Historians have yet to come up with good labels for the 1980s and 1990s. The 1980s have been called the "Decade of Greed" because of the aggressive business growth of the time, and the 1990s have been labeled the "New Economy" or the "Internet Age," recognizing the extraordinary influence of high-tech industries.
The years between 1980 and 2003 present all the complexities of modern costume. These decades saw a rise and fall in the status of high-profile clothing designers and their extravagant clothes; the sudden popularity of certain clothing items, often associated with youth-driven music trends; the impact of new technologies; the influence of celebrities on fashion; all set against a general trend to favor comfortable, casual clothes.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a suit fashioned by the celebrated and influential Italian designer Giorgio Armani (1934–) became the outfit of choice for wealthy, style-conscious males. Armani suits were known for their simple yet elegant design, their striking look, and their comfort.
Baggy pants on young men could be spotted early in the 1990s, but they remained a largely "underground" style, worn only by a limited number of people pushing the edge of style, until hiphop replaced grunge as the dominant music form among urban teenagers. By the mid-1990s long baggy shorts became common.
As computer software began to receive more and more media attention in the late 1980s, informal office situations and casual, even eccentric, clothes became identified with the wealth and creativity of the highly successful computer executives. Managers of other successful businesses began to wonder if this informal atmosphere could work to improve their own offices.
Since their invention in the nineteenth century, the durable pants known as blue jeans or dungarees were commonly worn by cowboys and farmers and, later, children and teenagers. Starting in the late 1970s, however, a new kind of jean appeared in the marketplace.
The term goth, short for gothic, was used beginning in the 1980s to describe certain rebellious youths who had a very distinctive way of viewing the world, and an equally distinctive style of dress. The term gothic had been used since the sixteenth century to describe medieval northern European architecture and later to describe novels that had a shadowy, mysterious atmosphere.
Grunge fashions, inspired by the look of popular Seattle-based rock bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, were a fashion sensation of the early to mid-1990s. The casual street look eventually became incorporated into the designs of high fashion.
Zip-front jackets, vests, and other clothing items made from polar fleece, a trademarked synthetic, or man-made, fabric with a soft pile, emerged as tremendously popular cold-weather apparel for men, women, and children in the late 1990s and into the twenty-first century. The fad for polar fleece and related fabrics reflected widespread interest in outdoor adventure sports and the rugged lifestyle.
Spandex, also known as Lycra, is a synthetic, or man-made, stretch fabric that gained immense popularity in the 1980s in a range of clothing items, beginning with biking shorts. Its formfitting properties quickly caught on with a younger, body-conscious crowd, and by the 1990s the apparel industry was using spandex and spandex blends in tights, bodysuits, T-shirts, pants, skirts, and even men's shirts.
Soft, long-sleeved pullover garments usually made of a cotton or cotton/polyester blend knit fabric that is soft and fleecy on the inside, sweatshirts have long been worn by athletes while warming up, watching from the sidelines, or cooling off after exercising. They began to be worn by nonathletes as well during the 1960s and were actually adopted by designers as part of their collections in the 1980s.
The Wonderbra is a push-up bra that plunges at the front center, pulling the breasts together to create an elevated cleavage line. Based on the concept of the padded brassiere, the Wonderbra was introduced in the United States in 1994 and was quickly imitated by numerous competitors.
The early 1980s brought a return of interest in high fashion after the comfort trend of the 1970s, which saw many people rejecting designer clothing. Fashion designers became celebrities by marketing collections of ready-to-wear (off-the-rack) clothing, cosmetics, and accessories to the huge middle class.
Mullet is one of many names given to hair that is cut short on the top and sides and grown long in the back. The name mullet can be traced to the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke in which a prison inmate called men from the U.S.
Television actress Jennifer Aniston (1969–) sparked a worldwide style craze in 1995 when her distinctive shag hairstyle was copied by women everywhere. Dubbed the "Rachel," after the name of her character, Rachel Green, on NBC's long-running hit sitcom Friends, the popular hairstyle helped Aniston emerge as the breakout star of the show's ensemble cast.
Rogaine is the brand name for a drug called minoxidil, developed, manufactured, and marketed by the Upjohn Pharmaceuticals Company. First offered to the public in 1988, minoxidil was promoted as the first successful cure for baldness.
Since the 1980s body decoration and accessories have become a highly lucrative business. The intense interest in designer fashions in the 1980s created a demand for cosmetics, jewelry, handbags, and other items made by these makers of high fashion.
For a time in the mid-1990s legions of women began carrying their necessities in small, stylish backpacks instead of purses. The accessory proved to be a popular and practical alternative to the handbag.
In 1921 Guccio Gucci (1881–1953) opened a small store in Florence, Italy, where he sold luggage and saddlery, accessories for horseback riders. Over the decades Gucci's business grew into an internationally renowned company that manufactured and distributed stylish, handsomely crafted personal items, including watches, shoes, ties, jewelry, suitcases, and scarves.
During the 1970s a fitness craze swept the United States. Jogging and fast movement exercise classes called aerobics became popular leisure activities.
During the 1920s a tanned complexion became associated with youth and vigor as more and more people began pursuing active lifestyles. Tanned skin remained in style for several decades.
Tattooing is the art of decorating the body with permanent pictures or symbols by pushing ink under the skin with sharp implements. Tattoos have been used by many different cultures, and in each culture the tattooed art has its own meaning.
The emphasis on business attire that went along with the 1980s trend for "power dressing," or dressing for business success, triggered a surge in the fashion for stiff, formal shoes. Men wore shiny leather wing tips, oxfords, and other styles, and women wore pumps to work.
Cowboy boots arrived in the American West from Mexico, and they had been brought to Mexico by the Spanish horsemen who conquered that country. With sharply pointed toes and a high, angled heel, usually from one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half inches high, the tall leather boots slid easily into stirrups and hooked there when a horseman had to stand up in the saddle to rope cows.
Mary Janes, also called bar shoes, are simple, flat-soled shoes with bars, or straps, across the instep that fasten with a buckle or button, and, for more recent styles, with Velcro. A common style of children's shoe since before the twentieth century, Mary Janes became popular among women in the late twentieth century.
Pumps, low-cut, slip-on shoes, developed from the shoes worn at royal courts in Europe in the 1870s and have been popular in a variety of versions ever since. The earliest varieties had thick one-to two-inch heels.
During the 1980s sneakers or athletic shoes became a major component of the American wardrobe. Consumers, most of whom were young, favored certain styles for the attitude or personality they conveyed.