Sabrina is a connoisseur of popular culture and appreciates the nostalgia of 80s fashion trends.
What Jeans Were Popular in the '80s?
Wearing denim jeans will never go out of style. New name-brand jeans will come into fashion every year, but the blue jeans worn in the 1980s were especially memorable. Let's take a look back at designer denim in this decade!
Top Old-School '80s Jean Brands
- Calvin Klein
- Levi Strauss
- Karl Kani
- Ralph Lauren
- Sergio Valente
- Gloria Vanderbilt
Why Isn't (Insert Brand Here) on This List?
Some brands got started very late in the '80s and were not actually making jeans until the '90s. They're often mistaken for '80s brands due to being on the cusp of the decade.
- FUBU: This sportswear company was founded in 1992. The founders of FUBU (which stands for "For Us, By Us") did create their first collection in 1989, but it only included hats.
- Ecko: This streetwear brand was established in 1993. Founder Marc Ecko sold t-shirts in the '80s, but the full clothing brand didn't exist until the '90s.
Trivia About the Top Jean Brands in the '80s
- Lee: In 1982, Lee created its famous slogan "The Brand That Fits." In 1984, Bruce Springsteen wore a Lee denim jacket on the cover of Rolling Stone—what's more '80s than that?!
- DKNY: Donna Karan created the DKNY brand in 1989, and it was founded on denim. Karan was inspired to launch this brand by her teenage daughter, who was always trying to borrow her clothes at the time!
- Gucci: The 1980s were a turbulent time for this fashion house, with lots of family feuding and lawsuits. Gucci items were also mass-produced in the '80s, which damaged the brand's luxurious reputation. The company got back on track in the '90s. In fact, since 1998, it has held the Guinness World Record for the most expensive pair of jeans—a $3,134 pair called the "Genius Jeans."
- Dickies: This workwear company gained mainstream popularity around 1986, when rap artists started wearing Dickies pants. Fans quickly emulated their style.
- Guess: Guess jeans are nearly synonymous with the '80s. The company was founded in 1981 and initially sold a pair of slim, stone-washed jeans. The popularity of this design helped revolutionize denim in fashion.
- Sasson: This jean company had a hot 10-year run from 1976 to 1986, when it filed for bankruptcy. You might be surprised to realize that the company's name is "Sasson," not "Sassoon"—a lot of people made that mistake, thinking that these jeans were associated with famous hairstylist Vidal Sassoon, but they weren't!
- Jordache: This company had an infamous commercial in 1979 that featured a topless woman wearing only a pair of Jordache jeans as she rode a horse. Some of the company's other commercials from the '80s are, well, fairly ridiculous today, as you can see in the video below.
- Wrangler: In 1981, this brand began sponsoring stock car driver Dale Earnhardt Sr. His car bore the bold name "Wrangler Jeans Machine" and was painted blue and yellow. Wrangler also ran a "One Tough Customer" ad campaign in the '80s to further its tough-guy image (see the video further below).
- Calvin Klein: This brand ran a controversial ad campaign in the '80s featuring a 15-year-old Brooke Shields wearing CK jeans and asking the camera, "You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing." In later years, Shields shared her story about the ads, speaking about what it was like to be sexualized by the media at such a young age.
- Levi Strauss: This longstanding brand, which was established in 1853, had to close a bunch of plants in the '80s due to all of the fierce competition in the jeans industry. It regained some success by launching the Dockers brand in 1986, expanding its denim offerings with khaki pants.
- Karl Kani: This designer started creating clothing at the remarkable age of 16. Kani's designs are inspired by the hip-hop music scene, and he is credited with popularizing baggy jeans. This brand just caught the tail end of the '80s; it was formally established in 1989.
- Ralph Lauren: The '80s were a big decade for this fashion company. In 1981, Ralph Lauren opened his first international store in London, followed by his flagship store on Madison Avenue in 1986. Lauren also made the cover of TIME Magazine in '86.
- Sergio Valente: This brand of designer jeans had interesting designs of horns and antlers on the back pockets. But did you know that Sergio Valente was not a real person? The "designer" himself was totally made up!
- Gloria Vanderbilt: Gloria Vanderbilt was the first female jean designer to create jeans for women, and her fitted creations were an instant success. Her jeans appeared in 1976 and remained popular throughout the '80s. But the "Gloria Vanderbilt" company is not actually owned by Gloria Vanderbilt—she initially sold the rights to her name to the Murjani Group, with whom she had partnered to launch the jeans line, and the rights were later re-sold several more times.
Hottest 1980s Trends for Blue Jeans
Do you remember these denim trends? Did you participate in some of them (or wish you had)?
Wranglers for Teens
People who were in middle school in the early '80s probably remember that everyone was wearing Wrangler jeans. Teenagers could wear their Wranglers fitted or baggy. Looking back, these were high-quality jeans; they lasted longer than many of the other jeans that were made in the '80s.
After skinnier jeans become fashionable in the early '80s, people started wearing leg warmers over their jeans. Leg warmers were available in a wide variety of colors and patterns, including bright neon colors and stripes. Some people wore their leg warmers all the way up their calves, while others slouched them down over their ankles.
In the late '80s, Levi Strauss jeans came in many colors, including black, blue, yellow, orange, green, purple, red, and brown. (Levi also offered popular corduroy pants, but those weren't really jeans!)
Back in the day, people wore bomber jackets with fur-lined hoods with their jeans—especially with Levis. This look was popular with both men and women.
Read More From Bellatory
Jean Brands in Lyrics
Many hip-hop artists in the '80s rapped about the name-brand attire that was popular at the time. (That's still true today, but the brands have changed a little!) Jean brands popped up in other genres, too, like in the chorus of "Blue Jeans" by Chocolate Milk, which lists off a bunch of '80s jean brands.
"(Jordache, Bonjour, Sasson, Chardon)
Your hot ass as a pistol, little girl, I got to whistle
(Gitano, Henry Lee, Wrangler, Levi Strauss)
I like the way they grip whilst-a on your hip
(Gitano, Sasson, Jordache, Bonjour, Chardon)
You're a gleamin’ thing in them screamin' jeans
(Sasson, Calvin Klein, Chardon, Levi Strauss)
The best brands for a real superstar"
— Chocolate Milk, "Blue Jeans," 1981
Why Jeans Will Never Go out of Style
Blue jeans make people feel casual, stylish, trendy, and sexy. Jeans look great with nearly all types of footwear, such as pumps, sneakers, flats, and boots. Also, jeans have become standard attire in the U.S. and other countries, so they'll never feel outdated, unlike other types of pants. Corduroy pants have gone in and out of style numerous times over the years, but jeans have stayed true. Blue jeans are a modern fashion staple.
Types of '80s Jeans
Amazing '80s Fashion
This decade was an exciting and memorable one for fashion, and blue jeans were only a small part of it. People can instantly identify '80s hairstyles, '80s shoes, '80s makeup, '80s accessories, and more.
Remember all the Gucci purses, Gucci shoes, Gucci belts, Gucci hats, and other Gucci items? How about the trendy gold jewelry, especially gold chains? Huge brands like Louis Vuitton and Tommy Hilfiger were big in the '80s and have remained popular today. The 1980s have left an enduring mark on fashion!
© 2012 Brinafr3sh
Kenyarna on January 19, 2020:
Used jeans please
Nicholas F 3 on April 18, 2019:
They missed CHIC Jeans
Rhonda on November 05, 2016:
What about jeans called....sunset blues??? They were very popular in the 80s
Christopher on February 25, 2016:
Ah yes Who can forget seeing Brooke
Shields' derriere posted on all those city buses way back when...
But you omitted Oscar de la Renta
Im not an expert on this subject lol
laptopvouchercode on July 19, 2012:
Thanks for the blog, brings back memories of the 80s
Brinafr3sh (author) from West Coast, United States on May 28, 2012:
Hi Ruby, People like the 80s name brand jeans history. Thanks for commenting.
Maree Michael Martin from Northwest Washington on an Island on May 27, 2012:
Blue jeans history, awesome. I am so glad jeans have never went out of style.
Great hub about them, nice~
Brinafr3sh (author) from West Coast, United States on May 19, 2012:
@ MsDora, Thanks for visiting, I miss some of those 80s name brand jeans, especially the Levi.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 19, 2012:
You had my interest there. Wished you had continued with some more details. Looking for more. Voted interesting!