Oh the 80’s… Looking back on the outrageous hair, tattered clothing, and mullets galore, you can’t help but wonder how it all came to be. Was there something in the water? Were people dumber then, and that’s why they put those ridiculous clothes on their body? Are we dumber now, and that’s why we’ve stopped? If slap bracelets were so dangerous, why hasn’t the military weaponized them?
One of the best movies ever to capture the absurdity of 80’s style returned to Netflix this week with an all-new TV series prequel. Obviously, I’m talking about Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, which so far has received as much fanfare about the jokes as it has about the fashion. Like its major motion picture predecessor, WHAS: FDOC perfectly portrays the bangs, denim, and handlebar mustaches that made the 80’s great (or, at least, memorable).
In celebration of the glorious return of Wet Hot American Summer, let’s remember some of the greatest movies of all time that — for better or worse — went back in time to perfectly capture the style, fashion, and spirit of the 80’s.
1. Wet Hot American Summer
Let’s start with the reason we’re here. This film asks that age old question: how short is too short for men’s shorts? (The answer, obviously, is that there’s no such thing). Plus, I think we can all agree that Paul Rudd deserves to EGOT for how well he pulls of denim-on-denim. If anything, his costuming is inaccurate because no one in the 80’s actually made that look good.
Things were a lot different in the 80’s, if this film’s depiction is to be believed. Not only did people apparently use the “F-word,” like, a lot more, but they also wore neon suits. At least the big-time crime bosses did, anyway. In fact, if you weren’t wearing a bright orange, three-piece tuxedo when you were gunned down by goons, you were basically a piece of garbage.
3. American Psycho
Of course, no list about men’s style in the 80’s would be complete without some mention of the sleezy Wall Street suit look that popped up among young urban professionals everywhere. Clearly, if Working Girl wasn’t actually made in that decade, it would beat out American Psycho in the depicting-upwardly-mobile-80’s-business-people category (although the swimsuit competition would be a tie). For movies made after the fact, however, no film captures that twisted corner of the culture better than AP (both in style and spirit, I say).
4. House of the Devil
This recent horror insta-classic nailed everything from the feathered perm to the high-waisted, tight denim pants that wreaked havoc on high schools everywhere from circa 1980-1984. May we all say a collective prayer that bowl cuts never come back in style (although I’m totally down for the striped tees and knee-high socks).
5. Party Monster
Not everything was teal suits and Miami Vice. From Prince to David Bowie, men in the 80’s made their fair share of gender bending fashion choices. Party Monster, set in the gay club party scene of the early 80’s, captures the androgyny that was prevalent in a lot of 80’s men’s fashion (whether they were gay, straight, or otherwise).
6. Forrest Gump
Obviously, Forrest Gump captured a lot of decades well, but its depiction of the 80’s was especially apropros. I’m not sure which was a more accurate artifact from the decade: Jenny’s sparkly, backless blouse when she tries to fly like a bird in a cocaine-fueled lapse in judgment or the red-white-and-blue Nikes that take Forrest running across the country. In many ways, the 80’s themselves were like a box of chocolates: you never knew what someone was going to staple to their body and try to pass off as an outfit.
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