“What Were We Thinking?” 21 Things from the ’80s That We Regret Ever Laying Our Hands On

The 1980s was a time of big hair, bright fashion, electro-music, and technology that is now considered retro at best. Whether you’re curious to learn about your parent’s generation or want to remember the “not-so-good old days,” let’s look at 21 things from the 1980s that we pray never experience a comeback!

Mullets

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This confusing hairstyle aimed to cover all scenarios, featuring a short-cropped ‘business’ front end and a cheeky ‘party’ mane at the back. In reality, it only managed to make the wearer look ridiculous, and even celebrities like Billy Ray Cyrus couldn’t make such an absurd coiffure look cool.

Shoulder Pads

Shoulder Pads
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Everyone from office workers to pop stars wanted the ‘large and in charge’ look of enormous, silhouette-enhancing shoulder pads! These dramatic additions to blouses and jackets were thought to give the wearer a more striking outline, delineating their shoulders to look like a macho superhero.

Boomboxes

Boomboxes
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In the 80s, you weren’t cool unless you owned a huge, technically portable radio called a boombox (for obvious reasons). Awkwardly resting on their shoulders and requiring more batteries than several torches, youths hit the streets with one of these monsters, music blaring.

Neon Fashion

Neon Clothing
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If you thought boomboxes were loud, take a look at the color palettes of 1980s fashion! The warm, earthy tones of the 70s were discarded for blinding neon shades, with vibrant yellows, pinks, blues, and greens dominating.

VHS and Betamax Wars

Use VHS Tapes
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Though they may have seemed transformative and exciting once, these clunky tapes required an appropriate, even larger and more cumbersome, player. Like modern tech wars, the battle between Betamax and VHS meant that appliances only supported one format.

Aerobics Outfits

Aerobics Outfits
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Working out in the 1980s meant Jane Fonda, sweatbands, and as much shiny spandex as one could procure! Workout tapes made aerobics a global sensation, increasing people’s fitness worldwide.

Unfortunately, the accompanying outfits were somewhat questionable. High-cut leotards, bright tights, and unnecessary leg warmers were the norm.

Tabloid Journalism

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Tabloid culture hit its stride in the 80s, with paparazzi taking extreme lengths to snap photos of everyone’s favorite celebrities and famous figures.

The tragic death of Princess Diana during a car chase with paparazzi in the early 90s was a grim wake-up call. While paparazzi persist, there’s been a shift towards respect for personal boundaries, helped along by social media that allows fans to keep up-to-date without the need for unsolicited photos.

Synth Records

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Have you ever discovered something new and, in your excitement, overdone it a bit? That’s what happened with synthesizers in the 80s! While it led to some of the decade’s most iconic tracks, critics complain that the overuse of electronic sounds made the music soulless and artificial.

Big Hair

Big Hair
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While modern trendsetters may be partial to a bit of volume, they don’t have the insane commitment to mega-sized hair that was so prevalent in the 80s. From glam rock bands to movie stars, voluminous hair was all the rage, with fans teasing, back-combing, and hair spraying their way to the biggest ‘dos imaginable.

Dial-Up Internet

Dial-up Internet
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For those old enough to recall, the shrill tones of a dial-up connection were unlike anything else, screeching and warbling as your cumbersome computer tried to establish a connection with the newly-emerging world wide web.

Nuclear Warnings

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The Cold War era of The Berlin Wall instilled a real fear of nuclear apocalypse, with both the USA and Russia boasting nuclear weapons. As international tensions rose, “Duck and Cover” drills in schools and public service announcements on what to do in the event of a nuclear strike became commonplace.

The Floppy Disk

Floppy Disks
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Before the days of convenient cloud storage and large-capacity USB drives, there was the humble floppy disk. Although its storage capacity is laughably tiny, it was all we had, and (luckily) 80s software was smaller in terms of MBs.

Tanning Booths

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Bronzed tans were a must-have 80s beauty goal, but with ‘fake tans’ of the time being unrealistic and problematic, ‘real’ tans were more popular. Many slapped on the tanning oil and baked their skin under the sun, or if that wasn’t an option, they used even more damaging UV tanning beds.

Rotary Phones

Rotary Phones
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Be thankful for your touchscreen keypads and voice-activated dialing because, not so long ago, making a phone call involved the home rotary phone. Firstly, you had to remember the number or have written it down, and then you dialed by spinning a wheel for each digit.

New Coke

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Right in the middle of the decade, the Coca-Cola company decided to mess with success and altered its beloved, century-old formula for the nation’s favorite soft drink.

The ill-fated “New Coke” faced a swift backlash as consumers complained about the ‘downgrade’ and demanded the reintroduction of the old recipe. Although the company easily recovered, its mistake highlighted the risks of big brands trying to fix something that isn’t broken.

Video Game Cartridges

Blowing on Video Game Cartridges To Make Them Work
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Whether they had a Nintendo, Atari, or Sega game console, every 80s kid had to purchase chunky, space-eating cartridges in order to play anything other than the preinstalled software.

Whichever giant of 80s gaming you ascribed to, the requirement for physical cartridges that collected dust and had to be stored correctly was an ever-present reality.

Trans Fat Foods

Saturated Fat
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In the 1980s, the severe health risks associated with trans fats were not fully understood. Consequently, they were a standard component of many foods. Indeed, the era was a heyday for ‘modern’ processed foods prioritizing convenience, longevity, and taste over nutritional value.

Leg Warmers

Leg Warmers
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It wasn’t just the aerobics fanatics that rocked these thick, baggy, footless’ socks.’ Originally designed to keep dancers’ leg muscles warm during practice, brightly colored leg warmers became an 80s fashion staple, whether you were dancing or not.

Walkmans

Walkmans
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Before technology like Apple Music and Spotify put an entire world of music in our pockets, portable Walkmans were the only personal music option. Many things could go wrong, though; tangled tapes, damaged cassettes, limited capacity, manual rewinding, and the genuine risk of tape jams.

Aeroplane Cigarettes

smoking public smoker cigarette smoke lighter
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Plane seats with built-in ashtrays in the armrest prove that 80s air passengers were allowed to smoke throughout a flight. It’s almost inconceivable now, but planes had designated smoking areas, and smoking was not only permitted but actively encouraged.

Parachute Pants

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Popularized by MC Hammer and other hip-hop and breakdancing figures, these inflated, oversized pants were frequently patterned or highly colored.

Confusingly, despite their many zips, they weren’t that practical, and no amount of ‘coolness’ could keep them from being discarded for more functional fashion.

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