Step Back, ‘90s. The ‘80s Are Having A Well-Deserved Pop-Culture Moment Right Now

By Meghan Dillon
·  6 min read
Screen Shot 2022-08-04 at 10.53.53 AM

From the latest season of “Stranger Things” to the massive success of “Top Gun: Maverick,” it’s safe to say that the ‘80s are in right now.

‘80s and ‘90s nostalgia have been pop-culture staples for a while, but the ‘80s seem to never go out of style. Here’s why we think the ‘80s remain so prominent in pop-culture.

The ‘80s Are Having a Moment in Pop-Culture

Though Stranger Things has been popular since it’s first season premiered in 2016, the fourth season of the hit Netflix series is dominating the internet this summer. Besides the fact that it’s an amazing show, it’s proof that everyone loves a good ‘80s throwback. From references to ‘80s horror movies (Vecna gave off serious Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare from Elm Street vibes) to ‘80s music, the recent season of the beloved show has made everything from the ‘80s cool again. ‘80s singer Kate Bush has seen a resurgence in popularity due to her hit song, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God),” being featured in an important scene on the show, resulting in over two million dollars in royalties. 

eddie graduating 1986 stranger things

Stranger Things isn’t alone, as it appears to be the summer of ‘80s nostalgia. The summer began with the Top Gun sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, dominating box offices (it’s actually the ninth-highest grossing movie in American history) while paying homage to the ‘80s classic. Thor: Love and Thunder was released in mid-July, and everyone is going crazy over the movie’s ‘80s aesthetic and music, and Amazon Prime’s Paper Girls just jumped in on the ‘80s nostalgia wave too.

While Top Gun: Maverick and Thor: Love and Thunder rely solely on nostalgic ‘80s vibes, Stranger Things and Paper Girls tell stories of kids growing up in the ‘80s. This appeals to ‘80s kids and Gen X viewers who want to relive the innocence of their childhood years, but it also appeals to younger generations. Older Millennials remember the ‘80s from their early childhood years, while younger Millennials and Gen Z have no memory of the decade. This is where pseudo-nostalgia comes into play, giving viewers an escape to a time period they have never experienced. Pseudo-nostalgia is popular for the same reason we love period romances – pure escapism.

But why the ‘80s? You could argue that the ‘80s (or at least the aesthetic of the ‘80s) provides the perfect sense of escapism. Bryan Reesman of NBC News writes, “It can be argued that the ’80s was a modern Renaissance of creativity paired with technological innovation that ricocheted across all aspects of media. Writ large, blockbuster films and franchises came of age, CGI special effects began revolutionizing the experience of going to the movies and digital production expanded the horizons of pop music (for better and worse). Spurred on by the fast and furious rise of MTV, meanwhile, music videos featuring chameleon-like mega-artists such as Prince and Madonna changed the nature of pop stardom, while heavy metal, hip-hop and dance-pop exploded. On the homefront, the scope of personal media consumption swelled like never before as personal computers, VCRs, video games and Walkmans became ubiquitous in American households.”

But at the same time, it was still an era of innocence: riding bikes, playing with friends, hanging out at the mall, listening to music, only needing to come home for dinner or by bedtime. Reesman says, “Indeed, there was something innocent and naïve about the ‘80s. America had come out of the ‘70s dominated by the Watergate scandal, the Vietnam War, the energy crisis, the Iran hostage crisis and massive inflation. When the ‘80s rolled in, Americans craved positive and life-affirming culture, and blockbusters like the first Star Wars trilogy (1977-1983) happily obliged by blasting open the doors for escapist Hollywood entertainment.”

Let’s be real, the last two years have been tough due to the coronavirus and related lockdowns, and it’s safe to say that it’s an incredibly divisive time in American history. While the ‘80s weren’t perfect, its aesthetic provides a sense of comfort and familiarity. We know that the ‘80s end and the ‘90s begin, and sometimes knowing what’s going to happen next is comforting. While we also love the ‘90s, it often feels like the last age of innocence before the War on Terror began after 9/11. ‘90s nostalgia can be comforting, but it can also give off feelings of sadness because we know the tough times that follow. 

Our Favorite Fashion from the ‘80s

Let’s not forget that the ‘80s were the decade of the most iconic fashion trends in history. Here’s a breakdown of some of our favorites that you've seen featured on your tv screen lately.

Everything High-Waisted

We all know that high-waisted jeans are in right now (at least until Gen Z convinces everyone to swap them out for low-rise jeans), but the ‘80s embraced everything high-waisted.

Double Breasted Jackets

These jackets have the ability to make pussy bow blouses (another all-time favorite of ours) look more elegant and chicer than they already are, and we can’t get enough of this classy staple. We love how it works with so many different styles and aesthetics, making it one of the most versatile pieces of the era.

Teased Hair

Before Snooki rocked our world with her poof in the early 2010s, the ‘80s were the decade of teased hair. From teased perms to voluminous ponytails, the ‘80s were all about big hair, and while we love the look of the sleek middle part, we can’t help but hope that this trend comes back in style soon.

Puff Sleeves

Nobody rocked puff sleeves quite like Princess Diana did in the ‘80s. The look is mostly seen in blouses and dresses (think regencycore) today, but the ‘80s were all about puff sleeves. From huge puff sleeves on jackets and prom dresses to smaller ones on shirts, this is a trend we’ll always adore.

Closing Thoughts

‘80s nostalgia is having a moment in pop-culture right now, proving that every generation can appreciate the decade. After a tumultuous few years in American society, it only makes sense that we want to reminisce over times when things weren’t so polarizing, giving us all something to enjoy.

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