20 Funny Things People in the 1980s Were Totally Guilty of Doing
EVEN WITHOUT THE INTERNET, WE FOUND WAYS TO EMBARRASS OURSELVES.
In the 1980s, we wanted our hair to be as big as possible, our fanny packs to be as bright as possible, and our spandex to be as tight as possible. And we were fixated on figuring out how to traverse the Oregon Trail without coming down with dysentery. It was a strange time, to say the least. But if you grew up in the '80s, chances are you loved every minute of its wackiness. Here are 20 things that were perfectly acceptable in the 1980s, but sound utterly ridiculous today. And for another walk down memory lane, check out the 100 Photos That Kids Born After 2000 Will Never Understand.
Buying a Betamax because we were so sure it was the way of the future
During the '80s, you either invested in a VCR or a Betamax. And the smart money was on Betamax. They were so popular that Sony sold 2.3 million recorders in 1984 alone. Well, it turns out 2.3 million people bet on the wrong pony. Today, Betamax machines aren't even something that people get nostalgic about, like they do with vinyl or cassettes. It's the technology that no one wants to admit they ever owned.
Using an insane amount of Aqua Net
John Birdsall / Alamy
We needed our hair to be big and poofy in the 1980s and that look could only be achieved with copious amounts of hairspray. A person can't be expected to show up for a Bon Jovi concert with flat hair, can they?
Watching terrible videos on MTV
Back when MTV was actually, y'know, music television, there were a lot of amazing music videos. But there were also a lot of duds. And we sat through it all: the good, the bad, and the really, really bad. After the network launched in 1981, we watched the Starship video "We Built This City" hundreds—maybe even thousands—of times, until it turned our brains into mush. We watched the Wham! video for "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" like it was court-ordered. Basically, there was nothing we wouldn't sit through. And for more tunes all '80s kids recognize, check out the 20 One-Hit Wonders Every '80s Kid Remembers.
Memorizing phone numbers
Before smartphones, calling someone up meant lifting an egregiously heavy book and flipping through it to find the right number. It was a real nightmare, especially if the surname was something common, like Smith. On the upside, there were coupons to Dominos Pizza. Plus, knowing someone's digits by heart was a sign of true love in the '80s. And if you want to go back to this halcyon era, here are 20 Slang Terms From the '80s No One Uses Anymore.
Decorating with Nagel prints
Somehow, these weird portraits of eerily pasty women, painted by artist Patrick Nagel, became so popular in the '80s that they were literally everywhere: hair salons, Duran Duran album covers, dentist offices, bachelor pads, you name it. And for another look at the designs of the decade, here are 20 Photos of 1980s Home Décor to Overwhelm You With Nostalgia.
Getting excited about faxing
When fax machines became an office staple in the 1980s, it was a really exciting moment for employees everywhere. For the first time, you didn't have to mail in a signed form or bring it in person. You could simply place it in this newfangled device, punch in a number, and it'd arrive to your recipient's fax machine, where it'd print a warm, fresh copy. Can't you just smell it now?
Taking a toad through traffic for hours in Frogger
People get addicted to video games today, but at least the games have compelling stories, lifelike graphics, and meticulously rendered endless worlds. That really wasn't the case in the '80s. If you had an Atari 2600, there were games where you had to eat pellets or jump over barrels. Some of us would spend 16 hours straight playing Frogger. Frogger! That's 16 hours of jumping on logs and avoiding traffic. What was wrong with us?
Thinking you could actually win Oregon Trail
If there's one thing that the computer game Oregon Trail taught us, it was that it was really, really easy to die of dysentery. Seriously, this game was cold. One day you were out shooting buffalo, the other—bam!—poisoned yet again by hemlock. It was hard out there in the 1880s and the 1980s.
Putting your face in a pin art toy
Popularized by the 1985 music video for Midge Ure's "If I Was," this "toy"—which was often more of a home office desk accessory—made everyone want to immortalize their facial features in a bed of teeny tiny, not-too-sharp nails. If you haven't done it, trust us, it actually felt kind of good. And for more nostalgic information delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Wearing head-to-toe denim
John Birdsall / Alamy
A little denim goes a long way. But '80s fashion took jeans to a whole other level. We're talking head-to-toe denim—denim shirt, denim jacket, denim pants or a skirt, and, in some cases, even denim shoes. Nobody needs that much denim!
Who knew that all you needed to make a workout fun were leg warmers, leotards, and a bunch of sassy kicks and swivels? Sure, you may laugh now, but we were having a great time dancing and getting fit in the '80s.
Turning spandex into everyday wear
If you ever wondered why people today walk around in yoga pants like they're actual clothes, it's mostly the fault of the '80s. We were trailblazers in the art of wearing spandex shorts or pants that were way too form-fitting for mixed company.
Having extreme opinions about Coke versus New Coke
There are so many things in the world to be legitimately upset about. But in the '80s, there was nothing more egregious than our favorite brand of carbonated sugar water being replaced with a slightly different tasting carbonated sugar water. The public outcry was so intense when New Coke was introduced in 1985 that it almost felt like Classic Coke supporters were on the verge of forming an angry mob and marching through the streets with pitchforks and flaming torches.
Dressing like Madonna
The Hollywood Archive / Alamy
The material girl was as popular in the '80s for her clothes as she was for her music. And girls everywhere tried to emulate her style, wearing black bustiers, silver crosses, lace gloves, and giant scarves as headbands, like the lovechild of a vampire and a magician.
Caring about who shot J.R.
YouTube / Lorimar Productions
Even people who didn't watch CBS's hit show about rich oil tycoons were fascinated by this Dallas cliffhanger. During the summer of 1980, the whole country was asking, "Who shot J.R.?" in reference to J.R. Ewing (played by Larry Hagman on the drama series). We were all hooked on trying to solve the riddle of who wanted him dead, and it turned out to be (spoiler alert) his scheming sister-in-law and mistress! But that's not the point. The point is, we all really cared about this fictional jerk—way more than we should have.
Cheering on the Dukes of Hazzard
Bootlegging was essentially a day job for the Duke boys on our favorite '80s TV show, Dukes of Hazzard. Boss Hog and his police force weren't chasing them for driving too fast. They were trying to bust them for smuggling moonshine—and yet, there we were, rooting for them.
Believing the drug epidemic could be solved by just saying "no"
The war on drugs and First Lady Nancy Reagan gave us this over-simplistic solution to drug and alcohol addiction: "Just say no." Ah, if only it was that easy. It's like suggesting that the trick to getting out of poverty is saying, "More money please!"
Wearing multiple Swatches at once
Slapping several of these colorful suckers on one arm and cocooning the other one in black rubber bracelets made you feel like the coolest kid in town in the '80s. But how could anyone ever concentrate over the sound of all that ticking? On the upside, unlike kids today, we could actually tell time.
Tying a sweater around your neck that you never intended to wear
As the 1984 film Making the Grade proved, this was the universal uniform worn by preppies who had so much money, they wore entire cable-knit sweaters as accessories. It's just further proof the '80s really were utterly ridiculous.
It's like we were all determined to wear clothing that was bright enough to be seen from space in the '80s. Was the lighting generally so low during the decade that we needed to become our own personal sources of fluorescent lighting? We think not. And for a look at some more fashion from the era, check out these 25 Things Cool People Wore in the 1980s.