Men’s style and grooming by Yatan Ahluwalia: Back to the ’80s

Rewinding back to men’s fashion in the pop era.
Gorav Sidhu (A Punjab based model and actor).(Yatan Ahluwalia)
Gorav Sidhu (A Punjab based model and actor).(Yatan Ahluwalia)
Updated on Aug 30, 2020 08:06 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByYatan Ahluwalia

Decoding the lead look

Hair: Long on top and short on the sides. Styled with water using the fingers to create a gentle lift on top. We created a slight puff at the centre to create an illusion of both height and length.

Skin: Smooth and well-nourished. We used Facial Fuel – an effective and energising water-based moisture treatment for men by Kiehls.

Face: Clean shaved face.

Brows: Thick and somewhat bushy with an even length all around.

Lips: Buffed and nourished using a lip balm.

Others: Stark white vest, worn over a pair of fitted jeans

The ’80s were a time of excess and maximalism for men’s fashion and style. As such, the decade featured bold styles, bright colours and eye-catching silhouettes. The ’80s also saw a variety of fashion-forward trends, including hip-hop, casual sportswear, rock and punk styles. Here’s what’s making a comeback from fashions edgy era:

Clothes and accessories

1.Tight fitting jeans

Skin-tight, crotch-hugging denims in light blue: the kind we saw George Michael wear in those epic Wham videos that made it to the top of the pop charts. Maybe the ‘acid wash’ look is history, but todays look, and feel is too similar to ignore.

Now: Skinny jeans that come treated to look either aged, worn out or weathered.

2.The white top

Round neck T-shirts for casual wear and ribbed white vests were considered the epitome of masculinity and were normally worn under a variety of jackets (see below).

Now: Tees and vests are now outerwear and are yet being worn under jackets or even just on their own.Take my word for it - vests are soon going to be seen as outerwear than just innerwear.

3.Denim jackets

Embellished white denim jacket by Kavya
Embellished white denim jacket by Kavya

Everyone had a favourite one that made them look and feel so ‘cool’ and ‘with it’. Layering was a strong trend in that decade – a bright coloured inner top was worn with the denim jacket worn over it.

Now: Short denim jackets are back for casual and leisurewear. Besides the conventional blue, expectto see a more varied colour palette of white, black and grey.

4.Bomber jackets

If Tom Cruise could wear them in Top Gun and win over the ladies (and men), so could everyone else. The decade saw two iconic jackets for men take off: one was the Air Force bomber, which delivered straightforward military vibes. While the casual bomber, gave the wearer a peppier aesthetic. You should note that the ’80s didn’t invent the bomber jacket but some popular hip-hop artists, film stars and sex symbolsof the decade made this vintage apparel become iconic during that period.

Now: Almost every brand makes them, even the luxury ones haven’t been able to ignore the revival of this street look.


This was the decade sportswear became casualwear and the bolder the colours, the more fashionable you looked. In the ’80s, workout fashion was massive and it saw a range of sportswear styles being adopted as everyday wear, including sweatpants, tracksuits, windbreakers and athletic shorts.

Now: While tracksuit materials and designs have improved, colours have become more subtle or at least changed over the years, the core principle remains the same: this is proactive apparel you can wear everywhere, especially outside the gym.


Sweaters and jumpers have been around for a while, but in the ’80s when they weren’t being worn to keep you warm, they were being placed over the shoulders. Big, bold and bright colours were the order of the decade. Sweaters back then were about two sizes too big and the ‘baggier’ they were, the trendier you were perceived to be.

Now: Sweaters are more fitted and structured. Plains over big bold prints. Turtle neck styles, are back – especially under winter jackets

7.Power suits

No list of ’80s men’s fashion trends is complete without the power suit. As much a uniform as it was a style statement, the most common styles had sharp cuts and wide shoulder pads. Designers then, used bolder colours and lighter fabrics. For those in business, stripes were a favourite print and jackets would often be paired with a shirt, tie and suspenders. Outside the office, pastelcoloured suits were on high rotation and were regularly partnered with crew-neck tees instead of button-up shirts.

Now: Suits are sharper and slimmer. Pin stripes have replaced bold chalk stripes. Pastels are yet a summer favourite.

8.Leather pants

You weren’t officially an ’80s bad boy if you didn’t have at least one pair of leather pants. Continuing a trend set forth by previous decades, the popular garb was worn by bikers, punks, heavy metal rock gods and S&M practisers.

Now: The pants are sexier and slimmer – some with a military look and feel while others are now so tight, they leave little to the imagination.

9.Golf shirts

The Pride collection by Ralph Lauren
The Pride collection by Ralph Lauren

The more conventional man experimented with the classic golf shirt for both casual and leisure wear. Back then, golf shirts were either worn exclusively on the greens or for the weekend.

Now: Golf shirts have become brighter with shorter collars and sleeve lengths. They now clearly define and represent travel, leisure and weekend wear.


1.Ankle-length boots

You either wore them with leather pants or tucked the ends (cuffs) of your denims into them. Either way, the laced ankle length leather shoes never really went out of style, but often got reinvented in almost every decade after that.

Now: The shoes have taken a more minimal and fuss-free shape and form. Heels have become flatter and laces are now optional.

2.White sneakers

White sports sneakers by Fred Perry
White sports sneakers by Fred Perry

When it came to footwear, white sneakers were the ultimate casual shoes that were perfect to wear with a range of everyday looks. This made the white sneaker, the decades most versatile shoe.

Now: With coloured casual sneakers safely out of the way, white sneakers are back and here to stay. Ideal for day and casual wear, especially with those skinny denims.

3. Bright-coloured watches

The monsoon essential collection by Swatch
The monsoon essential collection by Swatch

You had to wear them to stand out in the crowd or match what you were wearing. The more neon and fluorescent the watch, the trendier it looked.

Now: Pop coloured watches with slimmer and sleeker designs and coloured straps. While colours may now be subtle, bold eye-catching prints on the dial and strap are considered more recent and modern.


1.Medium-length hairstyles

While ’80s rock often took on a glam style, the punk looks of the decade were decidedly edgier. They were eye-catching hairstyles, including brightly coloured mohawks and spikes of varying lengths.Then there was the majestic mullet, wild curls and over the top, bleached punk looks or the more sporty fades with flat top styles.

Now: Raised puffs, medium length styles with loose strands. No more colour, but the occasional highlights and streaks. Fades with short hair are stronger now, than ever before.

2.Thick bushy brows

Back then men’s grooming for men had its limitations. Shaping and trimming the brows was yet considered a woman’s domain.

Now: Bushy brows are back but are being trimmed at the centre and ends with no long strands out of place. Shaping your brows isn’t taking vanity to the extreme, but very much the need of the day for just about every boy and man.

3.Moustaches and stubbles

It was a spill over from the ’70s but moustaches in the ’80s made quite a statement - as did heavy but defined stubbles, especially on men who had naturally darker hair. Some men meanwhile chose to go completely clean (again like Tom Cruise).

Now: In the last few years, facial hair returned with varying stubbles. But better still, the well-groomed and clean shaved look is now being hailed as the strongest grooming trend for men in the decade that has started in the 2020s.

The author is an image, style and grooming consultant and trainer

From HT Brunch, August 30, 2020

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