Cheeuh! It's the Eighties!

Written by Leanna Serras

Coined as the “ME” decade, for its generation of wealth and status seekers, the 1980s were a decade of excess. Hair was big, makeup was thickly painted, and colors were bright and bold. It was also a decade of many changes. Technology bounded forward and developments were made in the areas of computers, space exploration, and even video games. Wars were fought, countries were invaded, and old ideologies collapsed. For good or bad, the 80s were one of the most colorful decades of the 20 th century.


It was a decade that belonged to Lucas, Spielberg, and Hughes. Special effects started getting better due to advancements in computer technology; computer animation was beginning, and the summer blockbusters lured in theater-goers with the promise of Star Wars, supernatural relics, and homesick aliens. Actors like Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, and Harrison Ford rose to the Hollywood A-list status. Jennifer Beals and Jennifer Grey danced their way across the screen, Darryl Hannah grew a mermaid’s tail, Drew Barrymore made her debut in pigtails, and MollyRingwald was pretty in pink.


The 1980s produced music for every taste. The sounds of punk and new wave were an alternative to the heavy metal ballads of the classic 80s Hairband rock music. Michael Jackson became the King of Pop and Madonna influenced music, fashion, and hairstyles. MTV introduced music videos from all over the world and changed the music industry forever.

Cartoons and Television

The Smurfs battled Care Bears for television domination, and Dallas asked the nation, “Who shot JR?” The television of the 80s was a place where Sarah Jessica Parker was a square peg, Robin Williams was fromOrk, Pierce Brosnan was a detective, and Johnny Depp was just another cool guy with great hair. There was an explosion of new cartoons, nighttime soaps, adventures, and family comedies.


Shows like Dynasty and Dallas brought women’s shoulder pads into every home. Madonna made it fashionable to wear lingerie on the outside of your clothes. Until the movie, Flashdance, most people didn’t consider leg warmers to be a must have fashion accessory. The 1980s were an age of experimentation when it came to clothing and nothing says “the 80s” like neon fabrics.


In the 1980s, the market for hair spray was booming. Despite Princess Diana and Madonna as hair inspirations, people got very creative. Bangs reached high attitudes and higher altitudes. Big hair was the norm, and some hair sculptures were impressive architecture. Whether it was crimped, feathered, or faded, the hair of the 80s was distinctive.

Makeup and Fragrance

As with most things in the 80s, the buzzwords were big and bold. Bright colors and heavy eye makeup characterized the 80s look for women. Lipsticks were bright colors or shimmering frosts. Shimmering and sparkling eyelids competed for attention with heavily rouged and defined cheekbones.


Before Transformers were robots in a movie, they were a toy! Store stampedes and black market sales made the news when Cabbage Patch Dolls rose in popularity. Action figures were a different kind of doll, often based on Saturday morning cartoon shows. The Rubik’s Cube gave bragging rights to anyone who could twist its sides into uniform colors, while Nintendo brought out another hand-held game with the introduction of the Gameboy.


The 1980s saw the assassinations of Anwar Sadat and John Lennon. The attempted assassinations of President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II failed, but caused political upheavals. The excitement of NASA’s new space shuttle program turned to anguish as the world watched the Challenger explode. Natural disasters included earthquakes and the eruption of Mount SaintHelens. Politically, it was a time of major shifts. Reagan, Thatcher, and Gorbachev thawed the relations of the Cold War.