ‘em.

  • You started each school year with a new Trapper Keeper. This school binder had a place for everything, and everything in its place. Also, you could get it in cool rainbow, unicorn, tiger, denim or heavy metal looks. What they never told you was that in order for it to organize you, you actually had to be organized. So my Trapper never quite held up to its hype. I was a scholastic slob. Even the Mead Corporation could not save me.

  • Blindingly fluorescent was cool beans. Girls -- and even guys-- willingly sported sweatshirts, tiny jogging shorts and socks in retina-burning, day-glo colors normally reserved for hunting season. During eighth grade band, the entire flute section seemed to pulse with color conflict, as Suzy, Kelly and the gang sat side-by-side in a vibrating rainbow of fluorescent shades. No wonder our band director got cranky.

  • No one ever got hurt in ten car pile-ups. On television shows like the A-Team, CHiPs and the Dukes of Hazzard, cars would jump, flip, roll and even blow up from 37 different camera angles, but the passengers were never hurt. We know this because they would have a voice-over discussion about it, where even cold-hearted bank robbers asked their steely-eyed partners if they were all right. This made it non-violent. Also, Stephen J. Cannell seemed to think we wouldn't notice if both Hunter and the guys from Riptide used the catchphrase, "It works for me."

  • Underwear went outer. Socks were pulled up over our pantlegs, belts went over our sweaters and boustiers went with skirts. I recall parents lamenting that, "Next, kids would be wearing their boxers and tightie whiteys over their jeans." Then Marky Mark showed up with his drooping drawers and visible undies. Yet, somehow we never quite saw that coming.

  • The Rules about Rots and Rulez. At least in my school, things were broken into two categories. They either rotted, or they ruled. Decomposition, while a natural process, apparently had negative connotations for teenagers. Probably due to a bad experience in Earth Science classes. But since we were high school kids and, thus, optimists at heart, most things ruled. And honestly, ANYTHING could rule. You could get an "A" on your essay, find your misplaced Velcro KISS wallet, or get the new Yngwie Malmsteen album on sale, and it would all rule equally. Whereas Doug Sherman who sits behind you in homeroom and snaps your bra each morning... well, he rots.

So what springs to mind when YOU think the 80s? Drop me a comment-- I'd love to hear about your totally rad memories.

--------------------------------------------
They built this city on the funny, over at Humor-Blogs.

49 comments:

ender said...

ahh, yes, moonlighting. blech. not because i didn't like the show - it was pretty funny most of the time. but blech b/c the guy i dated jr. year decided that he was bruce willis (NOT!) and that OBVIOUSLY made me cybill shepherd. ummm, there's not at NOT! loud nor big enough to encompass that falsehood.

*shudders*

Jenn Thorson said...

Ender- Oh dear... That does rot. No, you're not Cybill Shepherd-ish in any way I've seen... And THANK YOU for that. :)

markstoneman said...

I caught the beginning and end of the 80s in the woods of NH at Dartmouth College, so I don't remember much of what you mention, except on cable TV.

In Germany during the middle years I remember a lot of Germans wearing kaki military jackets and sometimes combat boots with jeans "bloused," that is, tucked into the boots.

markstoneman said...

Should've said, German youth. And I adapted that style sometimes too.

Da Old Man said...

I missed most of the 80's. I had a kid mid-decade, so all I remember is changing poopy diapers. Thousands and thousands of them. Thanks for filling me in on everything I missed. Oh no, I just had a flashback. I had 2 younger brothers-in-law who used the word excellent in many creative ways. Excellent pork chops. More excellent cheeseburgers, and the mnost excellent pizza.

Jenn Thorson said...

Mark- we had some kids who dressed like that, too. Usually, though, they were in the stoners' crowd in my school.

DaOldMan- Ah yes, the "excellent" was big. I had a few friends who used that regularly. I thought that was more West coast, but maybe not.

momjeansblogger said...

I don't know about you, but pretty much everyone I knew had a crush on at least one member of Duran Duran. Mostly the girls of course, but one guy I knew too. I didn't figure out what was going on there until a few years later. ; )
Anyway, mine was John Taylor.

Jenn Thorson said...

MomJeansBlogger- Ah! Yes, the boy I went to the prom with I think wanted to BE DuranDuran (he was in a rock band himself). Me, I didn't really know who they were until later, as I didn't have cable/MTV.

My crushes during this time period ran mainly toward John Schnieder and then Johnny Depp. :)

Avril Brand said...

Oh yes, poopy diapers (or nappies as we called them). Scrubbing away till your nuckles went numb and so proud to hang super white nappies on the washing line.

Yep, those were the days.

Jenn Thorson said...

Avril- Now that's a painful 80s experience! PS- locally, we have a catering company called "nappies." Watching a lot of BBCAmerica, I was aware of the term-- so it's just hysterical to see these Nappies Catering trucks go by. Certainly wouldn't be good marketing in the UK! :)

Shirley said...

Jelly shoes! FLorescent clothes & Wham when we all thought George Micheal was strait and cute Culture Club when knew Boy George was not!

Jenn Thorson said...

Shirley- Heh, yes, I do recall thinking George Michael was pretty cute at the time. Ah, well... :)

E. Payne said...

Members Only Jackets, Generra, Zodiac Shoes, Girbaud Jeans, Absolut Vodka Ads were everywhere and the GAP was coming into being. Don't forget Knight Rider and Miami Vice --- Friday night television. And you can't forget Fame, Flashdance and Ferris Beuller's Day Off.

Jenn Thorson said...

E. Payne- So true-- a good list for sure! I know when Knight Rider came on, I sort of switched my loyalties to that show, from the Dukes of Hazzard. :)

The Hypocritical One said...

Shoelaces?? My BMX checkered slip ons had nothing of the sort.

Jenn Thorson said...

Hypocritical One- Ah, but I know just what you're talking about... In fact, I think similar shoes are making a comeback now.

Alice said...

I wore a uniform for most of the 80's so I believe I didn't suffer as much as others. I do remember having some BIG shirts with collar turned up.

*sigh* I miss the A-Team. I had a big ol' cursh on Face.

Jenn Thorson said...

Alice- Yeah, the A-Team was great fun. Maybe you can catch your boy Face in reruns. :)

Greg said...

You know, the paranoid playlists was exactly why Frankie said RELAX.

I just don't understand how you can mention Aquanet without Dippity-Do, and you completely missed the parachute pants, the super-thin leather tie and She-Bop!! Otherwise, tho, this post ruled!!

Greg said...

Oh, and I failed to read comments before commenting m'self, so...LOVED Moonlighting (despite Cybil Shepard), tho that was pretty clearly the LATE 80s...a different beast entirely.

And FAME...oh, how I loved FAME.

bob said...

thanks for memories that i can use to replace the ones i forgot from the sixties.

great post by the way!!

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Greg- But I Dipity-didn't! :) Did YOU Dipity-do? No, I intentionally avoided the parachute pants because I'd seen them on a lot of other lists. But gosh, my guy friends during this time sure did wear them. Between those and the shoes it was a very noisy decade.

I never got into Fame. I did think the thin ties were cool, though!

Bob- Glad to have you stop by-- thanks!

Ekim said...

Thanks for th trip down memory lane, now I know what I missed out on after I discovered Vodka. Now I have to go watch flashdance a few more times.

Melanie said...

You just HAVE to mention parachute pants when you mention the 80's! Guys and girls alike wore them at our school. Mine were black and looked like they'd been spray painted onto me.

I still have a vision of my day-glo orange socks burned into my poor brain.

Don't forget Airwolf on tv. Jan Michal Vincent almost made me forget Tom Wopat and John Schneider.

3.2 beer!!!! Yuck, wouldn't touch the stuff nowdays, but back then...

Don't know what happened at the end of the eighties, I was busy having babies then. Yeah, I started young.

Melanie said...

Oh and what about Prairie skirts and those ridiculous ruffled shirts.

And "Footloose" and "Rambo" and "Conan the Barbarian"

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

Van Halen, Foreigner, and Levis 501s.
Then Cutting Crew, Richard Marx and Mullets!

Drowsey Monkey said...

Oh that was fun. But I'm feeling old, since I was married throughout the 80s. Every Thursday night was TV night! Yay! We'd order Chinese food and watch Simon & Simon, Magnum & LA Law.

Good times.

Ed T. said...

garbage pail kids, karate kid, Royals win the world series, Jayhawks win the NCAA, Basquiat ruled the art world, Twisted Sister, tight-rolled jeans and turtlenecks.

Always Home and Uncool said...

I used to get real pumped about the annual Trapper Keeper, too. My daughter is right. I am a dork.

Jenn Thorson said...

Ekim- Well, we all experienced the 80s in our own way. :)

Melanie- Yeah, the parachute pants were big. Ah, and when John Eric Hexum (wasn't he on Airwolf?) accidentally shot himself with a gun filled with blanks, it was just TRAGIC!

NannyGoats- We STILL see the occasional mullet or tail around here in Pittsburgh. Some folks just won't say goodbye to a favorite trend. :)

Drowsey- I LOVED Simon and Simon. It was absolutely a favorite. And once there was this crossover Simon and Simon/Magnum PI episode-- oh, I thought that was the greatest.

EdT- Ah, yes-- those Garbage Pail Kids cards... I had some and I can't even think where I got them.

Aways Home- Dorks of the 80s unite! :) Hey, we HAD to be happy about our school supplies... I mean, the supplies were the best part of having to go back to school. I also liked getting a new lunchbox each year. Until of course I was too old for that. :)

heather Posey said...

I grew up in the 80's and thank you for this blog. It was a funny time wasn't it? I was the editor of my yearbook in high school and I remember girl's hair being so "big" that I actually couldn't fit all of it into their yearbook pics, having to crop around their faces!

Jenn Thorson said...

Oh, Heather-- My friend Josette had JUST reminded me of that very thing on the weekend. One girl a year ahead of us had hair so high, they'd had to actually zoom out on her yearbook photo so they could fit her all in.

Hysterical!

Alexa said...

I think I had to recycle the Trapper Keeper I had. In 7th grade, I drew a big cardinal on the inside back in honor of my new school mascot. My sister said it was lame, so I was so disheartened.

Yeah, I never understood the pile up thing either or the violence on shows like Charlie's Angels. People would have obviously died in the scenarios and they went on their own merry way. So unrealistic. Maybe this is why I overanalyze movies today.

Jenn Thorson said...

Alexa- Ah, trust a sibling to throw water on perfectly good artistic initiatives! :)

Wendy said...

Safety pins plus beads equaled awesomeness.

Oh tis bad when you can recall things like that LOL

chyna said...

Jon Erik, my little teen-y heart just broke with news on that one. No he wasn't on Airwolf, he was on Time Travelers. With Punky Brewsters brother. Gawd he was gorgeous!!!! Ok taking a breath here. LOL

Don't forget friendship bracelets you made out of cotton embroidery thread. I still remember how to make Monkey Ropes. No Aqua Net for me, we used Bold Hold. And let me tell you what, when it cooks on your curling iron it turns a lovely shade of orange. Frosting your hair to the texture of straw (that may have been helped along by the Bold Hold and perms).

Sliced and diced jeans courtesy of Def Leppard. I loved those jeans, and sure was happy to have a little brother who wore my size and worked on a ranch. Battery acid does a wonderful job of making the holes for you. ;) The song "Round, Round" for some strange reason that guy was hot too. Think I must be into rugged femmie pirates. Let me see here, shaving stripes into your bi-level and then coloring htem in with eye pencils (well that was my bf, I have limits). Rocky Mountain jeans, big shoulder pads.

Ears pierced from top to bottom. And best of all "Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure".

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Chyna- Ah! Time Travelers! Gotcha! It's all coming back to me.

I had hair so permed and fried there for a while hairdressers laughed at me.

And Bill and Ted, of course. Party on, dude!

Be excellent to each other.

Gary Baumgarten said...

Stephen J. Cannell will be my guest on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com Friday July 11 at 5 PM New York time.

You can talk to him by going to www.garybaumgarten.com and clicking on the link. There is no charge.

Thanks.

chyna said...

My grandma and mom did that horrid perm to me. I have hair that has a mind of its own and it would end up tightly curled on one side and looser on the other. I'd end up having to curl it and still look like one of the guys from E.L.O. I hated perms! Haven't had one in decades too, and never will. Guess that would be my emotional scar from the 80's. Bad perm jobs.

Yum Jon Erik's chest..... he pretty much wrecked it for the rest of the men out there for me, well except for Brendan Fraiser. He would make a nice substitute. LOL

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Ah, poor Chyna- We lost her entirely back with Jon Erik Hexum and Brendan Frasier... :)

Kathy Martin Studio said...

You forgot the jelly shoes and the bandanas you had to tie on your leg or arm. hehe

Dr Marlene said...

Has anyone mentioned the shoulder pads in clothes? Everyone, gals and guys, looked like a football player. Remember the pads in Sonny Crockets jackets on Miami Vice. Some were so big I wonder if they went through doors sideways.

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Kathy- Ah, yes, the bandanna that served no real purpose! :)

Dr. Marlene- Oh gosh, those blazers with shoulder pads are still findable in thrift stores. What looks like a nice jacket is only nice until you see the sheer SIZE of those shoulder pads. Professional football players would be jealous. :) Thanks for visiting!!

chyna said...

yummm, George of the Jungle.......

Um yeah the 80's were bad. LOL I forgot about the bandanna. You had two choices of where to wear the bandanna. Tied on your leg to hold your pants leg together (?!) or you bought pony beads and wore it around the neck with it's beaded splendor. Or got a really long one and tied it on your head or around your neck like a rock star.

Hair rock really spawned some odd clothing choices. Spandex pants on guys (and socks stuffed in the crotch because we girls are so dumb(?!) to believe they are well endowed), spandex on the girls because it is rude to wear nothing in public, over processed hair that rats lived in and scarves/bandannas to strangle ourselves on. Or in case of emergency in the mosh pits, stem bleeding or as a splint. ;)

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Chyna- The spandex pants comment makes me think of the film "Spinal Tap." Talk about your 80s! :)

VE said...

The 80s. There were some scary things happening. Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder went soft. What happened there? How did Kenny G and all that jazzy stuff ever come to be? From Yuppies to Wall Street Greed the consumerism and fads were never ending. You had Cosby sweaters for heavens sake! Yes, they were scary times. ha ha

Jenn Thorson said...

VE- You said it-- those Cosby sweaters are flashing to mind right now, in fact. Those scary knits hung on well into the early 90s, too!

Marvel Goose said...

I spent the 80's in radio so most of my memories revolve around the music. We had the "New Romantics" and Prince and (shudder, the horror) Steve Perry.

At mid-decade CD's came into style and I got into a CD buying binge that ran for years as I replaced all my vinyl. I fed all of that into the maw of my ipod a few years ago: over 6k songs. Now I'm pouring money into iTunes filling in all the singles I don't have.

Video players came in style and we all went crazy renting movies. I recorded the entire canon of Dr. Who from public TV. Still have them... but who wants to watch VHS any more?

This was also the beginning of video arcades with Galaga, PacMan, Dig Dug, King Kong, Mario and more. You could only play them at a store, there were no decent home units as yet.

And, let's not forget roller skating. Roller skating goes into vogue about every 20-30 years so we're due.

At the very end of the decade I got a computer and a modem. We could only log in to local bulletin boards at first. But that changed real fast...

janiscortese said...

Ah, the 80s. A few things that should never have been invented: hair crimpers, as well as those plastic things that went around your ponytail and made it stick out from your head even further than it already did. And hair crimpers. And Madonna fashion. (Did I mention the hair crimpers?)

I can think of a few things I actually miss -- like jeans that don't give you plumber's crack and squish people's asses up over the waistband. And well ... *clears throat and looks around shiftily* it may well be due to a Freudian influence of some sort since my dad was little, skinny, dark, and ... uh, nasally gifted, but I will always consider Steve Perry hot enough to be on fire.

Shut up, mkay? *refuses eye contact* I refuse to listen to reason on this one.

Although I did miss the guitar heroes of that time, too -- when did music become some guy saying the word c*nt fifty times in front of a drum synth?