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Did people really wear neon coloured clothing in the 80s

August 25, 2018

Did people really wear neon coloured clothing in the 80s? Yes – both to celebrate the optimism of the decade, and also as a result of the influence of the cult movies and TV shows of the decade.


Did people really wear neon coloured clothing in the 80s, you ask?  Why yes, they did, and in doing so, they lit up the fashion, cultural and social landscape with day-glo colours that expressed the boldness and jubilance of the 80s.



1980s flashback


1980s fashion was all about fluorescent colours, in clothes, makeup, shoes and a wide range of other applications. Clothes were in bright colors – picture neon green, yellow or blue skirts, leggings, parachute pants, leg warmers and jelly shoes.

Neon pink 80s Batwing Sweater

Neon pink 80s Batwing Sweater

An Entertaining Color Palette

80s fashion trends were driven by the entertainers and entertainment industry of the day.  Hollywood used bright colors to convey youth, innocence and optimism in the cult movies of the 80s, such as in “Back to the Future” with brightly colored puffer vests, “The Breakfast Club” with plaid and neon in clashing combinations, “Flashdance” with its lycra and neon dancewear and “E.T.” with its 80s fashion trends for kids.


Then there were the global music icons like Michael Jackson and Madonna, who influenced 1980s fashions with neon clothing in their MTV videos, from Michael’s red leather jackets with massive shoulder pads, embellished with plenty of hardware, to Madonna’s flashy tutu skirts layered over leggings, with a bright floppy bow in her hair and strings of chunky necklaces and bracelets around her neck and wrists.


And let’s not forget the other fashion icons of the 80s like the supermodels and Hollywood hotties – Brooke Shields, Naomi Campbell, Cheryl Tiegs, Cindy Crawford, Karen Alexander and others – and musicians like Prince, Michael Jackson, George Michael, Boy George and Material Girl Madonna, who pioneered neon coloured clothing in all shades of the rainbow as they strutted their stuff on the world stage.


Ganguro Gal

A Decade of Optimism

The rise of neon was not linked solely to the Hollywood movie and TV industry.   On the contrary, people of the 1980s were full of hope and optimism, with a booming economy, the end of the cold war and the age of affluence offsetting the drab, dismal and frugal 1970s.   So why did people really wear neon coloured clothing in the 80s? It was all about hope: Neon colors were symbolic of a new mood and season of burgeoning hope across the world.

Elena Salikhova Cha-Cha-Cha

Fashion for the Masses

Everyone wore bright colors in the 80s, from your aunt in her Fonda-style workout wear, to your little sister in her neon colored jelly shoes.   Those day-glo colors went really well with acid washed jeans and stirrup pants in cool shades of sky blue or beige.


Schoolgirls emulated Madonna in their bright pink mini-skirts and neon blue or yellow big hair bows, while big girls wore one-shoulder shocking pink sweatshirts over black lycra leggings, paired with neon blue, green or yellow leg warmers ala Flashdance.


On every street corner you could see people coming from a mile away, with those bright colors and flashy outfits lighting up the days and nights of the 1980s.

Enn Reitel on location in Los Angeles in July 1982 on the shoot of The Optimist, Season One (episode 5, Kid's Stuff)

Enn Reitel on location in Los Angeles in July 1982 on the shoot of The Optimist, Season One (episode 5, Kid’s Stuff)

Neon for Now

So why did people really wear neon coloured clothing in the 80s? It to bring hope into their lives! Are you ready to bring some neon into your life now?  Picture a tie-dye T-shirt in neon colors worn with your indigo wash skinny jeans, or a neon bright headband with your black or grey athleisure wear.  Or how about a fanny pack in neon green over your denim shirt dress or a neon rainbow tutu skirt with a white slogan T-shirt for your next party?


There are so many exciting and fun ways to bring the happy, optimistic vibe of the neon-bright 80s into your wardrobe today and rock neon coloured clothing in the twenty-twenties!