The other night, my 11-year-old son informed me that one of the latest fashions amongst boys his age was to turn up the collars of their button down or Polo-type shirts. Like Dracula, he said, though the image that was brought to my mind was Zach from Saved by the Bell. He then informed me that the girls’ fashion, in his opinion, was even dumber, because they wore shirts with large neck holes that hung off of one shoulder so that their underlying tank top strap showed. Ack! Flashdance!
I took my daughter to Claire’s the other day, and they had a wide selection of leg warmers. LEG WARMERS!!! And net gloves. Neon shirts and skirts are everywhere. My daughter’s favorite brand of jeans is Jordache. Every time I look at purses, I am confronted with leather fringes and gold tones. When I went to get my hair fixed from my DIY attempt at a transition from blonde to brunette, the shampoo room smelled like that unmistakable odor of perms. Before I said anything, Ben Odom, hair artiste extraordinaire, mentioned that more and more people were coming in for perms.
People, people: have we learned nothing from our experiences??? Do not all of us who were alive in the 80s have pictures in which the depiction of our horrible clothes and hair embarrass us more than if we had a past as an exotic dancer with a cocaine problem?
I suppose this was inevitable. My generation, the original target audience for MTV (back when it actually played music videos) and the generation that coveted red leather jackets with a thousand zippers all over them, is now in charge. In our 40s, we are the marketing directors, the CEOs, the chairmen of the board, and the ones who get to decide what does and does not get manufactured and what does and does not get shelf space in stores. We are corporate. We are The Man. Just as our nostalgia fuels the sold out crowds at Duran Duran, Journey, and Bon Jovi concerts, I guess it controls the marketplace as well.
But really, it smells more like typical bullying behavior to me than nostalgia. We are all completely humiliated by pictures of us sporting the raccoon inspired eye makeup; acid washed jeans; NFL-sized shoulder pads; the permed hair teased so large it won’t all fit in the frame in our yearbook photos; and the neon lace that adorned our hair, got used as shoelaces in our Keds, and anything else we could think to do with it. We don’t have the stomach to throw out those pictures, but we still tell our kids we can’t find them because we don’t want them to know how horrible we looked. And so, just as a bully is usually someone who was picked on somewhere else, and just as fraternity hazing comes from a sense of “I lived through it and now so should you” we have inflicted our fashion embarrassment on our children.
Not everything was awful, I guess. My son looks very handsome in his argyle sweaters. My daughter looks cute in neon green. Some fantastic movies came out in the 80s, and my kids even like them now: the Star Wars franchise, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Goonies, a Christmas Story. And now that I think of it, Silly Bandz are the modern incarnation of those rubber O-rings we used to buy from the hardware store to imitate Madonna back when all she tried to be was a pop singer. Sperry Top Siders are once again fashionable shoes. I have to say, I like them much better than platform ankle-breaker shoes. They are, generally speaking, foot-shaped, unlike most fashionable shoes, and are made of materials that don’t create instant blisters like the ‘jellies’ we used to wear.
I still have a pair of vintage 80s Sperry Top Siders. They were worn a LOT back in the day, but they are authentic and don’t have any holes in them. My kids won’t let me wear them now, because I am too painfully uncool to wear shoes like that. I also have an original Swatch – dark grey band and face with blue and yellow pinstripes on the face. I think my husband still has a Member’s Only jacket in the closet. He’s not allowed to wear that one, either, for fear of embarrassing my children to such a degree that they spontaneously combust. So I guess I should sell them. Which means I should quit marketing them as survivors from the tackiest decade in fashion history. Instead, they are now rechristened as original pieces from the groundbreaking, joyful era that recreated the music industry and gave us pop culture icons that still entertain audiences today. Let’s start the bidding at $1,000.00.