Embarrassing mullets, puffy jackets, and neon dancewear – the 1980s was one absurd yet glorious decade. Really, nostalgia for the ‘80s is so common that even those who weren’t alive at the time like to reminisce as if they were. Colorful tracksuits and fanny packs are back in fashion, and so are Ray-Ban Wayfarers, velvet jackets, and shoulder pads!
In celebration of this cheesy decade, let us go through the things and events that only those who witnessed them firsthand will be able to relate to. Fellow kids from the ‘80s, it’s time to get sentimental. From the moonwalk to the fall of the Berlin Wall, we give you – the 1980s.
The Fanny Pack
Ahh… who could forget the notorious kangaroo look? When it came to being both fashionable and responsible, the fanny pack was the perfect accessory. Yes, they might look a bit ridiculous, but are they great for keeping your finances close by and secure? Yes!
Nowadays, it seems like fanny packs are making a comeback. They are, once again, considered hip. Except that now, people don’t wear them on their hips (ba-dum-tss). They wear them sideways, attaching them so that they will hang from one shoulder across the chest.
Waiting All Afternoon for Your Favorite Video on MTV
When MTV premiered in the early ‘80s, it took the world by storm. The first-ever song to play on the channel was, fittingly, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. Music videos became all the rage, and watching MTV in your spare time made you the coolest kid in town.
MTV offered 24 hours of non-stop music videos. Could it get any better? The only downside was that you had to wait for hours upon hours for your favorite song to show up. But when your desired song aired, you enjoyed three minutes of pure entertainment!
Living in Fear of Nuclear War
Throughout the ‘80s, people had nagging anxiety that at any possible moment, an atomic bomb would be launched at us and blow us up for good. Most of us (depending on our age) felt like nuclear war was imminent. Each country was trying to stack up on as many nuclear weapons as possible.
It certainly didn’t help that movies like 1983’s The Day After, showing horrifying scenes of Earth after a nuclear attack, aired on the small and the big screen. Even Sting released a song expressing everyone’s sentiment at the time: “I hope the Russians love their children too.”
The Series Finale of M*A*S*H
There was no TV event in the ‘80s quite as big as the M*A*S*H series finale. When the two-hour “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” episode aired on February 28, 1983, over 100 million viewers sat in front of their TVs. 100 million!
This crazy number made it the most-watched show in TV history at the time. Whether you religiously tuned it to all 11 seasons of M*A*S*H or only watched an episode here and there, you were surely in front of the TV during the show’s final episode.
From cozy leg warmers to oversized T-shirts to Members Only jackets, any piece of clothing in the ’80s had to be blindingly bright and ultra-vibrant. Neon orange, neon pink, neon blue, neon purple… If staring right at you would lead to irreversible visual impairment, then you knew your outfit was on point.
So, why all the neon? It was a way for Hollywood to convey youth and optimism in cult movies like Back to the Future and Flashdance. With Lycra, neon dancewear, and puffy colorful jackets, the young actors inspired all of us to dress in the same flashy way.
Macintosh’s Eerie Super Bowl Commercial
Superbowl, 1984 – Macintosh aired one of the greatest commercials the Superbowl has ever seen. Not that anyone knew what it was or what it was trying to sell. But what we did know at the time was that we were absolutely mesmerized by it.
It lasted 60 seconds and showed a bizarre, dystopian reality in which a woman in bright red shorts interrupts some kind of Big Brother lecture by throwing a mallet towards a screen. The commercial ended with a captivating voice announcing the new Apple Macintosh computer. It left us puzzled yet transfixed.
Lady Diana Became Princess Diana
In the summer of 1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana said, “I do.” But don’t be mistaken. Their wedding was more than just an ordinary tale of wealthy royalty getting hitched. It was a fairytale wedding event that had over 750 million across the planet hooked to their screens.
Even the harshest cynics couldn’t help but get all lovey-dovey after watching the two elegant lovebirds walk down the aisle. Too bad their marriage was a mess. And good thing Diana walked out of it and spent several years on her own before she died.
Coca-Cola Changed Their Recipe
It still isn’t very clear why Coca-Cola believed it was a good idea to ditch its addictive recipe in favor of what was, let’s be honest, a diluted Pepsi. When they unleashed their “New Coke” in 1985, the company received over 40,000 angry complaint letters.
People wanted to know WHY. They also demanded that the company bring back the original recipe. Finally, Coca-Cola gave in to their requests. And after three months of trying to shove the New Coke down everyone’s throat, they gave in to the pressure and brought back the OG flavor.
Believing Max Headroom Was the Future
It might have been all makeup and prosthetics, but Matt Frewer—the guy behind Max Headroom—certainly had us fooled into thinking that we were witnessing the future. The infamous ABC series, which aired from 1987 to 1988, was a must show in every household.
Max Headroom was the first AI TV personality, and he really painted a futuristic picture for all of us. ‘80s kids worldwide stared into this computer-generated, slick-haired, cool figure and assumed that a bunch of Maxs would soon run the world.
President Reagan’s Assassination Attempt
In March 1981, the world witnessed one of the most horrifying scenes in the political sphere. We watched as President Ronald Reagan was gunned down by John Hinckley Jr., as he was leaving his hotel room in Washington, D.C.
While this wasn’t the first presidential assassination attempt, it was still one of the first ones we got to see on our screens. It was a new media age, and cameras were everywhere. Seeing the footage of those terrifying minutes made viewers feel like they were right there with him.
One of everyone’s favorite pastimes in the 1980s was making mixtapes. It was considered a work of art! Far from the messy Spotify playlists of today’s era, where you can add as many songs as you want with just a few clicks, mixtapes took a lot more work.
You only had a limited number of minutes to make your musical statement. You had to pick the best of the best, the most uplifting, or profound (depending on what you were going for) tunes to move everyone’s heart to the beat.
Breaking a Sweat With Jane Fonda
By the mid-’80s, there were just a few houses in America that didn’t have at least one VHS copy of Jane Fonda’s Workout stashed somewhere in the living room. Fonda’s at-home workout tape was so popular that it has sold more than 17 million copies worldwide over the years.
What made it so popular? Well, besides the fact that Jane Fonda was dressed in a belted leotard and moving her body around to synth music, the exercises she taught were way ahead of their time. They were something new and exciting and gave us all the feeling that if we only sweated a bit harder, we could look just as great as she did.
Cool Ray-Ban Wayfarers
Who could forget Don Henley’s infamous line in his 1984 hit, The Boys of Summer: “You got that hair slicked back and those Wayfarers on, baby”? Don knew what he was talking about. In the ‘80s, there was no more relevant sunglasses to put on than Ray-Ban Wayfarers.
Everyone and I mean everyone, wore them. From Tom Cruise to Madonna to Jack Nicholson to the guy working at your local convenience store, they were all seen wearing Ray-Bans. Some even wore them at night! Like singer Corey Hart.
Calling Someone to Ask Them Out
In the ‘80s, you couldn’t just swipe right or left and choose from a wide pool of potential partners. You had to choose one, get their number, pick up the phone, dial the number, and then have a pretty awkward conversation while you mustered up enough courage to ask them out.
It didn’t always happen the way you wanted it to. But that’s what made dating so much more exciting! You actually had to put yourself out there and risk rejection. Today, people can just ghost you. People can fade out without having to explain why. We think the ‘80s method was a lot better.
Getting Your First VCR
VCRs were already out on the market in the late ’70s. However, the price tag ranged anywhere from $1,000 to $1,400. So, it wasn’t until the ’80s that they became more available to the masses. Prices dropped to anywhere from $200 to $400, allowing nearly every household to own one.
So, why the sudden price plummet? Well, it looks like suppliers everywhere wanted to cash in on the high-tech boom. The only question that was on everyone’s mind after the price reduction was – which one should they get? A VHS or a Betamax?
Creepy Garfield Phones
Garfield phones… obese orange cats with eyes that look like they’re hungry for some pizza or sardines or whatever is available in the fridge for that matter: what made this phone extra creepy was that its eyes would open and shut whenever you picked up the receiver or put it down.
While it didn’t come with all the exciting features we have on our phones today, it was still an incredibly cool phone. If you’ve been craving for a Garfield phone of your own, rumor has it that orange fragments have been washing up on the shores of France for about three decades now! Go check it out.
Dawn and the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was one of the most gruesome things of the decade. Eleven million gallons of oil poured into the Arctic waters near Alaska. The scene was horrifying, and it became the only thing people could talk about.
Luckily, there was reason to be hopeful after people learned that a dishwashing detergent called Dawn was useful in cleaning the oil off sea turtles and birds. A report published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service read: “Dawn is recommended because it removes oil from feathers; is non-toxic, and does not leave a residue.”
Aspiring to Live Like Ferris Bueller
Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) was the guy every teen wanted to be in the 1980s. He was the ultimate poster child for kids who longed to get rowdy without doing anything technically illegal. The Chicago high schooler taught us all that “Life moves pretty fast,” and that “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”’
I bet all of us took a day off school after watching Bueller’s wild adventure. I bet more than half of us got into trouble for it, but I bet everyone who did so felt that it was well worth it. Thanks, Bueller, for reminding us to have fun.
“I Pity the Fool”
Mr. T’s catchphrase began with the film Rocky II (1982), in which he sneered during an interview that he didn’t hate Rocky Balboa. He simply felt sorry for him. “I pity the fool,” he remarked. That line soon became one of the most quoted ones of the era.
Mr. T will forever be remembered as the man who pitied his foolish rivals. And while he didn’t utter the catchphrase in his first TV show, The A-Team, it’s safe to assume he pitied the fools from the very beginning.
The “Just Say No” Campaign Was Everywhere
When First Lady Nancy Reagan launched the “Just Say No” campaign in the early ’80s, she had nothing but good intentions. Many people, however, felt like her method of solving the drug epidemic was a bit too simplistic.
As if one could “just say no,” as simple as that, and have everything solved in a jiffy. Still, we appreciated her efforts. And we have to admit, and she really won us over when she guest-starred on Diff’rent Strokes and told the gang that “all drugs are dumb.”
The Magic Johnson-Larry Bird Feud
Sports rivalries are nothing new, and they definitely aren’t something specifically characteristic of the ‘80s. But the former rivalry of basketball legends Magic Johnson and Larry Bird was really, really something else.
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were the Thor and Loki of the ‘80s. They were Professor X and Magneto of basketball at the time. Who was the good guy, and who was the bad guy? It really depended on which team you were rooting for.
The Rubik’s Cube Craze
Sitting down with a Rubik’s Cube in the ’80s felt like an impossible challenge. For some of us, it’s still an impossible challenge! But that’s exactly what makes this cube so entertaining. After all, people love a good mystery.
America’s obsession with the challenging cube was so huge that ABC aired a cartoon for a short while featuring a Rubik’s Cube as the main character. The show was called Rubik, the Amazing Cube. Was it terrible? Yes. Did people still watch it? Yes.
Greed Is Good?
Only a few short months after Gordon Gekko uttered that infamous line, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” in Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street, the stock market crashed and shook all of Wall Street well as most of the global economy.
Billions, nay, trillions of dollars in wealth were lost all over the world. So, yes, Stone’s film might have given us a cool quote about greed being good and all, but reality gave us concrete evidence that greed can often come back to haunt you.
Holding Hands Across America
On May 25, 1986, about 6.5 million people all over the country held hands for 15 minutes. It was the most endearing expression of human compassion that the world had ever seen. Or at least that’s what Ken Kragen, founder of Hands Across America, was striving for.
In reality, there were huge gaps in certain areas in the Southwest, so many ranchers used their cattle to substitute those empty spots. Basically, a better term for the movement would probably be “Hands to Hooves.”
Obsessing Over Hair Bands
Can you imagine the amount of Aqua Net that was used in the ‘80s? Probably half of their consumers were guys from metal and rock bands like Motley Crüe, Poison, Ratt, Whitesnake, Van Halen, Def Leppard… the list goes on and on and on.
Everyone worshiped these bands. The longer the hair, the better. These hair rock bands were frizzy, messy, and wore an effortless look that made us believe they didn’t care about how they looked (oh, but we know they did).
Cabbage Patch Dolls
Time magazine summed up the year 1983 with one sentence: “the great Cabbage Patch Kids madness of 1983.” Let’s admit it, we all went a little bit bonkers for these chubby-faced dolls. Come on, and we know you begged your parents to get you one.
The kids weren’t the only ones crazy about the dolls. The parents were in on it as well! Some even got into serious fights in toy stores. Fists were thrown in the air. Hair was tugged, all in the hopes of getting the perfect Cabbage Patch doll for their kid.
Remember the days when you’d drive in your car, tapping your fingers on the wheel while singing along to your favorite tune, when suddenly… silence. The music would just stop. If you wanted to keep dancing in your car, you had to take out the cassette and flip it over.
Yup, in the ‘80s, if you wanted to listen to your favorite music, you had to work for it. Nowadays, work is scrolling through your playlist. But even that’s solvable with the help of the search tab.
Trying to Figure Out Who Shot J.R.
Nowadays, things go viral all the time. This footage goes viral; that footage goes viral. We seem to be jumping from viral clip to viral clip all the time. But in the ‘80s, things needed to stand out for them to go viral.
It happened in the 1980 season finale of Dallas. Oil tycoon J.R. Ewing was shot. By whom? Nobody knew. But it was all people talked about during that summer. There were so many conspiracy theories thrown around that when Dallas came back a year later, 83 million people tuned in to watch.
Up until the ‘80s, news had designated times – in the morning and in the evening. But when CNN arrived at the scene, news fanatics found a way to watch it all around the clock. Excitement and action at 3 a.m.? Yes, please.
I would argue that watching the news early in the morning is the last thing a person needs. But, hey, whatever floats your boat. Some people thrive off hearing the news anchor deliver nothing but depressing data about the world.
Wanting to Learn How to Breakdance
The 1980s saw some really neat dance moves pick up. But one style in particular excited most of the kids – breakdance. Almost every kid in the country longed to learn a few moves themselves. Understandably, not everyone could twist and turn or do the head slide.
Still, if you had what it took to pull off a respectable robot, you were considered awesome! School dances were all about showing off your latest breakdance moves. All you had to do was dare – dare to look silly on the dance floor!
The Challenger’s Tragic Explosion
Like 9/11, most people from the ’80s know exactly where they were on January 28, 1986. On this day, the 10th flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which carried five NASA astronauts and one schoolteacher, exploded only 73 seconds into its flight.
The accident killed everyone on board. It was a shocking, gut-wrenching event. Innocent lives were lost on that day, and with them, the dreams everyone had of making it into space. For those of you who were born after the ‘80s, the explosion can be seen in footage on YouTube.
The Super Bowl Shuffle
The Chicago Bears were the best team in sports in 1985. Why do you ask? Well, taking home the Super Bowl certainly helped, but what really made the team so great was a fun little hit song called “The Super Bowl Shuffle.”
Even though their singing and overall performance was a bit off, there was something utterly endearing about how hilariously bad they were. Even after all these years, we can’t resist singing along to every obscene lyric: “We’re not here to cause no trouble! We’re just here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle!”
Baby Jessica’s Fall Down a Well
Who would have imagined that a baby trapped in a well could unite an entire nation? Incredibly, that’s precisely what happened when baby Jessica McClure Morales fell into a well in her family’s backyard in Midland, Texas, during the fall of 1987.
Everyone in America tuned in to watch the rescuers as they worked tirelessly to bring the child back to safety from that 22-foot deep hole. It was a tense scene to witness. Finally, when that frightened one-and-a-half-year-old baby finally popped up, it felt like a victory for us all.
Hitting the Arcade on the Weekends
Video games existed in the 1980s, so sure, you could have spent the night playing at home, but there was something special about hitting the arcade with your buddies. There was something that just felt cool about walking around with a roll of quarters in your pocket.
The sound of an arcade, jam-packed with kids happily banging on buttons and twisting joysticks around, will forever be music to our ears. Anyone up for a friendly game of Rampage?
Listening to “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
Many Americans weren’t aware of the famine going on in Ethiopia until they heard the heartrending chorus of “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” a charity song recorded by a supergroup of British musicians called Band-Aid.
Apart from raising money for famine relief, the single also delivered a pretty catchy tune. Even those who have never thought about Ethiopia in their lives can still proudly sing the lyrics, “Do they know it’s Christmastime at aaaaaaaaall?”
Tawny Kitaen Dancing on Top of a Car
The band Whitesnake wasn’t too great. I mean, their pop-metal music wasn’t the most memorable thing to hit the stations at the time. However, something about them was indeed memorable. Or, more accurately – someone. And that someone was called – Tawny Kitaen.
She was the lead singer’s girlfriend and had starring roles in their music videos, including the one where she was casually dancing and rolling around luxury cars with such elegance. She made it seem like the easiest thing in the world.
Dave Letterman’s Velcro Skit
In the ‘80s, David Letterman was considered a rebel among late-night television hosts, and he always knew just how to find humor in random things. For example, we never thought Velcro was funny until we saw Letterman wearing many Velcro items.
Velcro shoes, a Velcro dart gun, he even held a Velcro basketball, and—the motherload of all pieces—a Velcro suit. If you’ve never watched a grown man wearing all Velcro bounce from a trampoline onto a Velcro wall, you’re missing out!
Cutting Up Clothes
This care-free, rebel-like trend started with tearing holes in the knees of one’s jeans or tights. It then moved on to cutting off the collar of one’s sweatshirt to make them look kind of like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance.
Gradually, it became a total fashion statement. It evolved into a style movement where clothes weren’t stylish unless they were almost entirely shredded to pieces. Today, there are plenty of online tutorials on how to cut up perfectly good clothes so that they look ’80s-ready.
The Chernobyl Disaster
As if people in the ‘80s weren’t worried enough about the threat of nuclear weapons, the disastrous Chernobyl accident of 1986 made the whole world even more acutely aware of just how vulnerable things were.
On April 26, 1986, at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine in the former Soviet Union, a reactor explosion caused a lethal amount of radiation to be released into the atmosphere. As a result, 30 people died, and hundreds more received radiation poisoning, and it took weeks to contain the incident fully.
The Miracle on Ice
In the 1980 XIII Olympic Winter Games, America made history. The games took place in Lake Placid, New York, and sadly, the odds were against the nation’s hockey team. They were a group of college kids whom nobody expected to rise above their rivals, the powerful Soviets.
Miraculously, on February 22, 1980, the young Americans managed to beat the Soviets! It was a stunning moment, one that went down in sport’s history books. In 2016, Sports Illustrated dubbed the miracle on ice the “single greatest moment in sports history.”
Wearing Down Vests in the Summer
In the ‘80s, puffy vests were a thing. It could have been that most people aspired to look like Mork (Robin Williams) from Mork & Mindy, or maybe they believed that a puffy vest would turn them into Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) from Back to the Future.
Whatever the reason was, down vests weren’t just an ordinary item in your wardrobe that your mom made you wear on autumn days that were chilly but not too chilly. These vests were worn with pride because kids thought they were cool.
Elizabeth Taylor’s Diet Tips
Elizabeth Taylor’s bestselling book on weight loss, Elizabeth Takes Off (1986), was an interesting read even if you didn’t have any pounds to shed. Taylor’s advice was broad and zig-zagged anywhere from helpful tips to downright crazy.
We haven’t tried her patented tuna salad yet, but it seems uh… interesting. It involves mixing tuna with tomato paste, grapefruit, scallions, and mayonnaise. Another neat recipe is her peanut butter and steak sandwiches. Oh, and also cottage cheese-covered fruit.
Nintendo Game Boy
Nintendo Game Boy seemed way too good to be true when it first came out in 1989. People couldn’t believe it. But sure enough, Nintendo released that little gadget! It seemed to have arrived from someplace in the distant future.
Gamers finally had a way of holding a gaming device in their hands. And although the games weren’t as sophisticated as they are today, they were still enough to excite their users and have them on it 24/7.
Madonna Crawling on Stage in a Prom Dress
Madonna will forever be remembered for her timeless song, “Like a Virgin.” Her unique performance, dressed in a wedding gown and crawling across the stage, was so captivating it was impossible to look away.
Years later, Madonna spoke with Jay Leno, admitting that her stage crawl wasn’t planned and that it happened because she lost one of her shoes during the performance. “So, I thought, ‘Well, I’ll pretend I meant to do this,’ and I dove onto the floor. I rolled around, and I reached for the shoe,” she explained.
That Iconic Tennis Match
The tennis showdown between the calm and collected Bjorn Borg versus his rival, the volatile John McEnroe, wasn’t just a fantastic tennis match; it was the most dramatic one of all time. Both players were even and had won seven times against each other.
But this time, it was Borg who rose victorious at 1980’s Wimbledon, earning his fifth straight title and causing John McEnroe some serious (and epic) temper tantrums. They don’t make games like these nowadays…
In the ‘80s, slogan shirts were everywhere. From the “Choose Life” tees inspired by Wham’s 1984 single, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” to shirts that said, “Frankie Say Relax,” it didn’t matter whether you listened to the bands. You just wanted to wear one.
Slogan shirts were considered a fashion statement in the 1980s. Anyone who wanted to feel cool and look like they were hanging out in MTV’s green room daily had to own at least 20 tees in their closet.
Mullets, Mullets, and More Mullets
Both men and women sported mullets. It was a ‘do that expressed business in the front, but then, BOOM! Party in the back. It was incredibly popular back then. But most of the people who rode the mullet train regretted it shortly after the trend faded away.
Not only did ordinary Joes regret the hairdo, but so did George Clooney, who was crowned (God knows how many times) as “the most handsome man alive.” He says that his brief period in the ‘80s with a mullet was an “awkward phase.”
The Berlin Wall Came Down
President Reagan first discussed the challenge during a talk in Berlin in 1987, where he infamously asked the Soviet leader to “tear down this wall.” People didn’t think it would happen… but it did.
Just two and a half years after his speech, on November 9, 1989, the wall that had separated East and West Germany for nearly three decades and had become a symbol of the Cold War was finally taken down.
Bleached Out Jeans
There are many different takes on the origins of acid-wash jeans. Some claim that an Italian company accidentally drenched jeans in bleach without any water and realized that it actually looked good.
Others believe it came from punk rockers who first debuted the look in the early ’80s by pouring bleach all over their jackets and jeans so that they looked more rugged and damaged. Even though we don’t know where the look came from, we know that this bleached-out look was an absolute staple in the ‘80s.
Wanting to Hold a Boombox Over Your Head
One scene. That’s all it took to drive everyone nuts. In 1989, youngsters got to watch the film Say Anything, in which John Cusack stood on his lover’s front lawn and held a boombox over his head with the tune In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel.
That’s all guys in the ‘80s needed to be convinced they now knew exactly how to get the girl of their dreams. As much as we adored this film, the producers should have let out a disclaimer: “Please don’t try this at home.”
In the 1980s, it wasn’t rare for you to get into trouble for being too slappy-happy with your slap bracelets. The noise that they made bugged people. And the slap, that painful slap. These bracelets were banned from schools at one point.
These little rascals were a massive trend! People had stashes of these bracelets tucked away in their drawers at home. Slap bracelets came in a handful of colors and designs. Really, the sky was the limit with these painful pieces of jewelry.
Fuzzy and Vibrant Leg Warmers
The 1980s was the decade of Flashdance and Fame. It was only natural for leg warmers to become the ultimate trend. These warm garments were meant for the wintertime, but many people wore them to the gym.
Leg warmers weren’t just for dancers; and they were for everyone. They soon became a part of people’s day-to-day wardrobe. We’re assuming they did so for fashion’s sake. But poor them, leg warmers on summer days? And working out in them? Exercise gets you pretty warm as it is. We bet these people were sweating like crazy.
Walking Around With a Walkman
The Walkman was created right at the turn of the century. It was, truly, one of the best things humans invented. Carrying your music with you wherever you go? Unbelievable. Listening to your mixtape during lunch? During recess? During everything? Incredible.
In the ‘90s, after CDs took over cassette tapes, the Walkman took the form of the Discman. But during the ‘80s, the Walkman was the coolest thing in the world. It was like holding a little bit of the future in the palm of your hand!
Passing Handwritten Notes
Yup, kiddos back then didn’t have WhatsApp, SMS, Instagram, TikTok, Gmail, or any email for that matter. People were left with none other than their pencils and paper. Snail mail, if you will. It took a while to get to the designated person.
You had to either wait until recess to pass the note on to your friend or wait a couple of days until you ran into them in the park. This slow pace definitely had its benefits. For one, people weren’t allowed the privilege of being super impulsive and throwing at each other whatever thoughts came up. They cultivated patience and took the time to think before they wrote.
Carrying Caboodles to School
Caboodles were these massive pencil cases in which you could throw whatever school supply you had on hand, from pens all the way to makeup (which was irrelevant for your studies but felt very important nonetheless).
Like most things nowadays, Caboodles are going through somewhat of a renaissance. Needless to say, it doesn’t feel quite like it did back in the ‘80s. Still, it’s nice to see these nostalgic pieces around again.
Organizing Things in Your Trapper Keeper
Trapper Keepers helped kids back in the ‘80s organize their stuff. At least they gave the impression that you were organized, even if you weren’t. That familiar sound of the Velcro rip is enough to send all ‘80s kids back to the 8th grade.
Trapper Keepers first appeared at the end of the ‘70s, and for years upon years, they remained a must-have item for every kid in town. They came in all sorts of designs and colors. Some had plain, one-colored ones, and others had crazy illustrations on them.
Bob Ross’ Happy Little Trees
In the ‘80s, you didn’t mind getting sick because that meant that you got to stay at home and watch Bob Ross on PBS. His show, The Joy of Painting, was the most calming thing in the world. It aired for 31 seasons over 11 years.
From 1983 until 1994, kids all over the country were soothed by Bob’s pleasant voice. He used to give all the things he painted sweet names like “happy little trees.” There’s a reason his show went on for so long… It was truly healing.
Teachers used overhead projectors to show any kind of visual presentation to the whole classroom. A panel was placed in a plastic frame which was then placed on top of the overhead projector, which connected to the video output of the computer.
Overhead projectors really helped make lessons a lot clearer. Instead of the teacher explaining verbally or drawing on the board, or doing charades, they could project the material and have everyone see it for themselves.
Dysentery in The Oregon Trail
Developed way back in the early ‘70s, The Oregon Trail was an educational game that was originally designed to teach middle school kids about 19th-century pioneer life on the Oregon Trail. One of the game’s founders, Don Rawitsch, was a senior when he taught 8th graders history for the first time.
Don recruited two of his friends to help him create something that would educate the kids in a fun way. Somehow, the game exploded, and Don was hired to work with an organization that developed educational software. The version that most ‘80s kids remember is the one that was released in 1985. There was plenty of dysentery and a whole lot of oxen.
Cool Koosh Balls
Who can recall the moment these toys appeared on the playground? These balls came in plenty of different colors. They were also collectible, which meant that kids tried to get as many colors as they could!
It’s hard to say what the aim of the balls actually was. For some, it might have been to throw around. For others, it was fun to hold and toy around with. Either way, this playground treat was a lot of fun! The only issue it raised was when another kid had a better set of Koosh balls than you had. Oof!
Ugly yet Airy Jelly Shoes
Who remembers those see-through, God-only-knows-how-they-were-in-fashion jelly shoes? ‘80s girls everywhere owned a pair. And while they weren’t very pretty, they were such a delight to wear! They felt light and airy on the foot, meaning that you never got too sweaty.
Plus! They came in a lot of different styles and colors. Of all the designs, the glitter ones were considered the best. They were the Rolls Royce of the jelly collection. They were also great for the beach if you wanted to get in the water but were worried about stepping on rocks or getting your toe pinched by a crab.
Foolishly Trying to Car Surf
The movie Teen Wolf was pretty much the reason for this dangerous craze. After having Michael J. Fox’s character (as a cool werewolf) surf on the roof of his buddy’s van, everyone wanted to try out that risky move.
Everyone knew it was just a movie, yeah? But still, that didn’t stop them from trying it out themselves. ‘80s kids will surely remember at least one time when they tried to get on top of their friend’s car while they hit the gas.
Bulky Shoulder Pads
The show Dynasty rocked the 80’s back in the day. And it made shoulder padded garments a fashion staple. It was one of the hugest fads of the decade and was adopted mainly by the middle and upper classes.
Businesswomen and models strutted around in these wide jackets. Maybe because they simulated men’s shoulders, but the shoulder pads gave an air of “anything you can do, I can do better.” It was often worn to present oneself as a strong, intelligent woman, just like Joan Collins in Dynasty.
Colorful Hair Crimping
Crimping was a hairstyle you either loved or hated. There wasn’t any middle ground, or I’m not sure. The style was very clear-cut. It starred on the heads of girls during school discos. They usually paired the ‘do with massive hoop earrings and leg warmers.
A crimped hairstyle would usually be accompanied by a funky hair color too. Girls would often spray their hair in wacky colors like pink or blue. Anything bright, for that matter. It wasn’t only about crimping; it was about being noticed!
Fun Hacky Sacks
Ah yes! Hacky Sacks were these small leather beanbags that you could find in many colors and with different facial expressions. They were an awesome item for a game of catch or for kicking them up in the air and passing back and forth with a friend (no hands!)
Believe it or not, but Hacky Sack is considered a sport in America. That’s a bit odd, I admit. We know they’re fun and all, but come on, the game usually lasts no more than five minutes! Did you own some Hacky Sacks? Let us know!
Big Parachute Pants
These pants were a must for any breakdancing kid in the mid-’80s. Parachute bottoms were characterized by their peculiar yet interesting shape. They were called parachutes because of the nylon material they were made of.
They looked absurd. And yes, we’re sure some of you thought you looked unbelievably cool with them back in the day. It’s okay, so did the mullet folks. And so did the crimped hair gals. We all make mistakes sometimes…
This was the ultimate trend in the mid-1980s! Freezy Freakies were these neat, colorful snow gloves with fun designs, sure to make you look cool in the coldest of temperatures. While they weren’t used very often, they were still fun to whip out during skiing trips.
Not every family could afford skiing trips. But those who could were likely rich, and if they were rich, they probably bought their kiddos a pair of Freezy Freakies. By the way, these gloves weren’t meant for kids only; adults wore them too!
Yo-yos have been in and out of fashion for decades. Each generation explores and plays around a bit until they grow tired. In the ‘80s, however, it felt like yo-yos would stick around forever. They came in many colors, and some even glowed in the dark!
The light-up yo-yos looked awesome but were a bit too heavy compared with the other plain-looking yet lighter ones. There were also branded yo-yos, like ones that had Coca-Cola stamped on them in silver and gold.
Cute Finger Monsters
Finger Monsters were these super cute, ultra-cool little monsters you stuck on your fingers. It was impossible not to flash a smile at someone who showed you their hand with a couple of these finger monsters. It was a weird concept, yes, but so cute.
They came in red and blue and green and yellow. They had little sharp teeth and big eyes and looked like dinosaurs. They had stretched-out arms that were fun to play around with. Bottom line, if you grew up in the ‘80s, chances are you had them.
Mad Monster Balls
Monster Balls were little like finger monsters except a lot creepier. They were a bit too hard to use as regular balls, and if you threw them at your buddies, there was a good chance you would seriously injure them. So, what were they good for exactly?
These balls simply looked cool, that’s all. They were based on famous monsters from different stories and different eras. They were well designed and super fun to collect. You had an eyeball, Frankenstein etc.…
Trying to Do the Moonwalk
Who could forget Michael Jackson’s first-ever moonwalk? It was 1983, and he whipped out the move during his performance on a Motown TV special. The song he sang was Billy Jean, and the move he flashed was the most incredible thing anyone had ever seen.
At that exact moment, every kid across the States decided they wanted to be a pop star. With eyes glued to the screen, they swore they would become a singer, dancer, and performer one day. They wanted to glide on stage and learn how to perfect the moonwalk (which looked deceptively easy when Michael did it).
“Luke, I Am Your Father”
“Luke, I am your father” is one of the most well-known lines in movie history. While we’ve all heard it being thrown around either as a gimmick or on DVD, nothing compares to having heard it for the first time ever in a movie theater.
No one in the audience knew whether Darth Vader was telling the truth. They all thought, “could it be?” The thrill of not knowing whether Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker were related is something future generations will never, ever understand.
Greg Louganis’ Painful Blow to the Head
With two gold medals from the ’84 Olympics, Greg Louganis was one of the world’s best divers. No one, and I mean no one, expected anything other than perfection from this guy. But then, in 1988, at the Olympic Games in Seoul, the unbelievable happened.
Louganis hit his head – smack! – right on the diving board during a reverse somersault dive. The poor athlete gave himself a concussion. Before he got all stitched up and fixed, he climbed back on the board, blood dripping from his scalp, and tried the dive again. Louganis won a gold medal that year, a very much deserved medal!
Live Aid’s Rocking Concert
Nearly every big ’80s rock star performed at this historic benefit concert that took place in 1985. The idea came shortly after the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was released, and, like the song, it was designed to raise money to help treat the Ethiopian famine.
Over 1 billion people tuned into the concert, which was broadcast in 110 countries! Shows that night included a Led Zeppelin reunion, Queen, Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, U2, Dire Straits, Elvis Costello, and several more.
John Hughes’ Epic Films
Teen flicks from the 1980s were fun, relatable, and thought-provoking. From The Breakfast Club to Sixteen Candles, these movies were like a hot cup of comforting tea. The characters were like a blueprint to people’s personal identities.
Watching the films, kids often found themselves relating to at least one of the gang members, if not to all of them, in one situation or another. Were you a Duckie? Or a Blane? Were you an Allison? Or a John Bender? The movies covered all kinds of personas.
Pee-wee’s Creepy Playhouse
Running for five seasons in the late ’80s, Pee-wee’s Playhouse was the most surreal, funny, and downright absurd show to air on Saturday mornings. Incredibly, the show managed to feel both innocent, yet at the same time, subversive.
Pee-wee’s Playhouse was like a safe, cozy playhouse that was also ambiguously dangerous. You didn’t know exactly why, but something just felt off. The show was the perfect escape for any ‘80s kid who felt like an outsider and needed a friend.
Watching Films on a Betamax
Kids nowadays won’t understand how painful it was to go to a video store, look for a specific video you’ve been itching to watch for weeks, only to find that it’s available only on VHS. As luck would have it, your family has a Betamax player!
Ahh! The injustice. Granted, these kinds of situations made you appreciate videos once you were successfully able to get one. Today, you flip through Netflix, jumping from one clip to the next, often bored out of your mind regardless of what flickers in front of you on the screen.
That Weird Moment When a Computer Was Named “Man of the Year”
In 1982, Time Magazine celebrated its annual “Man of the Year.” But 1982 wasn’t your ordinary year. It was the year the magazine freaked people out by granting the title to a computer. It was the first non-human to be celebrated on the magazine’s cover.
Even those who had never touched a computer before knew how big the event was. In the same breath, it was also very creepy. People felt like robots were finally taking over. Soon, we would all become their little minions.
Monster in My Pocket
Which ‘80s kid didn’t love monsters? Monster in My Pocket struck a chord with kids all around the States, creating a colorful world of bizarre and whimsical creatures. They were easy to collect, and even if you had the same one twice, no worries, the more, the merrier!
The creatures in this series were brilliantly crafted because cultures from all over the world influenced them. They weren’t your average werewolf or vampire. They took after English folklore and Greek mythology.
The Polly Pocket Craze
Polly Pocket was a huge toy craze that excited most girls (and maybe a few guys?) from the ‘80s. Even though Barbie was around at the time, Polly Pocket was still incredibly popular. Polly Pocket’s world was super inventive and sparked the kids’ imagination.
You had a dozen different sets to play with! From Mega Mall to Water Park to Campsite to Unicorn Party, there was no shortage of what you could do with your Polly Pocket! Rumors have it that Polly Pocket has made a comeback and is available nowadays in stores!