In defence of the 1980s…

24 07 2011

Dynasty - the big hair, the shoulder pads, the painted-on makeup. How the super-rich lived and squabbled.

I grew up in the 1980s. I turned 13 in 1980, so this was pretty much my decade. And like every other generation, I have a fondness for the music and dare I say it – fashion – of the era that I went through my teenage years and became an adult. It has become fashionable to laugh about the 1980s but it wasn’t all bad!

So here are some of the best things about the 1980s.

• Big hair. All it took was hair spray / gel (it wasn’t called product then), a hair dryer and a bit of time. Anyone could do it.

• Shoulder pads. Yes, OK, we overdid it. But clothes that looked good on the coat-hanger also looked good on a person because of the shoulder pads.

• Power dressing. The thing about power dressing for women wasn’t the clothes, it was the public declaration that women could be highly successful in their careers and have – yes, wait for it – power. The fashion industry declared that women could have power and we believed them.

• Australian music – Models, Crowded House, Midnight Oils, Men at Work, Hoodoo Gurus, Divinyls, Hunters and Collectors, Mondo Rock, Icehouse, Nick Cave, Paul Kelly. I could go on, but then it would just be a list of 1980s music.

• But the best of them all, INXS – and Michael. Gorgeous, sexy, wild Michael.

• Stadium Rock. It was big. Big sound, outrageous costumes, wild hair and make-up, and massive lyrics. Yes it was commercial.

• Yacht rock. What would the easy listening stations play if yacht rock hadn’t been invented?

• But there were some good indi bands – B52s, UB40, Boomtown Rats, The Cure, The The, Joy Division.

• Pop rock – Madonna, Human League, Cyndi Lauper, Sade, Wham, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Adam Ant, Billy Idol. And lots of others with the sugary texture of bubblegum.

• And of course, MTV. Music clips had evolved from just showing the band playing the song, to mini-movies with budgets to match.

• Aerobics gear. Yes, we got into gyms in a big way, but the best part was being able to get around in dance gear. Lycra does wonderful things for the figure! You couldn’t quite do the tutu unless you were Madonna.

• Mad Max. OK, so Mel Gibson might have fallen from grace, but in the 1980s he was young, gorgeous, and we claimed him as Australian.

• Entrepreneurs – we celebrated entrepreneurs. Big money, big egos, big yachts, young sexy wives with plastic surgery. They seemed to have it all. And it seemed achievable for us as well. The big court cases came later.

• For most of the 1980s we were in a major bull market. The stock market just rose and rose. Unfortunately I was too young for most of the 1980s and missed out, but that feeling of optimism that lasted until the 1987 crash – that’s still there somewhere!

• Video-games. This is where they began. Before this, they were pin-ball machines. Remember the iconic Pac-man and Space Invaders?

• Great British comedies that didn’t rely on unfunny sexual innuendo. Blackadder. The Young Ones. And the comedians they brought to our attention: Rik Mayall, Rowan Atkinson, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Hugh Laurie (better known now as Dr House)

• Acid colours. I vaguely recall owning a fluorescent orange suit. I must have looked like a traffic cone.

• St Elmo’s Fire. An amazing coming of age movie that launched the careers of Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and Andy MacDowell.

• Top Gun when we liked Tom Cruise (the volleyball scene with Val Kilmer). Flashdance (see dance gear above).

• I was really never into Dynasty and Dallas and their various spin-offs, but these were really big. They showed us how the super-rich live (apparently it involved a lot of cat-fighting and scheming) and how they spent their money (sequined dresses and private jets). Whole generations of Krystal and Alexis’ were named after characters in this show.

• Computers. OK, so computers were not invented in the 1980s. But the concept of the desk-top computer and a computer in every home and office was. And Microsoft Windows, for better or worse, made it all quite usable for the average Joe or Josephine. Prices came down and it was all quite affordable.

• Cheap plastic jewellery and sunglasses. Yeah they were cheap and they looked it. They were meant to be fun and they did mean everyone could get the look. Very democratic. And disposable.

• Bling. It wasn’t called bling then. But big flashy jewellery preferably teamed with a sequined dress that swept the ground behind you, but plunged to expose as much cleavage as possible. Yeah, that was style!

• Ken Done, Jenny Kee. Probably less said the better, but they did put Australian fashion and the Australian way of life on the world stage. And their designs are instantly recognisable even today.

• We took the Me generation to a new level – Greed is Good! The idea that if you work hard enough you can achieve anything (the flip side being if you haven’t got what you want or need, then its your fault. Not so nice.) On the other hand, we had Band Aid.

• Trivial Pursuit. Probably the best new board game since Monopoly or Scrabble.

• The end of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall came down. It seemed like such a good start for the 1990s.

So what have I forgotten? What else did you like about the 1980s? Leave a message in the comment section and I’ll add them in.




14 responses

24 07 2011

I must say, those glossy lycra leggings and ra-ra skirts were fabulous! And my awesome Punk Party (okay- Punky Brewster was pretty cool to me, way back when!).
Monkey Magic was irrepressible- what a great show! Our school was often awash with kids calling in their magic clouds and magic fighting sticks. And singing terrible Chinese or Sanskrit- whatever the closing song was. Of course, we were all magnificently cool for ‘knowing’ all the words.
And I just can’t forget Molly from A Country Practice (the one family TV show we’d watch every week)…remember when TV was a novelty and playing outside was in?

24 07 2011

Thanks Cristy – I do remember the ra-ra skirt! They were great! I was less into Monkey Magic (but my brother was), but of course I do remember Molly – and her pet pig (whose name escapes me) and when she died.

31 07 2011

And we can’t let this go without at least a tip of the hat to iconic 80s movies, right. You mentioned St Elmo’s Fire–greatness. Favorite line (among many): “I’m obsessed thank you very much.” That being said, there isn’t much more iconic than Samantha and Jake blowing out those candles. What’s being said there but … it’s always worth the wait. A great movie moment. The rest of the list might include
Breakfast Club
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Karate Kid (I didn’t say they had to be good. Just iconic.)
Oxford Blues
Red Dawn
Say Anything
The Lost Boys

31 07 2011

Oh yes agreed – how did I forget Raiders? And Breakfast Club! I do remember Oxford Blues – as a teenage girl of course I had a crush on Rob Lowe (no secret there) – this movie was not one of the highlights for me though, although the photography was gorgeous. Reading your list, there was a certain stream of “coming of age” movies in the 80s, which is perhaps why they spoke to my teenage self at the time. Thanks for the memories!

31 07 2011

Electric Dreams! You forgot Electric Dreams!!

31 07 2011

I did! Was the the movie that had Electric Avenue in it? That was my classes “song” (class of 84!). Why we didn’t choose “Girls just want to have fun”, I’ll never know. Thanks for the reminder!

31 07 2011

Agree completely with you about British comedy. it’s awful now.
And Joy Division and the other bands you mentioned. As a young teacher in the UK in the 80s I find the music brings back great memories of the kids I taught. There was some great music around in the early 80s for sure.
Enjoyed this post.

1 08 2011

Yes there was that brief blissful British comedy period post-Benny Hill and Carry-On movies and pre some of what passes for humour these days. Blackadder was Rowan Atkinson’s best work, IMHO. Thanks for popping in!

10 03 2012

What did you forget:
1) Legwarmers. They were an entire industry on their own.
2) Tucking your jeans or leggings (also a fashion must have) into your boots, which were almost flat compared to today’s skyscrapers.
3) Colourful clothing combinations, the more colourful the better.
4) Dying you hair whatever colour took your fancy. Before then it was older women covering up grey hair. But in the 80s, young people embraced changing their hair colour as part of their image.
5) Perms. Lord knows why because we looked right daft. Enough said.
6) The Sony Walkman, the beginning of the portable music industry.
7) The VCR and the rise of video shops, the beginning of the home entertainment industry.
8) Michael J. Fox and the Back To The Future series.
9) E.T. and Steven Spielberg in general.

10 03 2012

Good points Christa – particualrly the tucking your jeans in. Do you remember the mountaineer socks? What were we thinking? I suspect another 1980s post might be in order……

10 03 2012

Hey, I still love the mountaineer socks as my feet are always cold. I’m wearing my Holeproof Woolly Heroes as we speak, because it’s freezing in Melbourne yet again 🙂

10 03 2012

yes but do you tuck your jeans into them when you are going out?

10 03 2012

This got me thinking about the dark side of the 80s:
1) Smoking. Everywhere you went, you couldn’t escape it. The movies, the theatre, airplanes, every restaurant, cafe, pub and club. You’d walk in and be greeted with a smoke haze sitting at eye level. I hated it being an asthmatic, but it was considered perfectly normal.
2) Sunbaking. Everyone wanted a tan and we sunbaked whenever we could. Getting burned was painful, but hardly a cause for concern. I remember someone in our year was so desperate for a tan, they started taking tanning pills and turned a rather unusual shade of orange. We were all very concerned for her long term health, but she refused to stop taking them.
3) The rise of eating disorders and body issues. The media, fashion industry and Hollywood starting bombarding women with images of rake thin models and stars who were ridiculously underweight. We were told that we had to be thin to be happy, successful and loved. All these decades later, we’re still fighting for healthier, more realistic role models to be the norm.
4) Rap music. Remember Vanilla Ice? No, I wouldn’t want to either. Never liked rap music, still can’t stand it, but it seems to be awfully popular.

10 03 2012

Haha – indeed! I do remember the sunbaking – as someone who burns then goes back to pale. The sun-tan lotions were little more than oil for baking (crisping?) and I am sure my mother was the only one making me put on SPF15 (which was the strongest option at the time). And the awful orange fake tans – I remember girls turning up to school with orange legs (not me!!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: