The kaleidoscopic ‘80s: men’s shirts and eclectic American style


The birth of the Internet, the arrival of special effects in film, the fall of the Berlin wall and the pursuit of the end of the Cold War. But also, Italy winning the World Cup, evenings that started with a happy hour, and carefree nights that ended up on the dance floor to a soundtrack of disco music. The 1980s was a decade of great historic change, not only bringing with it a carefree atmosphere, but also a pinch of vanity.

The many faces of America spoke through the eyes of fashion, music, sport and TV series: pop queen Madonna burst onto TV screens, with her image of the free, independent woman; the Sex Pistols, together with young designer, Vivienne Westwood defined punk style and the desire to shock; lovers of fitness were everywhere to be seen in their leg warmers, sneakers and optical-patterned leggings. Everything revolved around the desire to wear clothing from other contexts, playing with it with style and confidence. Things like the black leather jacket that symbolised the biker tribe, now worn by young people, with added studs to recreate the style of the Ramones, or the tennis band worn in fluo versions by young women, dancing like Cyndi Lauper to Girls Just Want to Have Fun. But the ‘80s were also about the first tv shows to get hooked on, such as the one about ex-naval officer and private investigator, Magnum P.I. And his style? A soft, slightly oversized, regulation Hawaiian shirt in tencel or viscose, of the type that is making its fashion comeback in men’s shirts that stand out for their bright shades and tropical prints.

‘80s fashion in the US was not just about overabundance and excess. The phenomenon of the Yuppies Young Urban Professionals – is the proof: young people working in finance, as portrayed by Christian Bale in American Psycho, elegantly dressed young people, out and about in all the best places. The typical outfit of a strictly white men’s shirt with pinstriped suit and all-essential braces, perfectly reflects the idea of the businessman, living the American dream, who, every morning when he wakes up, before heading to the office, repeats the motto to himself: Dress for Success.

On the other side of the ocean, Italy was consolidating its approach, with regard to style, luxury and attention to detail – the linchpins of Made in Italy. The men’s shirt was in the spotlight in Milan, world fashion capital, with clean-cut, simple styles on the catwalk, fitting as if sculpted to the male body. Major designers inspired by the black and white movies of the 1920s chose to opt for the men’s shirt with Kent collar and wide collar leaf, worn under deconstructed jackets in grey, beige or greige, a tone created by combining grey with sandy tones.

The ‘80s were a kaleidoscopic decade, when being bold and consolidating shapes, colours, and different styles was a zingy response to the need to affirm one’s own style. It then fell to the ‘90s with its brand new must-haves and unexpected style icons to launch the trends that would conclude the millennium.

    Write a comment
    Your email address will not be published.
    The asterisk denotes a required field *
    Notify me of the response via email