The ’80s were when denim jeans reached an all-time high in both popularity and importance (almost as high as the hair and shoulder pads). This was the time when model campaigns came out promoting denim in a way it had never been marketed before, which sparked every designer to focus on jeans.
They became a status symbol, something everyone had to have. This put pressure on everyone to buy these fairly expensive pants at the time, and they ultimately served as a marker of the fashion elite.
It is thought that today, jeans have been replaced by leggings and yoga pants. But it is hard to truly say since “mom jeans” were being brought back into style by the younger generations through the power of social media: the power of nostalgia. This was rather refreshing, since to an extent, we do find comfort in familiarity, and we all love seeing an old friend pop in again.
However, it felt as though once that trend began picking up steam again, the call for low-rise jeans to return was spreading across social media more recently. This call to action for low-rise pants is still happening, but not with the same fervor as it initially took off with.
Where does that leave ’80s jeans? Have they fallen out of fashion? Perhaps they have, but that doesn’t mean much. These jeans redefined how Americans thought about shopping and instilled lasting change to this day. So while the looks of the jeans may have fallen from fame, their importance has not.
The Rise of Jeans in the ’80s
Prior to the ’80s, jeans were really just pants. No one worried much about them beyond normal fashion concerns, and of course, functionality. But once the ’80s came, it was a rush as designer labels took over an entire industry. This was the first time consumers paid full attention to what exactly they were buying and from who.
In 1981, Guess released its first line of acid wash jeans. This was the start of stylizing jeans, as people went crazy over this innovative distressed look. In fact, acid wash jeans are still known as one of the most defining trends of the decades.
And then came a teenage Brooke Shields modeling for Calvin Klein, kicking off a branding campaign that further charged not only the desire for trendy denim but specific labels of it as well.
Before you knew it, every jeans label had a celebrity endorsement, and children were being marketed to, which pressured parents to dress their kids in designer wear. It revolutionized how Americans looked at branding, and ultimately our buying habits as well. We still see the effects of branding on social status today, but less so on jeans. Today, this is more common with other items like handbags that people are willing to pay higher prices for the sake of a name.
Let’s be real. Since the pandemic, when was the last time you put on a pair of real jeans? (Jeggings don’t count!) During this time that we all endured social distancing and quarantines, comfort vastly overtook style. Jeans today are worn less than ever before, but this could be changing very soon as we make our way back into restaurants, bars, and casual get-togethers.
While the mania of designer denim may never quite return, the value in a nice pair of jeans could be on the rise again. Now that we as a whole are getting back out and able to socialize, fashion is going to move to the forefront again.
Before low rise jeans really do take over, trendsetters can and should take advantage of this comfort over style mindset to bring back the ’80s jeans that seem to have been forgotten for some time now.
So ’80s jeans fervor has died down a bit in popularity, for now at least. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a great pair and totally rock them. They can still be a super versatile addition to your closet, bringing more options for day-to-day looks. Plus, if you are dressed slightly differently from the crowd, you are sure to stand out and be noticed—for all the right reasons.
When shopping for vintage jeans, consider the different cuts. While high-waisted and “mom jeans” are the dominating waistline styles, you still have choices with either straight leg, skinny, tapered leg, cropped, bedazzled and more. Think about how each of these shapes feels on your body and how you feel most confident as a whole.
Next, look at all the different washes. ‘80s jeans have no shortage of variety. You can find anything from the classic acid wash jeans, like these ’80s/’90s Men's Guess Jeans Acid Wash Blue Jeans to these super bright ’80s Deadstock Straight Leg Student Fit Blue Denim Jeans. Both washes have endless options for you to style them with, but they are just two of many choices that the decade brought us. Vintage jeans also add a dimension of surprise. Each pair of vintage jeans are different due to wash and wear which makes each pair completely unique.
For sizing, you’ll notice that some of these items are listed in different sizing systems than you may traditionally buy jeans in. The best shopping tip when buying clothes online is to measure.
Check your waist and inseam, and then read the product description and details to the right of the photos to ensure that you’re ordering the best size for you. That way, you won’t have to worry about returns, and when your package arrives, you can jump straight into them and on with your life without having to break them in like a new pair of shoes.
Wearing ’80s Jeans
The best part about ‘80s jeans is that there is no wrong way to wear them. Since they are not crashing on the scene so loudly like they were a few decades ago, you have a clean slate to redefine the trend of designer denim and the varied washes and cuts. You can experiment with different tops, either getting creative from your current wardrobe or mimicking what was worn in the ’80s for the full vintage effect. Or, you can simply wear them like any other jeans you’d wear today; jeans still are insanely practical for almost every activity.
The designer label craze in the denim industry has settled after all, so there is no need to treat your vintage jeans in any other way than you would a new pair. However, it is important to have fun and embrace the differences.
Perhaps you’re not used to the fit of mom jeans, but you may come to prefer that kind of coverage. Or maybe you hadn’t worn jeans quite as bright as some of the truer blues or as attention-grabbing as some acid washes. No matter what, the door is open to trying something new.
What are you waiting for? Grab a pair of vintage jeans, throw on your favorite top, and embrace some of the greatest trends from the ’80s in comfort. Who knows, you could be a trendsetter and reignite the rage.