I’m quite often nostalgic for the 1970’s, the wonderful decade that gave us Starsky and Hutch, disco and a shampoo called “Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific,” but I have to say I rarely even think about the 1980’s. When I do, I’m not the least bit nostalgic. A little horrified, but not at all nostalgic.
I thought about how non-nostalgic provoking the 80’s was while we watched a movie from that era the other night. I could barely follow the plot since I was so busy saying, “Look at that permanent! Plastic earrings? His mullet! All that makeup! Did we really look like that?”
Yes, folks, sadly we did look like that in the 1980’s. How well I remember the one and only perm I got back in 1985. Think Bride of Frankenstein puts her finger in an electric socket, and you’d be close, only mine was worse. Much worse. Almost everyone—male and female—got a frizzy poodle perm and no one, not even those 80’s supermodels, looked good with it.
Then there were the ubiquitous shoulder pads. I believe shoulder pads started out as protection for football players and morphed into a worldwide fashion statement when a costume designer was trying to dress 1930’s actress Joan Crawford. Crawford had very wide shoulders, so the designer decided to emphasize the obvious and voila! The modern shoulder pad was born.
Shoulder pads have gone in and out of fashion over the decades, but it wasn’t until the 1980’s that they became so popular every piece of women’s clothing came with built in shoulder pads, even bathrobes and pajamas. I still cringe when I look at old photos of my friends and I where we thought we looked like we were at a party at the Dallas mansion when in reality we looked like we were a convention of jet fighter planes masquerading as women.
The preppy look was also big in the 80’s. I still can’t figure out why everyone wanted to pretend we went to boarding schools with people named Muffy or Chip or Winston Stanwood III, but we did. I’m sure part of it was the whole Dynasty era when it was suddenly socially acceptable, indeed a major plus, to be rich instead of pretending to be ashamed of your wealth, although in my experience I’ve never known too many humble millionaires. Most of the rich people I’ve met have been more of the Lovey and Thurston Howell variety who knew instantly you’d never set so much as a toe on a blade of boarding school grass.
Food was pretty so-so then too. Convenience foods such as Hot Pockets and Fruit Rollups appeared on grocery store shelves, and while Fruit Rollups sounded healthy, we all knew they were made from plastic ripped off the booths in old diners.
The 1980’s also saw the birth of Diet Coke, that traitorous soft drink that began the slow decline and eventual death of my much beloved and still missed Tab. See what I mean? What good can possibly come out of a decade that did that?
A bright 80’s note was when Paul Newman launched his massive food line and gave all the proceeds to charity. He was one rich person who didn’t seem to subscribe to the face of 80’s greed J.R. Ewing’s mantra that “the rich get richer and that’s just the way we like it.”
Another bright note was the arrival of music videos. While I may not be too crazy about the decade as a whole, watching the official “Do You Believe in Love” video by Huey Lewis and the News always perks me right up. That video captured the essence of the 80’s in just a shade over three minutes. And I defy anyone to remain grouchy after watching Van Halen’s “Jump” video.
So maybe I’m wrong about my own personal lack of nostalgia for most of the 1980’s. Maybe one day I’ll wake up with a strong yearning for neon leg warmers, phenomenally big hair, and a triple marathon featuring Fatal Attraction, Top Gun and Rambo.
But somehow, I doubt it.