1980's Shoe Styles

Shoes in the '80s had both flair and style.
Shoes in the '80s had both flair and style. (Image: Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

The 1980s made several memorable fashion statements. Whether it was neon colors or conservative styles, many of the decade’s shoes, clothing and accessories have stood the test of time into the 21st century. Several well known brands made a name for themselves in the '80s, becoming a sign of social status among kids. If you were not wearing the coolest, most expensive sneakers, you were not part of the in crowd. Women wore pumps to parties that made them seem taller and men wore boat shoes to show off a carefree, relaxing lifestyle.

Platform Shoes

Platform shoes were made of either rubber or cork. There were both women’s open toe versions and a closed toe version for men. They added inches to a person’s height, while not putting the wearer off balance like high heel shoes tended to do. The evenly distributed lift in the shoe made them easier for walking. It was common to see rock guitarists dancing across the stage with ease while wearing platforms in the '80s.


People wore sneakers called plimsolls as far back as the 18th century. In the following centuries, plimsolls advanced to a comfortable shoe when basketball player Michael Jordan signed a contract to promote a popular brand of sneaker. That led to several other sports stars promoting popular brands of sneakers, even wearing them while they played. Kids had to have the best brands of sneakers and would often scribble their own artwork on the shoes to personalize them. High-tops and sneakers with straps instead of laces became a fashion symbol of the '80s.


Jellies were first introduced in 1982 at the World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. A year later, a New Yorker visiting a Chicago shoe exposition purchased 2,400 pairs. He put them in a store catalog, increasing the popularity of the shoes. Jellies are made from PVC plastic, which makes them waterproof. They come in a variety of colors and glitter is sometimes added for extra style. They were a favorite of women as well as little girls who loved the colorful assortment of shoes and the unique look.

The Pump

Pumps have been around for hundreds of years. They were originally used as slippers for dancing. Alfred Gabriel created pumps with two-inch heels in 1838. Pumps are flat shoe that come in a variety of heel sizes. They are both open and round cut at the toe side. Men wore these shoes as well as women. The men’s version was made of leather and cloth and the women’s version was made of satin. Pumps are a versatile shoe that go with formal clothes and casual jeans.

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