Clothing Styles for Teenage Boys in the 1980s

Teenage boys often sported tattered acid-wash jeans in the 80s.
Teenage boys often sported tattered acid-wash jeans in the 80s. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

The 1980s saw the waning days of the Cold War, the birth of the video game console and the rise of musical icons like Madonna. And for the boys who were spending their teen years in the '80s, it was also a decade of questionable fashion decisions. The clothing style fads of the 1980s were distinct and arguably a product of bad taste. Nevertheless, they were hip back in the day. If you were a teenage boy in the 80s, you probably wore at least some of the most notorious styles of the decade. Don’t deny it.

Denim Jackets

Jeans officially graduated to upper body wear for boys and girls from around 1985 until the end of the decade and has been an on-again-off-again trend ever since. It has never reached the heights of the mid-'80s, though. High school boys often sported faded jean jackets with patches on the back featuring the logo of their favorite bands. Or, if you were really cool, or didn’t have a patch, then it was also common to draw on the jackets, often writing catchy phrases, song lyrics or the name of their favorite group. Surely you had a denim jacket with “Poison” written ornately across the back.

Acid-Washed Jeans

Acid washed jeans were the ideal pairing with your denim jacket in the 1980s. Soaking perfectly good blue jeans in chlorine or another harsh chemical to pull the new blue off the surface and make them look worn and faded was an essential part of wardrobe design. This “washing” also weakened the fabric, which was handy, since you could gain a few "cool" points by having the knees or rear end ripped out of your jeans. Many parents undoubtedly spent many hours shaking their heads in disbelief over this one as their sons seemingly ruined a perfectly good pair of pants. And believe it or not, you can still see this trend on occasion.

Parachute Pants

One piece of apparel that most definitely came and went with the '80s is the parachute pant. Parachute pants were not used for jumping out of airplanes, but their name did derive from that activity. Today, the only place you’ll see a pair of these babies is in an old MC Hammer video — you probably have one on VHS somewhere. Parachute pants are made of the same synthetic material as an actual parachute, hence the name. In the early '80s these pants were worn very tight and were designed as a slick and tough piece of clothing that would stand up to the rigors of break dancing. These pants were often adorned with zippers. In the late '80s the look shifted dramatically. The zippers went away and the pants known as parachutes were worn very loosely. The legs and crotch of the pants ballooned out and looked big enough to hold two people.


If there is one '80s wardrobe essential that has stood the test of time it is Wayfarer sunglasses. The Wayfarer is a Ray-Ban design made popular by Tom Cruise in the 1983 smash hit "Risky Business." The glasses were worn by teenagers of both sexes and A-list celebrities of the day, including Don Johnson, Madonna and Michael Jackson.

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