What to Wear to an '80s Party

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A 1980s-themed Halloween party outfit is a totally rad opportunity to create a fun costume incorporating the most iconic elements of '80s male fashion trends. The styles of the decade were wildly distinctive across a wide range of themes, with a maximalist, high-energy approach to '80s men's clothing from head to toe.

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Embrace a classic '80s party as a chance to go really wild with hair, makeup, clothing and accessories, many of which you can adapt from your own wardrobe, make yourself or easily find in a thrift store.

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If you're too young to remember the 1980s, it's time to watch some classic movies and music videos from the era and look up the most outrageous '80s looks served by its biggest pop-culture icons for this Halloween costume.

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Here are some outfit ideas for your next '80s theme party.

'80s fashion essentials for guys

The easiest way to put together a men's '80s costume is to select a few fashion essentials, add some accessories and style your hair with '80s flair.

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Some typical '80s clothing characteristics to look for include:

  • Tapered-leg pants (or you can roll up the cuffs)
  • Matching shell suits
  • Neon
  • Pastels
  • Acid-wash denim
  • Big shoulders
  • Sportswear brand logos
  • Graphic T-shirts ('80s bands or logos)

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If you really want to embrace the '80s details, hunt for:

  • "Dad" Jeans.​ Acid or faded blue wash jeans with relaxed fit and tapered legs were an '80s essential, and flat-front or pleated-front chinos are a good alternative.
  • Jackets.​ You have some great jacket choices that scream the '80s too, including bomber, denim and leather jackets and windbreakers, preferably swishy polyester in a geometric, bold color-block pattern.
  • Sneakers.​ Wear all-white sneakers, high-top sneakers or Converse on your feet.
  • Accessories.​ Complete the generic-casual men's '80s costume with accessories such as a fanny pack, Wayfarer sunglasses, a Casio-style watch and either slicked-back or high-volume hair.

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The rich villain: preppies and yuppies

Teen movies of the 1980s nearly always featured the preppy villain character – an obnoxious rich kid who hung out at the country club or yacht club and bullied his poorer peers.

To dress as this perfect '80s male fashion trope, layer pastel polo shirts and pop those collars up. Chino pants or shorts, boat shoes or loafers, a sweater tied around the shoulders and neatly combed hair complete the look.

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For a more grown-up, less villainous version of the preppy costume, find a pastel suit, wear it with a crew-neck T-shirt and roll up those jacket sleeves and pant cuffs.

Another rich villain to emulate in a men's '80s costume is the yuppie banker, a la Michael Douglas' Gordon Gekko character in the movie "Wall Street." Wear dark suit pants, a retro pinstriped shirt with a white collar and the sleeves rolled up, suspenders and a tie held with a gold tie clip. Add an expensive-looking gold watch, slick back your hair with gel so the comb lines stay put and go around stating "greed is good."

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'80s rockers: big hair and major accessories

Rock bands embraced some of the wildest looks of the 1980s, which are all very fun inspirations for a men's '80s costume. Some signature looks that spanned all rock genres in the '80s were:

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  • Tight pants
  • Denim jackets or vests
  • Mesh and ripped clothing
  • Black band-logo T-shirts
  • Copious layers of jewelry
  • Eyeliner
  • Big hair

Consider the "hair bands" known for their crimped, curly or backcombed shag hairstyles, tight pants, love of bandanas and zigzag-shaped guitars. Watch the movie "Spinal Tap" for costume ideas and find yourself a wig if you lack the locks to pull off the hair band's essential look.

Other 1980s rock costumes include:

  • Glam Rocker.​ An androgynous '80s style characterized by bright colors with artistic makeup effects; bowler or top hats; floaty scarves; and ribbons or feathers braided into the hair.
  • Punk Rocker.​ It starts with the Mohawk hairstyle, achievable for some with vast amounts of hair spray or mousse, plus studded denim, DIY spray-painted stencil shirts, ripped jeans, big black boots and safety-pin earrings among other ideas.
  • Goth Rocker.​ Another costume option is the '80s goth rocker with everything black and oversized.

Old school hip-hop and hammer time

The 1980s saw the rise of the hip-hop genre and its offshoots, with a signature '80s style built around oversized athletic suits – which must match on the top and bottom – plus gold chains, white sneakers and bucket hats. A boom box over the shoulder is a must for this type of costume.

The unforgettable "Hammer time" look of the '80s pioneered by MC Hammer requires "Hammer pants" that are super loose and baggy at the top and tight around the ankles with garish prints.

'80s men’s clothing for the surfer/skater/stoner dude

Watch the movie "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" to nail the '80s surfer/skater/stoner dude costume.

  • Vibe-y Shirt & Shorts.​ Pull on a Baja hoodie over acid-wash jean shorts or board shorts in a neon spray-paint print. An unbuttoned, tucked-in Hawaiian shirt over a beach-motif T-shirt is a viable '80s outfit alternative.
  • Hair.​ Keep your hair messy and pull on a cheap beanie.
  • Accessories.​ Add some woven friendship bracelets and wear Vans or Converse on your feet.

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