In most decades, music and fashion go hand in hand, but rarely have they been so linked as in the New Romantic movement of the early 1980s. We're looking back at the styles that made the '80s so iconic. 

Fashion faces the music

culture club
Culture Club in the 1980s. Image via Sunshine

New Romantic bands such as Adam and the Ants, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Spandau Ballet and their fans donned make-up, quiffs and flouncy shirts and made a virtue of flamboyance.

In complete contrast, the decade ended with the repetitive thumping beat and low grunge couture of Acid House. In between, indie and alternative voices came to the fore: the Eurythmics, Simply Red, The Smiths and stadium rockers Simple Minds and U2.

Solo singers Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue scored huge hits thanks to the songwriting and producing talents of Stock, Aitken and Waterman, whose synthesiser-pop sound was ubiquitous in the charts.

Read more: We remember 1970s fashion

 

New Romantics, new men

Adam Ant Prince Charming
Adam Ant during the Prince Charming era. Image via New Wave Visions

Stuart Leslie Goddard, better known as Adam Ant was at the vanguard of the New Romantic pop bands, setting new fashion trends. Adam and the Ants scored their greatest success in 1981 with two chart-topping singles ‘Stand and Deliver’ and ‘Prince Charming’.

Andrew Ridgely and George Michael were two school friends who shot to global stardom as Wham!. Image-conscious and media savvy, they presented themselves as sunny, fun-loving guys. Their breakthrough on Top of the Pops came with ‘Young Guns (Go for It!)’ in 1982, then the hits came thick and fast: ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’, ‘Freedom’, ‘Last Christmas’.

By the time they split in 1986, they had sold more than 25 million albums.

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All in the look

The blitz club london
'Blitz kids' outside the Blitz Club. Image via Pinterest

The crucible of the New Romantics was London’s Blitz Club, which for a while employed Boy George (pre-Culture Club fame) as a cloakroom attendant.

The Blitz kids, as they were known, displayed quiffs, satins, scarves, frilly shirts, jumpsuits and generous amounts of mascara in one great gender-bending mélange.

Other Eighties fashions included high hair styles which owed something to the hair of both Punk and Glam rock. Trousers ranged from drainpipes to baggy pleats, while fitted jackets, frilly collars and simple tops were all considered chic.

Unlike Punk rockers, New Romantics tried to follow a style while not looking like anyone else.

Read more: Remembering 40 years of punk fashion

 

Famous Eighties faces

Duran Duran 80s fashion
Duran Duran were known for their bold image. Image via Music Musings

Adored by Princess Diana and admired by Andy Warhol, Duran Duran were one of the biggest bands of the 1980s, reaching a peak of fame between 1983 and 1985. Quite apart from the music, they recognised the importance of image and brought in fashion designers to develop their look. They were also one of the first to use professional directors for their videos.

Promotional shots quickly turned them into teenage heartthrobs. They registered several massive hits in the decade, including ‘Rio’, ‘Is There Something I Should Know?’ and ‘The Reflex’, and were one of the few British bands to make it big in the USA.

They also proved long-lived: at the last count they had sold more than 100 million albums and were still touring.

Distinctive Scottish singer Annie Lennox teamed up with English musician Dave Stewart in the Eurythmics, a pop band with an alternative edge. 

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eurythmics
Image via BBC

The combination of bass driven synthesiser music with Lennox’s powerful vocals gave them a string of hits, including ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’ and ‘Who’s That Girl?’. They enjoyed pushing the boundaries, often collaborating with other musicians from Stevie Wonder to Elvis Costello. 

With fashionable ripped jeans and gelled hair, Peckham twins Matt and Luke Goss made Bros the boy band of the late Eighties. Their mainly female fans were known as Brosettes.

Meanwhile, Siobhan Fahey, Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin blazed a trail for all-girl bands as Bananarama. Hits included ‘Shy Boy’ ‘Robert De Niro’s Waiting’, ‘Venus’ and ‘Love in the First Degree’. The big hair and baggy chic was a typical look in the decade.

 

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