The 1980’s – Focus Fashion: Fashion in Rock Music Through the Decades

Written by on April 25, 2023

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When remembering fashion in the 80’s one can’t help but smile. A time in music where new styles in both fashion and music began to emerge from different artists. Music had a massive influence on fashion and took over this time period. From bold outfits filled with animal print, studded boots, and leather to disco, sparkles, and neon… this decade turned lots of heads. It is argued this era was the decade where rock was at its most popular and when the disco genre started to “die out,” and a new wave of synth pop started to appear. While taking a deep dive into some fashion trends within this decade, some may say these iconic influences are back for another round of wear in today’s society. 

Glam Rock

In the 1980’s, glam rock was known for its extravagant style and sound. Bands like Mötley Crüe, Guns n’ Roses, and Bon Jovi were staples in this era of rock. The bands teased over the top hairstyles, heavy makeup usage on their faces, and they especially teased the fashion sense of spandex. Arguably Spandex was the most utilized fashion sense in rock bands in the 80’s. Guns n’ Roses had one of the most distinguished styles in 80s rock. When their first album released “Appetite for Destruction” we saw a glimpse of their fashion sense, and that in turn changed people’s taste in fashion. Slash’s top hat was shown for the first time and is considered one of the most recognizable fashion staples in rock. The style was a bit more street style which made it more appealing to their fans.

80’s Rock

The rock music scene was all about leather, studded clothes, bandannas, ripped tees, and long mulleted hair. When looking more into fashion trends that rock bands introduced in the 80’s, you can see the trend of metal chain usage, and sometimes heavy usage of makeup. This trend was often used more on hardcore rock bands, or whoever was into an expressive rock style. A perfect example of a band fitting this description of using leather, long hair, metal chains, and heavy makeup is the famous rock band KISS. Queen was another band who used the style of long hair, metal chains and leather as well, but they were more flashy with it then heavy metal. This fashion style was associated with rock bands who were about expressionism.


Pop rock Artists in the 80’s had a particular fashion sense. Artists like Michael Jackson, Queen, Prince, U2, and Stevie Nicks changed certain rock music trends with their style of fashion in the 80’s. Styles like long, thick hair, and leather jackets were seen on the majority of pop rock bands and artists during this time. Sunglasses and gloves were a fashion trend utilized in the 80’s. Prince definitely adhered to the usage of sunglasses with his style. He had different shades to compliment his different looks to appeal to his audience. Michael Jackson’s usage of leather gloves was poignant at the least. Jackson did not always use gloves but when he did he went all out. In his performance in Paris in 1977, his style was expressive and his gloves went with his outfit as well. It is small fashion like this that can have an impact on the culture of rock n roll. These musicians understood that and were a starting point to inspire generations years after their time was done in music. 

Synth Pop 

You simply cannot talk about the 80’s without talking about synth pop. Spandex, legwarmers, and neon colors were a must in the scene. Many rolled with the side ponytail look or the massive permed hair and blasted their eardrums with Madonna and other icons of this era. Artists like a-ha, Eurythmics, Soft Cell, Duran Duran, New Order, Depeche Mode, and so many more are what created the pop scene of the 80’s. These are common household names because of how FABULOUS these individuals looked and sounded. 


In the 80’s, the Goth fashion scene exploded. It reflected a more aggressive rebellion compared to the chill flower power era. During the 1980’s goth really kicked off and even spawned multiple subgenres within it such as romantigoth, gothabilly, pin up goth, punk goth, and more. Bands emerged during this time period with a different and unique sound that crowds raved about. The fans of iconic bands such as The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sisters of Mercy, and Bauhaus followed them strutted in memorabilia. Many began to dress in black, explored pale makeup, dark lipstick, the mohawk and even began to resemble a scary movie character.  A new wave happened and people started to enjoy a stroll on the darker side. 

1980’s section written by Luke Adair and Julia Slevin.



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