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The iconic shell suit done the Liverpool Style Way

December 31, 2019

Liverpool fashion, Scouser style and the shell suit converged in the 1980s and 1990s to rock a bold trend that lives on in fashion history and throwback looks today.


There is a place in the United Kingdom – Liverpool – and a time in fashion history – the 1980s and 1990s – that came together in the iconic shell two peice suit that was the origination of the athleisure trends so popular today.

Wade Smith, the Beatles banner, Flanagan's Apple, and south-side space (truncated part of old Cavern Club), Mathew Street, Liverpool,

Wade Smith, the Beatles banner, Flanagan’s Apple, and south-side space (truncated part of old Cavern Club), Mathew Street, Liverpool,

Liverpool rocks the shell suit

Liverpool has and continues to be on the forefront of innovative, bold fashion. The city has been showcased in many TV shows – thanks to their most famous sons, the Beatles. But the adoption of the shell suit in 80s and 90s by Liverpool trendsetters heralded the evolution of sportswear into streetwear.


While some may say the shell two peice suit is a loud and brash style statement, it’s ascent in the 1980s sparked a significant transformation of casual wear in Liverpool and around the world.


Whether you now think of the shell suit as fancy dress costume or consider it an exciting way to mash up the look of your current street style, the origins of this type of suit are based in the track suit, which was historically a purely sports outfit.

Womens shell suit 80s style

shell suit 80s style

Fashion innovation

You’ve probably seen many “fitness types” showcased on TV shows wearing them. They evolved from track suit inspiration but instead of being restricted to only sporting activities, fashion innovators now wore the shell suit for leisure or party events, led by the trendsetters in Liverpool.


While the original versions of the shell two peice suit of the 1980s and 1990s was constructed of synthetic fibres like nylon or rayon, today’s reimagined suit made of organic, natural fabrications is very much on trend and in style.


However, man-made synthetic fibres still very much have a role to play in current fashion since they add features like drip-dry and endurance to the quality of the garment. Today’s casual wear is usually made of a blend of synthetic and natural fibres, much closer to the throwback suit composition than you would expect.


The everyday suit of the 80s and 90s was usually all nylon or all rayon and a practical, affordable street style option.


Made famous by celebrities and personalities from TV shows, like Sir Jimmy Savile, the shell suit used to be a staple in everyone’s wardrobe, especially for Brits and those hailing from the Liverpool district.

Ladies Pink Scouser Shell Suit

Ladies Pink Scouser Shell Suit

Stand out from the crowd

The bright and brash polyester jacket and trousers of the authentic suit made its wearer stand out from the crowd and made a big, splashy style statement, just the way the lads and lasses from Liverpool liked it!


1980s shell suits


The iconic, original suit from the 1980s was a spin on the tracksuit, of lightweight material for a set of matching jacket and trousers, each with a nylon shell, usually in a bright, gaudy colour with panels or stripes in contrasting hues. They also typically had a cotton inner lining.


The emergence of a trend in shell suits took hold in the 1980s and reached its peak in the 1990s. Shell suits were worn to the pub, around the home, on nights out and as street wear. For nights out at dance clubs, the neon bright suit lit up the dance floor under disco balls as dancers rocked their way across the floor.


Gaudiness aside, these suits had its practical purposes too. The nylon or rayon outer shell was waterproof, especially useful on rainy days across the British Isles!


The popular Welsh band “Goldie Lookin’ Chain” brought the shell suit back in style via their chart toppers in recent years.

Ladies 80s Pink Scouser Style

Ladies 80s Pink Scouser style

Shell suit done the Scouser Way

If you have lived in Liverpool, in the surrounding areas or even just have family located there, consider yourself a Scouser!


“Cricket” is one of the United Kingdom’s most loved designer fashion stores and located right in the heart of Liverpool.  Check them out at your next Liverpool visit for an iconic, authentic shell suit or a modern reimagining of one.


From Juicy Couture tracksuits to a neon bright shell suit, the Scouser lady stands out for her unique style.


Cricket is all about bright colours, flashy styles and fun fashion. And its customers are not afraid of bold fashion choices. A perfect match between a Scouser and a shell suit!


Liverpool is a port city, which is one reason why Scousers were the first to hear about and get to try out innovative products from other countries, putting this city and its citizens in the forefront of fashion, among other things.


This city wants to be first, different and a trendsetter, including setting the trend of the shell suit. Scousers are not afraid to get it wrong, to take risks and to try out every new style.

1980s fancy-dress-costume

1980s fancy-dress-costume

Shell suit fancy dress costume

Moving on from the history and origins of the iconic shell suit, here are some ways to rock a shell suit fancy dress costume at your next themed party:


Find a huge selection of shell suit options on eBay at prices that work for every budget, especially for a one-off shell suit fancy dress costume.  Alternatively, get yourself an authentic neon fitted suit from back in the day for something that is truly one-of-a-kind and that embodies the original shell suit construction, fabrication and colours.


To really rock your shell suit fancy dress costume, add a permed wig and some white high-top trainers, preferably with brightly coloured angled stripes on the sides and, if you can find them to fit your budget, made by Nike or Reebok.


Add a broad headband in a clashing colour, throw on some heavy gold chains and you could be a star of the TV shows that set fashion trends in the 1980s and 1990s!

80s Navy Print Shell Suit Two Piece

80s Navy Print Shell Suit Two Piece

TV shows and movies that rocked the shell suit

For more on the backstory of the iconic shell suit and how it was made into a cult look by TV shows and movies of the 1980s and 1990s, read on below:


  • In the early 1990s, the shell suit as worn by footballers in England was still very much a sports wear outfit and had not yet graduated to street and party wear. This version of it was more understated and not as bright and bold as the street and dance wear version.


Football fans went out in droves to get their hands one like their favourite players wore as they emulated their British football heroes.


Then TV shows like “Little Britain” adopted the jazzed-up version of the shell suit ala Vicky Pollard, which inspired a whole other host of fans to go out and get themselves this new spin on the shell suit.

80s Dark Green Two Piece

80s Dark Green Two Piece

The Departed
  • “The Departed” movie had its own role to play in the story of the shell suit, with Detective Sargent Dignam as a ruthless mob hitman in his over-large, brightly coloured suit. Marky Mark made this version of the shell suit famous and gave a whole new cool spin to the outfit not typically associated with hitmen working for the mob.


The Damned United
  • “The Damned United” was another iconic demonstration of the shell suit, this time as worn by Leeds Utd wearing the suit in its original incarnation as a purely sports wear costume.  Folks like Madeley, Bremner, Lorima, Giles, Hunter and Cherry were unforgettable in their tough guy versions of the shell suit before it evolved into leisure or party wear.


Reservoir Dogs
  • Finally, who can forget the iconic movie “Reservoir Dogs” and Chris Penn as Eddie, wearing a shiny bright neon fitted suit with lots of chunky gold chains in the 1990s – the epitome of street style for the 90s fashion era.

1980 styles

1980 styles

Finding your perfect shell suit

Now that you know its origins, and all about how to make that suit look good on you, it’s time to source yours. You could even buy yours online and receive same day delivery:

90s Puma Two Piece Purple Shell Suit

90s Puma Two Piece Purple Shell Suit

  • When looking to source yourself a shell suit fancy dress costume, start at Etsy where you will find a myriad of choices at a range of price points, from an authentic 80s or 90s suit with all the bells and whistles, to modern interpretations of a neon fitted suit at very low prices, perfect for that one-and-done shell fancy dress costume!


On Etsy, you can also find and buy a high-end, high quality designer brand neon fitted suit in superior fabrication and style, in classic dark colours that give you the option to pair your suit with all your current wardrobe favourites, showing your style savvy.


Throw on the suit jacket over a classic white T-shirt tucked into your favourite chinos or khakis, rolled up to show off your crisp white sneakers and you are street-style ready in a mashup of 80s throwback and today’s classics.


Or pair the suit trousers with an oversized chunky knit sweater and black ankle booties for a cool-casual Fall or Winter look that says you did not have to try too hard.

  • Other great online marketplaces to source your suit from include both eBay and Amazon, both of which offer a vast range of neon fitted suit choices for you to browse and pick up your two peice suit fancy dress costume, not to mention same day or next day delivery, depending on where you shop and what conditions apply.


  • If you are looking for an upmarket version of the 80s shell suit from a designer fashion brand, go check out your main street consignment and thrift stores and you will likely find the suit as imagined by Gucci and other premier designers for hugely discounted prices.


  • For more details of where to look and what to expect, head on over to Amazon and check out the amazing selection of colourful two peice suit fancy dress costume options at your fingertips!  Read what other customers had to say about their buys and then select the suit that speaks to you the loudest.

Girl wearing purple, red and white Shell top

Girl wearing purple, red and white Shell top

  • Head on over to eBay as another great option to source your shell suit fancy dress costume or even a high-end suit you can mash up into your current wardrobe for in-the-know style savvy. You will find original 80’s choices or low-cost fancy dress party options, whatever you are looking for today.


  • Smiffys is another cool online market place to look for your shell two peice suit. They offer a carefully curated set of suit choices with a wide range of jacket and trouser separates to choose from, if you are in the mood to mix and match your suit selections. Go bold and bright with contrasting colours for top and bottom or play it safe with a coordinated set – anything goes for your shell suit fancy dress costume!


Give Party Delights a try too, before you decide on your final choice. With their original options from back in the day, you can’t go wrong when looking for an original throwback fancy dress costume that you can play up with 80s accessories to really rock that 80s trend!



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